Sunday, October 31, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Eddie Adams Workshop XXIII 2010

This year I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the Eddie Adams Workshop. For my readers who haven't heard of this event, it is a merit-based, tuition-free workshop sponsored primarily by Nikon, held on a beautiful piece of property in upstate New York in a town called Jeffersonville. It's also known as Barnstorm. Eddie Adams started this workshop 23 years ago. It's hard to say whether it's the most important thing he ever did, because he did so much important work, but it was the most crucial four days of my entire life. Thank you Eddie. I wish I'd gotten to meet you, but I was glad you were present in every conversation, every quiet moment, every blade of grass on that beautiful land. There I go, getting teary-eyed before I've even begun.

That's Poon, one of the ten members of Gray Team, the group I was fortunately selected to be a part of.

That's Tim Rasmussen, the AME of photography at the Denver Post and Gray Team's editor. To his right is Lisa Biagiotti, my multimedia producer and an all around nice gal.

That's Lisa Krantz, a photographer at the San Antonio Express News and our team's producer. To her right with the starry eyes is Michael Williamson, a stupendously talented photographer at the Washington Post and our team leader. Truly, truly a leader.

Each team had a different theme. Ours was "The Fall of Life," which had me expecting a hospice or elder care facility. Well, I was half right. I didn't expect them to drop all ten students at one location, the Jeffersonville Adult Home.

It was part half-way house, part nursing home, part asylum, and all interesting. The kind of access we had was simply unheard of. We had free reign of the place. Shooting around everyone on our team was sort of a challenge, but everyone had a different person to cover (except for me, I'll get to that) so there wasn't too much overlap.

That's Zach Ornitz, a badass photog from Colorado who covered Victor, one of the younger and happier residents.

My experience was slightly (okay, a lot) different from my teammates. Whereas they covered one person primarily, I volunteered to be the multimedia guy, which meant I would produce a piece incorporating stills, video and audio. It also meant I wasn't covering just one person, rather my project focused on the home as a character, viewed through the lens of various characters within the home. Victor was a big part of my story. I'll post that video as soon as it's available on Vimeo. I worked very closely with Lisa Biagiotti during this whole process.

As you can see, though, she was the Final Cut guru and produced the piece. The first time I saw it in its completeness was with everyone else at the workshop, at the very end.

I found it a challenge to juggle collecting audio with shooting video and making stills. But that's why I came to the workshop, after all, to get pushed to the very edge of my abilities. It pushed me beyond my abilities, in all honesty. I was out there in no-man's-land. But it all came together in the end.

So that was my trial by fire. But that's not even the half of it. The workshop was also an incredible educational experience. We had dozens of speakers, including several personal heroes.

John Moore, a wicked talented Getty photographer who covered the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Also, a Daily Texan alum from way back when who probably holds the record for longest employed photographer... 11 semesters! Sorry Peter and Bryant and Joe Bug, I think he's got you beat. He was kind enough to give me a portfolio review and have a great conversation with me.

Another part of the equation were my teammates. That's Ted Nieters, Nathanael Turner and Elliott Woods. Wow, what can I possibly say about Gray Team. These are some talented, supportive, positive folks. I truly believe I made friends for life in these wonderful photographers.

It's hard not to compare yourself to the people you're around, so when I saw myself reflected by my teammates, I realized just how far I have to go. Ted and Elliott had just returned from Gaza, AnnaMarie had an incredible jumping project, Zach had moved across the country to pursue his personal passion and bliss in Colorado, and the list goes on and on... what does it mean to me? I'm still not quite sure. There was so much to process at this workshop, and I only returned to Austin last night. I am certain that I'll have many more personal revelations as I continue to think about what happened in that barn.

I cannot overstate how much this workshop impacted me. I've talked about work, education and friendship so far, but I didn't expect EAW to affect me spiritually.

Every year there is a memorial service for the journalists who gave their lives in Vietnam. It brought home the message that we are a small industry, but a big family. I love my new family and will never abandon them.

For me, the yellow balloons represented our fragile mortality. We're travelers from one realm to the next, and whatever we're made of is bounded by the thinnest of membranes. As I released my balloon, I felt a cathartic wave rush over me and I knew, really knew that this was the right path. I am a photographer.

Eddie Adams built me up, broke me down, build me up, broke me down, I can't count how many times. I cried countless tears, I laughed with uncontrollable joy, I shared many drinks, hugs and photos with my compatriots. It was a personal sea change.

And at the end of it all, I am exhausted yet filled with a vast energy, ready to tackle whatever comes next, camera in hand.

Thank you, Eddie.