Last week I found myself in a car with my fiancee's father, skipping work to hop a plane to Syracuse, New York where I would spend five days soaking up, marinating in and immersing myself in multimedia. I guess there is a reason why the Newhouse School at Syracuse University calls their five day workshop/bootcamp the Multimedia Immersion. I truly felt like I ducked my head down into a warm, salty pool and kept it there along with 50 or so other friendly photographer types. It was five days of long days and nights, small bits of sleep, lots of coffee consumption and a tremendous amount of encouraging words from some of journalism's most impressive minds.
The ironic part of the immersion is that I took most of my photos using my iPhone and I literally only shot one photo on assignment. It was one that stopped me in my tracks and begged to be taken (see below), but was still a lonely one. That is because the Immersion workshop forces you to twist your mind a bit and see the world as a moving image and not just a still one. That perfect eye for composition is still important but now your subject is constantly moving and you don't get to stop. It is harder than you might think. In particular, I struggled with hoisting around a tripod all day. In my regular day as a photographer I rarely even lay my eyes on my tripod. It is always thrown in my car but I just don't find it that useful. In the world of video, a good tripod is invaluable.
As the week progressed, I found myself having the typical problems a still image photojournalist faces coupled with a few new problems that were to be expected (after all, I was at the Immersion for a reason). Timing, a subject that cooperates but also viewed the face time as self-promotion, a learning curve that was frankly a bit higher than I thought it would be when it came to audio and sound as well as learning the tricks to editing software I had never used was all an adventure that myself and the other workshop subjects took on with glee. Yes, it was a room full of photographers geeking out to new technology. The organizers even invited representatives from Nikon and Canon to share, check out and demonstrate new equipment. You should have seen the giddiness as three huge crates of Canon gear were unlocked and presented to participants who wished to try something new. The Immersion definitely tapped into a common thread among photographers, the need to fiddle with new gadgets.
I personally learned a tremendous amount about editing techniques and sound from my coaches (they pair two for every team of four) Joe Mahoney and Jason Kuhlbrenner. They patiently pushed me forward, questioned my thinking and were honest with me about my expectations. Shoot for the stars but aim for the moon was a common word of levelheaded advice from Joe. You are learning so the expectation is that you will churn out something satisfying but still at slightly above beginner level. That was comforting as I watched my story unfold into a work that was not quite up to my expectations.
Overall, it was a humbling experience. I had to step back from something I am fairly confident in and embrace a new storytelling strategy that is important and relevant...and new. Each photographer also had to present their work to each other and the public. Despite a refreshingly honest discussion by Brad Horn early in the workshop about honesty, jealousy and understanding that we are all envious of one another when it comes to our work, it was really hard to present my work to people that in many cases I have admired from afar for years.
I am so excited to start editing my next project and share it here. When I was a teenager I really wanted to be a filmmaker but assumed that this would be out of my league, way too Hollywood and not at all possible for a girl from Missouri. Now I am looking back at that girl knowing that all things are possible. Who would have known that important storytelling film making would be so close to my fingertips? I am sharing my project from the week, not because I think it is my best piece of work but because it shares a story and marks a new progression in my craft. It is a place to start from and move ever forward.