Thursday, August 19, 2010

'At Home' with David Alan Harvey, NY - Ch. 1

And if a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it's as though I've neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up. I know that the accident of my being a photographer has made my life possible.
- Richard Avedon - 1970

Only 12 students are invited to David Alan Harvey's 'At Home' Workshop every year, which is held at his loft in Brooklyn. Celebrated editors and publishers as well as distinguished photographers pop in for jam sessions whilst the students shoot their own personal photo essay over the course of a week. At the end of it all, the students' work is exhibited in a slideshow format in front of the NY photo world.  DAH's goal with the workshop is to help emerging photographers move to the next level.

I purposely arrived a few days early so that I could contemplate the subject of my photo essay. I had done some research on surf spots around NY prior to leaving but the closest was over an hour away in Queens and I knew shooting time was going to be crucial. I had hoped when I arrived that I would stumble upon some topic or person magically and that would be it. Uh, not quite so easy.

Cait had been back in NY since I last saw her there in May and Marj (from San Francisco) also happened to be there checking out grad schools. What a treat this was! Cait and I had travelled in Thailand, Cambodia and NZ together and Marj was my surf sister in Indo. I had yammered on about how amazing they each were to both of them and was so happy that they would finally meet and we were all in the same city at once.

We met at a veggie restaurant in the East Village called 'Yummy House'. Cait had taken me there in May and I was almost as excited to eat there again as I was to meet David Alan Harvey. As I suspected, Marj and Cait got on like a house on fire and I could barely get a word in edgewise! I was elated to be with them both in my most favourite city.

Marj and I met up again the next day to go to the Brooklyn Bridge and planned to find cheap tix to a Broadway show but as per usual, the two of us shooting together in an 'exotic' place does not help us do 'on time' very well. So we ended up taking in a late comedy show instead.

I ventured on over to Harvey's loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that Friday eve for a casual meet n' greet pre-workshop. It was on the way there that my camera REALLY started acting up. I had bought my Canon 50D when I was in NZ in late '08. It had randomly been giving me the dreaded 'error99' when I clicked the shutter. Of course, it would do this always at the worst possible time and I would miss the it was throwing out errors like candy at kind of a mega critical time!

So I arrived at the loft in a bit of a huff. Fortunately for me, Marios Savva had brought a 50D as a backup to his 5DII and said I could use it for the duration of the workshop. A-maaazing. What a lifesaver! This alleviated some of the stress and I was able to stop worrying about my camera and start meeting the rest of the workshop cronies who hailed from all over the place: Italy, Germany, India, Australia, Canada and the US. We lingered on the top of the building, affectionately referred to as the 'Kibbutz', and marveled at the spectacular view of Manhattan.

It was hard to believe where I was. And David Alan Harvey just hangin' a few feet away. He has contributed images to prestigious publications such as Sports Illustrated, NY Times and Life Magazine and to over 40 articles in National Geographic since 1973. His book publications include 'Cuba', 'Divided Soul' and 'Living Proof'. He has been a member of Magnum Photos since 1997 and counts Magazine Photographer of the Year (NPPA, 1978) as part of his award collection.

He is well known for mentoring photographers and one of the ways he does this is by bringing emerging and iconic photographers together through Burn Magazine, which he curates, edits and publishes with Anton Kusters. Burn Magazine won a Lucie Award (the Oscars of the photo world) for best online photography magazine this past year.

So...he's KIND of a big deal. Meeting him was as I suspected. Not only is he taller than the average human, his presence is larger than life and when he walks into a room, you know it! The guy is madly in love with life, photography, humanity and the arts. In short, he is a sweet combo of teacher, mentor and drinking buddy.

Sleep took some time to set in from all the excitement. I was nervous about what the week would bring. Would I find a compelling topic? Would I get the shots I wanted? Flounder or flourish under the pressure? And the critiques...not nerve wracking at all! Regardless, I knew the experience would be rich and I was happy and grateful for the opportunity to even be there...and hellbent on giving it my all.

Focus more on your desire than on your doubt, and the dream will take care of itself. You may be surprised at how easily this happens. Your doubts are not as powerful as your desires, unless you make them so.
- Marcia Wieder, Author and Speaker

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