Thursday, November 11, 2010

'At Home' with David Alan Harvey - The Finale!

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.

- Henry David Thoreau

View all photos here.

And so the week came to a close and somehow...we all managed to survive! The day (Friday) was spent working with Michael Courvoisier and David Alan Harvey to choose our final images and audio for the slide show. The hard part was over. It felt great...and kinda scary.

That evening, gallerists, curators, editors, iconic and emerging photographers trickled into the loft filling it with confabulation, clicking cameras, bursts of light and laughter.

Then, an audible hush came over the room. James Nachtwey was in the house. Photog enthusiast or not, this is a man you should know about. His work focuses on social issues and war conflicts having earned him numerous awards throughout his career, such as the World Press Photo Award  ('94) and Robert Capa Gold Medal (5 times), and is widely know for the Oscar nominated documentary, 'War Photographer'. In 2007, he was one of three recipients of the TED prize. His life changing wish was to use his photography to help stop the worldwide epidemic of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB). He is a brave, humanitarian photographer and inspirational human being. I have NO idea what words I managed to fumble out of my mouth when I met him, but  I do remember his calm and quiet strength being very palpable.
'But everyone cannot be there, and that is why photographers go there – to show them, to reach out and grab them and make them stop what they are doing and pay attention to what is going on – to create pictures powerful enough to overcome the diluting effects of the mass media and shake people out of their indifference - to protest and by the strength of that protest to make others protest.'

- James Nachtwey
Amongst the likes of James Nachtwey were Josef Koudelka (uh-huh!), Antoine d'Agata, Michael Lloyd Young, David Coventry, Patricia Lay-Dorsey, Kerry Payne and Tim Hetherington (yes I finally got to meet him!).

Jason Houge, Anton Kusters, Patrica Lay-Dorsey

Emerging photographers' work (from Burn Magazine) were displayed on any margin of bare wall that could be found alongside some of the greats, Elliot Erwitt, Gilles Peress, Bruce Davidson, Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb.

Speaking of the Webbs..the door was shut and the room was shushed as we all settled in to enjoy Alex and Rebecca's latest work, images from Istanbul and Cuba...ocular ecstasy!

A tough act to follow, but now the mood was set perfectly...

David then introduced the student slideshows and talked about how he encouraged us throughout the week to look in the mirror and see ourselves...reference the past and use it for now, in our own special way.

Intro'd by DAH...a moment.

I have had a lot of time to ponder where I was at that week. It hadn't been a great year, 2009. I had been sick a lot since getting back from Asia and had gotten to the point of being  pretty unwell, more than not. I debated not going to the workshop, but in the end, thought that the 'what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger' adage made sense and couldn't fathom to miss the opportunity. I didn't know why I was sick, when it would hit, how long it would last or how to fix it. And it was starting to consume me. 

When a surf break doesn't have waves, it can feel pretty hollow...lonely. Not unlike what I was feeling at the time. Mojo-less.

When I was in Bali, I could still feel the push and pull of the waves at night after surfing all day, eventually lulling me into a deep, blissful sleep. Gliding along the ocean's memory acts as a catalyst to experiencing a unity with esoteric relationship with the cosmos while the rest of the world disappears, and one enters another dimension. It's not difficult to understand then why surfing has been described more so as a religion by surfers than just a sport, and the restlessness, even depression in some cases, that they experience in the absence of waves.
'We're all just visiting
All just breaking like waves 
The oceans made me, but who came up with love? 
Push me, pull me, push me, or pull me out'

- Eddie Vedder

Steven Kotler, author of 'West of Jesus', was suffering from Lyme disease and it wasn't until a friend encouraged him to get back on his surfboard that he realized the effect surfing had on his health. He credits the sport for saving his life. The late Andy Irons, 3 time world surfing champion, said that he would 'self destruct' if he didn't have surfing to exorcise his 'inner demons' and Laird Hamilton, famous big wave surfer, has spoken about falling into a depression when there was no swell.

'Tidal' is defined in the dictionary as, 'of, relating to, or affected by tide'. I titled my essay this as I thought it was appropriate not for the pun, but more figuratively as a word that could encapsulate both the powerful surge of feeling which surfers have described when riding a wave, i.e.: flow or stoke, and the opposing emotions that can occur when those waves are gone...the ebb.

Originally, Rockaway had appeared to me as a disillusioned, surfless town, but as the week went on, the reverential surfers revealed themselves, still beckoned to the sea...if only by mere ripples.

Special thanks to Ian Roberts of Holiday Maker (NY) who contributed the music for this slideshow:​holidaymakermusic.

I would like to thank the surfers I photographed in Rockaway Beach, for without them, my essay would have been rather thin: Kevin Blagys, Sean Bolebruch, Americo Cruz, Melissa Finch, Veronica Hendrick, Dara Lazar, Marcos Guiu Navarro, Salvador Pantoja, Ian Roberts, Scott Snelling and Douglas Wasserman


Everyone's slideshows were met with rousing applause. Subjects ranged from subtle glances of homo sapiens in Central Park to hip-hop in Harlem to a pagan troll collector and all the way down the rabbit hole! It felt great to share all of our hard work with people who really appreciated it and I was elated to be in the company of such talent. The bonds we cultivated throughout the workshop will last a lifetime. I'm sure of it.

As parties go at the Kibbutz, much of the patrons moved up to the roof to enjoy the magnificent Manhattan skyline. Many of us remained in the loft, relishing in the chance to finally just enjoy each other's company and...RELAX!

There was still a buzz in the room when we met the next morning to wrap it all up with DAH and take one more look at our final slideshows. It was hard to believe it was over. Sadness...but a sense of relief also. We looked at the work of Anton Kusters (co-curator of Burn Magazine) and Michael Courvoisier (David's assistant) who we'd come to know and love throughout the week. Both amazing photographers and their work definitely brought me some inspiration.

With the advent of digital photography, we are seeing more and more print publications die or move to online platforms and the barrier to entry lowered profoundly. Competition is cutthroat and the cost of constant upgrading of equipment vs. actual profit is certainly not in favour of the photog. Making a living as a photographer IS damn hard and the industry uncertain. But after meeting David, I was encouraged to press on.  If anyone has weathered the storm..persisted through the ebbs and flows, it is David. 

We wouldn't have Burn Magazine, if he hadn't.

Photography to the amateur is recreation, to the professional it is work, and hard work too, no matter how pleasurable it may be.

- Edward Weston

Workshop Attendees
Workshop Interns

P.S.: I have felt great for the last 8 weeks (a far cry from my longest record of 12 days) after taking  a herbal concoction for a month. Still not totally sure what exactly has been making me so sick, but parasites are a good bet. Just waking up in the morning and feeling 'normal' is a gift, appreciated on so many levels and never taken for granted. Stoke.

There is hope that this blog might actually be up to date, someday!

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. 

- Henry David Thoreau