My Week at the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine, with Tillman Crane

At 7:00 am on Sunday July 20, 2008 in Brooklyn, I hopped into my mom's '93 Mazda MX-3 and drove 8 hours to Rockport, Maine. I was a bit nervous, since I haven't done such a long drive in a very long time, but moreso because I looked forward to the upcoming week.

At 4:30 I arrived, and was given a key to a ground floor room in Kate's Cottage. I walked a bit, trying to shake off the nervousness and tension from driving. At 6pm I had a delicious dinner under the meal tent and chatted with some other students. At 8pm, there was an intro by the Executive Director and his staff, and at 9 my group met each other and Tillman Crane.

Tillman emphasized that for a week, we would do nothing but eat, sleep and do photography, and that eating and sleeping were low on the priority list. The class was titled "Extraordinary Images in Ordinary Places" and it was about how to take amazing images, in even the most dull place.

Back at Kate's Cottage, I fell deeply asleep.

On Monday, July 21, after breakfast under the tent, our class of 15 convened in Union Hall, about a 10 minute walk away in "Downtown" Rockport.

We had been told to come with two images: one of our own, and one by someone who had influenced us greatly.

For my own, I chose an image from La Verna. When I thought about who influenced me, I immediately thought of Sally Mann and Annie Liebovitz and Ansel Adams. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would have never started to take pictures if it weren't for my father. So I showed a photo by him, taken in 1969. I did also show one by Sally Mann.

We all introduced ourselves. The students varied in age from early 20's to 60's (I think) and we came from Virginia, California, Minnesota, Massachuetts, New Jersey, Connecticut and NYC. Everyone brought talents and great images.

Tillman gave us each our assignments for Monday afternoon. Each assignment consisted of two cards, randomly chosen. The first card was a theme: a funny picture, or a worm's eye or a contemplative picture. The second card was a place: usually a very normal looking place in Rockport. We didn't exactly have to do the theme in the place but it was best to work on both ideas.

I pulled the cards:
theme: funny
place: Union Hall stairs

Monday Afternoon
Monday evening, after dinner under the tent, most of the students went back to Union Hall to see a presentation by Jeff Rosenheim from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, called "Walker Evans in Maine". He showed a great deal of Walker Evans work. (Walker Evans worked from the 1930's through the 1970's, and lived much of the time in NYC. He escaped the heat by going to Maine.)
Then I went back to Kate's to sleep
Tuesday morning Tillman critiqued our Monday afternoon work. Right away we saw that he would take an image and crop it down far more than than one might expect, but that in the end, he was right.

Early Tuesday afternoon, I had my individual critique with Tillman. He made a few composition comments, but mostly he suggested I get a better negative scanner.

I just want to throw in here: When I arrived in my room at Kate's Cottage on Sunday, I opened a door that I assumed would be the closet. I was startled when I saw steps going down into a basement. I don't mean a nice finished basement with linoleum tiles. I mean a dirt floor, peeling paint, stones and dampness. Straight out of the Blair Witch Project. Except worse, because someone locked down there wouldn't even be able to stand up. I was too scared to go down. But, on Tuesday, I gave my keys to another student, and he went and shot some images in the scary basement.
On Tuesday afternoon, I drew the assignment:
Place: Vesper Hill Chapel (a small chapel on a promontory near Rockport
Theme: Contemplative - sit for a while thinking and then take a picture.
Tuesday Afternoon
On Tuesday evening, at Union Hall, there was a presentation by Tillman Crane of his upcoming Odin Stone work. There was also a presentation by Christopher James.
On Wednesday Tillman gave us a different kind of assignment. We each randomly selected a bag, that had an object in it. We had to shoot a roll of images with that object in it. I drew a miniature, inflated, beach ball.

In the afternoon, we went to a place called Elmer's Antique Barn. This is a three story barn with tons of stuff, so much that it overflows onto the lawn. We spent the afternoon shooting there.

Then my assignment was to make a "Picture Postcard" of a place called Laite Beach. It was very dreary so I didn't get much. Late in the day I took some more cow pictures and a picture of a mushroom in a tree.

Wednesday Afternoon