The Body Through The Lens -

My Time At The Maine Media College

This summer I was treated to an absolutely amazing experience, I was gifted a scholarship from CCAD before graduation to take a one week workshop of my choosing from the Maine Media College's 2018 Summer Workshop Program. I chose The Body Through The Lens, a class lasting from late July through the beginning of August focusing on the body and abstract nude form (right up my alley, right?)

Now I had never been to Maine, and don't come from a particularly affluent family to say the least so traveling and taking expensive workshops or classes in my field were things I had never thought of as accessible to me. It was my first time purchasing my own plane ticket and my first extended trip by air. I had no idea what to expect, what the college would look like, how many students would be there, or what my class or my instructor, (who I had previously never heard of but was getting increasingly excited to meet as I obsessively read interviews she had done, gawked at her many achievements, and admired her online portfolio) Connie Imboden would be like.

 

In the days leading up to my trip I attempted to look into the future and imagine what the week would have in store for me. I pictured a campus by the harbor with state of the art facilities. I imagined a respectably small 150 or so students, mostly recent graduates like myself looking to expand upon their artistic scope with a spattering of older photographers of varying ages eager to keep their minds and talents fresh. I wondered if I would be invited out on all sorts of local night time hangouts with bonfires and swimming (or skinny dipping) along the coast and mingling with students from all sorts of other classes.

Spoiler alert: none of this happened.

I hopped on two incredibly small planes and a very awkward two-hour shuttle (in which I was the only occupant besides the desperately talkative driver) and was delivered unceremoniously late to a tiny cluster of what looked like old barns and farm houses with worn away white painted wood in the middle of a tiny town surrounded by trees. Insisting I didn't need walked up to the check-in, I made my way down the dirt paths leading from one building to the next, and after being accounted for, found my room. It had no air conditioning, faded pink wallpaper, and dingy pleated lampshades adorning large brass table lamps on either side of the dusty bed. There was also an unassuming wooden desk that could have come from any number of college dorm rooms and a television which was never turned on during my stay. I took a deep breath, opened the windows, and sat down on the bed with my suitcase laying open next to me...

What had I gotten myself into?

I shook off the dread and told myself not to get ahead of myself just yet. As I unpacked I found a box fan in the closet, turned it on, and never once turned it off until checkout. I put on the one nice-ish outfit I brought so as to make a good first impression, clipped on my name tag, and started down the path to the dinning tent for dinner and then orientation. 

If I had to make an educated guess there were probably about 80 people total on the campus, including teachers, staff, and talent. I also realized quickly that I was one of the youngest students there... by a lot. The only people I saw who were my age were working in the labs and as talent for the summer and had known each other for months prior. My own class consisted of five students (myself included), a teacher's assistant, and my harrowing instructor. My classmates ranged in age dramatically: one who was 28 (whom even my instructor admitted was "very young", I can only imagine what she thought of my 22-year old self waltzing up to class on the first day), one in his 30's, one in her 40's, and yet another in his 60's. My second observation: I was also the most experienced photographer there. It was a very strange sensation, to feel like the baby but also like the pro. Nevertheless, I awaited Connie's wisdom with the bright-eyed bushy-tailed excitement of a child.

That first night after orientation I had heard that the harbor was only a short walk south of campus so I ventured down on my own. I think that's when I first noticed just how beautiful Maine really was. Salt air and a gentle haze wrapped around comfortably resting boats. The quiet roads wound up and down and around hills and the houses grew tall but skinny and packed together like sunflowers. It was a very tiny downtown radiating around one intersection and lasting no more than a quarter mile down any of the streets spoking from the hub. Small gas lamps accompanied the electric street lights and the darkening sky over the ocean was impossibly peaceful. Once darkness had fully set in I ventured back to campus with renewed spirit.

Another observation which clashed with my expectations, was that there was no down time between classes. We woke up and went to breakfast from 8-9 every morning (we sat together as a class for every meal, as we were the only people any of us really knew at the campus), carpooled to our classroom for critique, carpooled back to campus for lunch from noon-1:30, and then carpooled again to our day's shooting location. Each of the five days we had a different location provided to us by the owners of the land- mostly private secluded homes (private secluded and drop dead stunningly beautiful homes with tons of land). We shot for five hours before carpooling one more time back to campus for dinner. However, even though I was disheartened by the lack of peers my own age to connect with, I quickly found myself bonding beautifully with my fellow classmates and even with Connie herself. We ventured out several evening for dinner and afternoons for lunch together as a group and had so many laughs. Connie was incredibly bubbly, talkative, and lighthearted, which we found ourselves bonding over immediately, while at the same time she wielded a depth of wisdom that still impresses and inspires me today.

 

Each day I grew both closer to these strangers who I now consider close friends, and more as an artist as my photographs evolved and deepened with each click of the shutter. Even my dingy room started to take on a quality I began to admire (one night while drinking some bootlegged wine in one of my classmates' rooms I described it was "depressing in an endearing way" to immediate empathy from my peers). I arrived in Maine anxious and maybe even a little frightened, yet left saddened that my week had already flown by. I ditched the dirty van service and instead carpooled to the airport with Connie early that last morning in her beloved rental truck, "the butch-mobile", as she had a flight out from the same airport less than an hour before my own. Two more tiny plane rides later I was back in Ohio and driving home, with a conviction that I still hold onto, that I'll be back again next year.

Here are just some of the photos I took while attending the class, they are meant to be exploration and exercise rather than finished work (though there are a few in here I really love and might consider portfolio-worthy). They are a mix of digital and film and of black / white and color. They are arranged in chronological order so you can see my growth throughout the week. Please click to see full images.

My sad little room

Chris Carter!