We began our journey of self discovery at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, CA. As we walked up the stairs to our classroom, we were greeted by 2 images that had a lot of meaning to the process we were about to embark on. The first image, by Lukas Felzmann, was a diptych of 2 owl wings side by side. These beautiful photographs spanned the entire landing on the staircase and it was impossible to miss.
The second image, by Arno Rafael Minkkinen, was perfectly placed at the top of the stairs. This black and white photograph was an image of a person about to jump off a cliff in the landscape.
Giant Wings... Jumping off a cliff... How appropriate. A sign of what was to come.
Day one was all about discovering ourselves through self-portraiture and introspection. A week before the workshop, Rick sent out the assignment of taking a self portrait and bringing it to the class. It was explained that we were all going to talk about what our self portrait means to us. The assignment alone brought up conflict for us and many of the participants... How are we going to photograph ourselves, portray ourselves to others and then talk about it with total strangers?
During the class, we were invited to break into groups of 5 to review our self portraits. We started with a simple but powerful process. One person would hold up their self portrait for the other 4 people in the group to look at. Then each viewer was asked to give specific feedback in the form of 3 statements: "When I look at your self portrait I see..., When I look at your self portrait I feel... and When I look at your self portrait I imagine..." The feedback was amazing to hear. Most of the observations were true to heart and some were revealing in ways that we didn't expect. After listening to the observations, we, as the self portrait makers, told our group what the image was about. There was a lot of emotion shared during this exercise.
If you haven't done this as a practice yet, we HIGHLY recommend it! Go do it, make a self portrait of yourself and then show it to a few people and have them tell you what they see, feel and imagine and then share with them what the image represents to you... You will be amazed.
Here are our self portraits that we presented:
Day one continued with Lesley directing everyone with a movement exercise. It started by grounding everyone to the environment and the space we were in. Than she took us on a journey that encouraged everyone to move and let any inhibitions go. We could tell that some of the participants were less than enthusiastic about moving their bodies, including ourselves. But, after the exercise, we felt a little more free to be able to express ourselves and get in touch with our 'inner artist'. MeRa said it best... If we have a problem with moving our own bodies, how are we supposed to expect that our subjects in front of the camera will be free to move their bodies.
Lesley then took us through a drawing exercise. With the idea of self portraiture fresh in our minds, we were to illustrate ourselves on paper. This was a challenge for many of us! She encouraged each of us to be guided by our vision and not to second guess anything. Just start drawing and see what comes. When they were complete, we all had a chance to share our drawing and find similarities or differences between these illustrations and our original self portraits. From our drawings, we were to make 3 statements of who we are right at that moment - using the 'what we see, feel and imagine' from our self portraiture images. This activity for many of the participants, was very eye opening and revealing.
Here are Garrett's:
I am running scared, looking for clarity.
I am exploring, jumping, turning... where does the time go.
I am streams of thoughts, emotional, ugly, don't forget family.
At the end of the exercise, Lesley performed a dance/movement for everyone and we were all floored. She was beautiful.
Day 1 ended with everyone taking a personal photographic journey. The instruction was to take a new image that was reflective of the sentences which were borne out of our drawing self portraits. The idea was that we were creating a new version of a photographic self portrait, sourced from a totally different place than our original "homework" assignment. We left the day feeling like we were on the edge of a cliff, ready to jump off and fly away...listening for the new singular voice emerging from within. What a great feeling.