Crater Lake Artist-in-Residency Thoughts

This blog post is a little overdue for me. I’ve had it written but wanted to take some more time to reflect on the experience.

In some ways it’s hard for me to convey through words. But I’ll try.

My residency at Crater Lake ended on Friday, October 17th. During the last few days and especially since arriving back in Portland, I’ve done a lot of thinking about my experience. I’m going to break my thoughts down into these categories and write a little bit about each one: Creative Drive and Emotional Connection.

Creative Drive

Normally my photographic experience originates internally. I feel that being connected to my subject at a profound level is an important aspect of my work. It’s an escape for me. It’s a chance to reconnect to my true self and to live life as it was meant to be lived. The photograph that comes out of the event is a byproduct and a ‘souvenir’ for my experience.

With the residency, I had an external influence in that I had a ‘goal’ to communicate the effects of climate change within the park through my art. Leading into the residency I thought a lot about this and how it would affect my portfolio, if at all. Do I ‘compromise’ on things that I would put in my portfolio because they fell within the parameters? Do I photograph things that don’t speak to me in a creative way? Do I just carry on with my photography as I normally would?

I struggled a lot with this during the first week as I was scouting and trying to find my zone. The week was dominated by cloudless skies and harsh light. While the weather was beautiful, warm, and sunny (I even came away with a tan), it was equally frustrating because, to me, harsh light on dirt and rocks isn’t the kind of photography that I do. There wouldn’t have been any feeling or soul behind my work. Regardless, I was able to use that week to decompress from life, relax, scout, and soak in the opportunity. I also did a lot of finger-crossing for more favorable conditions.

My scouting taught me numerous things about the park regarding composition. I still kept an eye out for light playing with the landscape in different ways and for that ‘just right’ stand of whitebark pines but, in the end, I used the overview of the residency to learn a lot about the ways the park is being affected. I better appreciated the aspects that are being compromised and decided that I was there to make my art. And I decided to make the kind of photography that I normally would. I just had to wait for the right moments.. for when it felt RIGHT.

My finger-crossing paid off as I was rewarded with some lovely photographic conditions during the second week. Having made the steep climb to a vantage I really wanted a shot from more than half a dozen times, I eventually stood on that peak as the weather moved around and through me. I don’t know what it is about watching the clouds move around me, the sun rise over a snow covered landscape, or many of the other amazing instances that photography has given me the opportunity to experience that moves my soul. Maybe it’s the ephemeralness of the moment and the reminder that life itself is fleeting. Maybe it’s feeling the raw energy of the earth and witnessing it in action. Whatever it is certainly puts me in my place. I’m ALWAYS grateful to spend time outdoors but it’s THESE moments that induce goosebumps the most.

Emotional Connection

I wanted to use the residency as an opportunity for me to really disconnect from things that have been frustrating me in my everyday life. To know that I was going to be out in nature uninhibited for two weeks was a very exciting thought for me and I counted down the days like a child before his birthday.

I got to spend a lot of time just sitting, thinking, and taking in the beauty. I felt guilty that first week that I wasn’t producing any work that I was feeling connected to but this experience was to be about more than that. It was to truly develop a profound connection and appreciation for the land that we aren’t taking care of. It was about bearing witness to a period of time in history and trying to communicate not what I saw, but what I felt, and to educate others on what we are losing. I’ll save that information for when I release the images I captured during the residency.

What I got a taste of is life as I want to live. My heart yearns for a more solid connection to nature. Less metal, concrete, and brick. More wood, rocks, and moss. My return to the city wasn’t seamless. The stresses and busyness happening around me solidified the disconnect that I felt at Crater Lake. It’s taught me that I belong in a more natural environment and moving forward I am going to be taking steps to make that a reality. I want to continue to live my life with things that fill me up. I want to create. I want to do things that make my heart sing and the goosebumps grow. I want to look back on my life and know that I did fulfilling things.

Here’s to the future.


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