Summer Jounral Entry 76 – Creative Writing Essay
This last summer I attended the Maryland Institute College of Art Pre-College Summer Program in photography. I had only been taking photography classes for a year and although I had spent an extensive amount
of time learning and creating beyond the class hours and curriculum, I wasn’t sure if photography was something I wanted to commit to.
In the second week of the program we were told to begin work on a single piece or a series that would take the remainder of the program to finish and would be displayed in a large exhibition at the end. I struggled for many days before I could find a concept and begin to execute it. I chose to create a study of the scream because it is a facial expression rarely seen; it has a wide range of causes, and could be captured in its brief existence by the camera. I also thought having a large wall of people screaming at you would be humorous.
Originally I had planned just 5 or 6 images but the more I worked, the more I came to realize that if the concept of a piece isn’t understood by the common onlooker, then you aren’t being successful. After a rather brutal critique with some of my peers and a teacher’s assistant, I knew that in order to portray the full range of expression in a scream, I was going to need far more images to captivate the viewer. My first day of shooting, I shyly asked my friends if they would scream for me. I found that within a few minutes I ran out of friends to photograph and many of them, because they knew me, weren’t willing to embarrass themselves. Not until two days before “crunch week” did I muster the courage to move completely out of my comfort zone and photograph absolutely everyone I found. In order to achieve my goal of 36 images, I needed that many fully committed people to pose for me. One wouldn’t suspect that, on average, only one out of every three or four people can go in front of a camera and scream on command without laughing.
Everywhere I went I carried my mobile studio with camera, backdrop and light, and everywhere I went I asked complete strangers to scream for me. In the end I photographed over one-hundred different people ranging from a dining hall cook to the admissions committee and even a police officer. While learning how to approach people and convince them to do such an out of the ordinary task was difficult, the most difficult work I did was in the last two days when I had to choose and print my final images. Most of my peers were preparing five to six image series; I had 25 images to produce, mount and mat.. Out of all the years in school and experiences in my life, those two days were the most stressful. As a proud member of the ADD club, I knew that if I didn’t learn to organize myself in a somewhat obsessive manner, I could never finish it. Everything I did was written down so as to avoid the “why am I holding this negative again?” moments. After two days of near-starvation, sleep deprivation, and rarely seeing sunlight, I finished. Although my nerve racking critique with the chair of the photography department that night went well, I believe my success lay not in the finished images hanging on the wall, but what I learned in that process. I now know how much work it takes to be an artist, I know that I always want to work creatively, and I know how to deal with my ADD to finish the task at hand.