Remembering Mississippi

It hasn’t even been a week since my last day in Mississippi and yet I already feel like it was a lifetime ago. It took me this long to even begin to process all that I learned and took from the workshop with David, and I’m still trying to revel in the afterglow. Above all, my week in the Delta was a much needed immersion back into photography. PHOTOGRAPHY. My passion. My craft. My life. My heart. Photography. To take a break from talking business models and pricing guides and lightroom “workflow”to spend a week truly pursuing the craft of photography was one of the most exhilarating and affirming moments of my so-called “career”. I was photographing with 19 other seriously incredible photographers and being critiqued by them daily. I was pushed. I was humbled. I was insanely inspired. I can’t say that I’m a better photographer since the workshop. But I can say that I have a greater sense of confidence in my voice and in the images that I make and will continue to make in my normal day to day life. To be affirmed by true documentary photographers and artists that I don’t have to use pocket wizards to make a great image, or that things don’t have to be tack sharp or “color corrected” to be compelling, was revolutionary. Simply put, after a serious “identity” crisis, I have come to realize that I need to let go, have fun and make images again.
The workshop was supposed to be a technical lighting workshop. I signed up 1/2 for this reason, and 1/2 for the fact that I would be in the presence of David Alan Harvey with the blues as a backdrop. I expected to spend a lot of time learning to light dark, seedy juke joints at night so that I might take this knowledge and apply it to my weddings and/or portrait sessions. You see, as as wedding photographer who has spent way too much time looking at other wedding photographer’s work, I see a lot of trends–one of these being fancy lighting techniques which involve dragging light and or firing three or four flashes from a remote to make beautiful dancing shots or wedding party portraits. Ugh. Not my thing. I’m not saying that these type of images aren’t beautiful. They certainly are–and I thought I needed to use these techniques in my own work to make my work stronger–which was part of the appeal of this workshop. But alas, there was none of this in the workshop. We maybe spent 2 hours talking lighting and it was basic pop up flash, on camera strobe and something involving a cord and my extended arm. There was no fashion techniques or ways to make a person’s skin “glow”. However, I believe what I did learn about lighting and technique was far more powerful and caters to my style far more than a “one light workshop”ever could. Bottom line for me: I need to minimize my equipment, blend in, have fun and shoot organically. I don’t have time to set up 3 lights when shooting the streets or documenting an emotional moment at a wedding, for that matter. I would miss the moment in an attempt to make something that is already perfect, a little bit “fancier”. While I am fairly comfortable with a pop up and/or on camera strobe, what I wasn’t comfortable with was making images that might not be perfect, technically speaking. But then again–I would never call my work that. I would call it honest. And I’m comfortable with that now.
The other purpose of the workshop was to make a book. Not just any book make by My Publisher or Blurb, but a book promoted by David on www.burn.org and one that will hopefully be talked about in the photographic community. The pressure was on. We were supposed to go out on our own and interpret the Delta through our own essay or style. There of course is the Blues which is the first thing that comes to mind about the Delta, but I was flat out tired of photographing musicians on stage next to 10 other photographers—I get enough of that at home. So I explored. I never really found an essay—I think one needs a couple of weeks just to see what’s out there and establish relationships before she can delve into an essay defining a region of such rich history. But I drove from town to town, hit up bars, knocked on people’s doors and really got out of my comfort zone. After photographing Bruno’s I can truly say that there aren’t a lot of situations that I am scared to approach anymore and that in and of itself is priceless. I feel like I can approach strangers and listen to their stories and empathize with them. I feel connected to people through my art again. And this is an amazing feeling. I want to hold on to it and keep plugging along at my personal work and projects…
So without further ado, here are a few more honest, humble images from an incredible week spent in the Mississippi Delta.

3 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Katie Hellinger
August 31, 2011 at 7:48 PM

To be honest, I often don’t read what photographers write on their blogs, I just look at the photos. But, I love this post. It’s inspiring and relieving at the same time; it’s refreshing to see proof that it’s not the equipment that make a quality photo but the passion and voice behind it. Thank you for sharing!

March 21, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Where in Mississippi did you go to? I live there. Your work is inspiring. I’ve been looking into photography for years and I do my own thing when I have the time or chance. I would love to be as amazing as you are. Maybe one day, right? I sure hope so. Photography is so beautiful and raw. That’s what draws me to it.

Christa Dickinson
October 26, 2017 at 9:22 AM

I am beginning my own journey in photography and I found your page while looking for some inspiration for a photo project I am doing for school. Thank you for sharing, I love to catch unexpected moments of everyday people, getting to know them and their stories. I feel that you did an amazing job with this, how wonderful would it be to work with other great photographers and to get their input and knowledge….. New goal added to my list!! Thanks again.

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