Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Reaction to Workshop, Stepping In Front of the Lens with Sean Kernan

Stepping in Front of the Lens is a class that I took at the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine with Sean Kernan. I took the class to help myself think in a way I have not thought about before and then photograph in a way that transcends my old work and my old habits as a photographer.

Sean Kernan integrates various theater exercises within the class to raise awareness about each other and the world that surrounds us.. As a participant I became very intimate with the other students in my class. From staring at each other’s face, writing about each other, performing in front of each other, it lifted a veil of shyness to reveal acceptance and intimacy.

Kernan believes that good work comes out of discomfort. These exercises dealt with discomfort and led to connections with our selves and with people in our group. Photo exercises consisted of the following: light on the human body, taking a photograph evokes a person with out having to show that person and extending the photograph by presenting an image in a different way.

I took Kernan’s class to find a different way to approach photography. I have been photographing family business and decided I wanted to keep focusing on one family business and began a project dealing with the loss of my mother.

Photographing loss, feeling, memory or the absence of someone can be difficult to do if not impossible though traditional documentary. So when I took Kernan’s class I wanted to begin with ideas I had in showing different aspects of my mom and my feelings that surround her.

I began photographing myself as I had not attempted to do before and I thought that it might be helpful later on in my work. Next I photographed myself thinking of thoughts and feelings related to the sickness and absence of my mom. This practice felt like acting as I was recalling emotions but I think some images surprised me.

Finally, we needed to extend a photograph. This was something I was looking forward to trying. My last mentor, Jan Rosenbaum had incorporated two photographs into a landscape and I found the affect very interesting. I felt this could be a stepping-stone for me because I could use images from my childhood combined with current images revisited in the childhood photographs. Layering the photographs on top of each other and matching up components of the image would be one way to combine the past with the present.

I approached this by taking a photograph of myself I created in a hammock. The hammock felt appropriate because of its interconnectedness, restful, enclosing feelings that could mirror a mother daughter relationship. I tied my digital camera to the hammock, placed it on time and continued to shoot myself while in the hammock. Finally, I took one more photograph of the hammock from afar using my Holga. After I developed the film and printed the two images I arranged them together and matched the smaller picture of myself to the larger picture.

I was pleased with the results and took the image one step further by photographing myself with the new images, again recalling emotions from my past. These images were appealing to me and I feel that I could push further.

Another benefit of the workshops is the opportunity to attend the artists’ slide show. Among the many that stood out to me and I found relevant to my work was Duane Michaels. Michaels posed the question, “How do you photograph something you don’t see? - Disappointment, Loss, Memory, I don’t know.” But Michaels has made the attempt to try to photograph these things through photographs that build a visual story, incorporating hand written text, using wit and humor. It was refreshing for me to see is approach and attack this with such frankness.

Another photographer that was mentioned to me to look at was Cig Harvey. In the fact that she uses herself in her portraits and her work often addresses what has occurred in her personal life. Her approach might be appealing to me.

This week with Sean Kernan and my classmates gave me an accepting environment to push my work in directions I feel it has needed to go to. So I have jumped into the water after taking a long contemplative look at it. Now I need to swim and explore within it.


Rebecca Moran said...

Hi Brooke,
I am so glad you got a change to work with Sean Kernan. The exercises he had you guys doing sounded really interesting. I love your hammock shot, it's wonderful.

Anonymous said...


I believe the photographing and rephotographing could be a really interesting direction for your work! How great to be in a workshop after the residency


Mary E Mayer said...

Hi Brooke,
I really like your images! I love the way your feelings do show through in the images. I think you are going to have some awesome work at the end of this semester. I hope to see more soon. Were your shoes stinky in Maine?
Miss Ya!!!

Anonymous said...

I love these photos. For me they evoke a real sense of loss,longing, and separation. The vulnurability in them was almost too painful to look at and sharing these emotions with you made me care about how you were doing and why you felt this way.
I'd love to see more along this line.