Sunday, October 5, 2014

Magnum Workshop, Day 1/7, Travel to Provincetown.

I've decided to document the experience of attending the Magnum Days workshop in Provincetown Massachussetts, one day at a time.
(Click Here) to read about Magnum Days.
I'm doing this after the fact, because our days were too full to do it in real time. I want to document for my own purposes, and share the process that I went through in the course of the five day workshop. I'll actually cover seven days, starting with Sunday, September 14, and ending with Saturday, September 20.
Sunday started early, with an hour drive from my home into DC to catch a flight from Reagan National to Boston's Logan Airport. There, I rented a car and drove the 2 1/2 hours to Provincetown, arriving in the mid afternoon. This allowed me the opportunity to meet up with my friends James and Maria, Boston natives who happened to be in Provincetown for a mini-vacation. We spent a little time together, and then I headed off to check in to my room and attend the first Magnum Days activity, a welcome party and barbecue.
Based on the fact that this was a Magnum event, I assumed that we would each work on a project throughout the week. In fact, I think it said that in the informational materials somewhere. In any case, I knew that we would have an exhibition of the workshop students' work on the following Friday. In order to prepare, I did a couple of things. First, weeks before the event, I started getting information about Provincetown (which I'll abbreviate as "Ptown," since that's fully accepted by the locals). I sent off an email to a historic lifesaving museum at the National Seashore, to see if there were any events during the time I'd be there. I received a nice response telling me there weren't, but that I was welcome to come and meet a historian on either Tuesday or Thursday afternoon, and see their museum. Didn't sound like much of a lead, but better than nothing.
I also decided to purchase a book on Ptown, entitled Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown, by Michael Cunningham. That turned out to be a very good primer about the town. It quickly became clear that Ptown is known for a few things: art, homosexuality, and partying. I also learned quite a lot about the land, lighthouses, and the National Seashore. Knowing that a Magnum workshop would be no place for landscape images, I wasn't sure if I could work any of that knowledge into my project. And, I wasn't particularly interested in covering the gay or party community, at least not on the surface of it.
I had also thought about the type of stories that our mentors have covered in their careers. Clearly, I wouldn't be covering a war in Ptown (thankfully). In fact, I tried to imagine anything there that may even reflect the fact that our country is currently involved in several military actions. The closest I could come was finding that Ptown had a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post. I thought that may lead somewhere.
Of course, as I checked in and got my bearings, I shot a few images. You may have already seen this one, which has no interesting subject, but does show the beautiful nature of the Ptown light.
Attending the welcome party, we got a quick orientation to the Fine Arts Work Center (FAWC) in Ptown, which includes a fully-functional printing operation. I always love to look at tools, a practice that I'm sure came from my Dad. Check out these brayers. That's what I call organization.
After the party, I decided to walk down the main drag, Commercial Street, to see what it was like. I didn't want to just shoot random street photography during this workshop, and ended up spending much less time here than most of the other students.
When you're looking for a project idea, I think it's generally a bad idea to define what you don't want to do. But, on this evening, I did decide not to focus on drinking and homosexuality in Ptown. It was just too obvious. Not that this thought brought me any closer to what I did want to cover. I think you can see that I didn't have a coherent project idea at this point; it would take a while to form.
The other important development on Sunday was that those of us signed up to work with David Alan Harvey learned that he was stuck in Europe due to an airline strike, and would not arrive until Tuesday night. I decided to take this as a positive opportunity, as I was also very interested in learning from the other Magnum mentors, specifically Bruno Barbey. I got to spend the first two days with Bruno, which really added to the experience.