[Editor’s Note: Luanne recently attended the prestigious Eddie Adams Workshop, and when she returned told me all about it. Her excitement was so infectious, I asked her to share her experience with everyone here! -Brad]
The Eddie Adams Workshop
In photography we often set out to capture the Decisive Moment. That sliver of life where time seems to stop and every element of the frame just makes sense. The minute I stepped off the school bus and heard Kodachrome by Paul Simon playing over the loud speakers, and I saw photo greats clapping for me and 99 other selected students as I walked up the hill to the barn at the Eddie Adams Workshop, I knew I was living my Decisive Moment.
I had spent the last 5 years dreaming of the day. Wondering what it would feel like, what color team I’d be on, who I’d meet, what friends I’d make, and most importantly if being there in person would ever actually happen.
This was my last year of eligibility. This was my last chance. This was my year.
My lust for Barnstorm started back in college when I first learned of the four day intensive workshop that has become a staple in the photojournalism industry. The Eddie Adams Workshop, also known as EAW or Barnstorm, is a product of a dream that Eddie Adams had to create a place where young talent can be inspired and seasoned talent can give back. His dream, which became reality 24 years ago, has now effectively influenced 2400 students and countless veterans. For one week in October, incredible talent descends on the Adams’ family farm in upstate NY, at the base of the Catskills, for a time of inspiration, reflection and community.
Timing is a funny thing.
I remember vividly applying to the workshop in 2007 for the first time. I was still in college with a student newspaper portfolio that I thought would change the world. I had a good balance of sports photos, hard news, and even a cute story about a kindergarten chess champion. I figured I was a shoo-in. Sadly, I figured wrong.
In 2007 if you would have told me I wasn’t ready, I would have laughed at you. In 2008 I would have flashed my newspaper press badge to prove my status. In 2009 I would have told you that you were mistaken, because clearly, I’m running my own freelance business so I must be successful. In 2010 I might have said fine, because I’m moving to Israel anyway. Now in 2011, if you told me I still wasn’t ready, I might actually have agreed with you…
In 2011 I got accepted.
Looking back, I can’t imagine going to EAW at any other time in my life. About a year and a half ago I decided to throw my hands up and abandon everything I knew in Atlanta and move to the Middle East. At that time I didn’t know where exactly I was headed, but what I did know was that I needed out of where I was, and that I needed to get back to telling stories that had significance. From the minute I decided to go, life opened up for me.
This year I submitted my story from Israel on a Christian-run home for handicapped Muslim children in the West Bank as my application portfolio for EAW. I even wrote in my personal statement that this was me not trying to figure out what they wanted to see, but me showing them who I am. Thankfully it worked.
My time at the barn was life changing. It was a time where my photo heroes became my friends, and my big dreams got even bigger.
To start off the weekend, Eugene Richards spoke on the power of using our cameras as a tool to respond to life. He talked about the responsibility we have as photojournalists to act. And as if the bar wasn’t already set high just being there, he spoke right to me, literally, on the first night. I just so happened to be sitting in the front seat, at the front table, on night one when Eugene was speaking to the group. He literally was less than five feet from me, making eye contact, imparting wisdom and knowledge directly to me. I thought maybe I was just reading into it a little bit. I mean, after all I was sitting up front and the lights were off. But at the end of the evening when I went up to purchase his book, War Is Personal, I introduced myself and jokingly mentioned that I felt like he was talking right to me. He smiled and said that he was! He then took my book and signed it, “To Luanne at the Eddie Adams Workshop, So nice to talk to you.” It was game time.
The way the workshop breaks down is that there are 100 students divided into 10 teams that produce stories under the direction of industry leaders, editors, and producers. I had the privilege of being on the Bronze Team (what what.. represent!). We decided to go all Spinal Tap on EAW and crank it up to 11. Myself, along with 10 other students, worked together to tell stories of equality in Sullivan County.
I must admit I was a little nervous Friday night when I got my photo story assignment and it said “grumpy old man”. I don’t feel bad about calling him that, because he is a self proclaimed grump. So, here’s how it worked: I had two days to spend photographing with Mr. Eugene, a 91 year-old man who now lives alone on his farm in Sullivan county. Mixed in amongst my time spent with Eugene and at the barn were editing sessions, speakers, home cooked meals by photo gurus, an epic bonfire, portfolio reviews and amazing conversations. Notice, sleep is not included.
On Sunday afternoon each year there is a memorial service for Eddie, and six of his photographer friends from Vietnam. All students and veterans alike, quietly walk up the hill carrying a yellow balloon and a glass of champagne to an etched rock where friends lay down a sunflower in memory. It is a solemn time where all I can remember feeling is loss, hope, love, belonging and the wind.
This year’s memorial had an extra layer to it as Chris Hondros’s fiancée was there to honor Chris and Tim Hetherington, who we lost in Libya on assignment earlier this year. Being a photographer can sometimes be an isolating job. This memorial time and the people who surrounded me during it, made me feel a part of something so much bigger than myself. It made me feel like family.
At the end of the week, I didn’t want it to end. I felt so close to the people I had just met. When you share intensity and birth of dreams with someone, you are destined to be friends for life. All weekend I found myself running the words of Clay Patrick McBride through my head. He encouraged us when we felt frustrated or overwhelmed, to stop and ask ourselves “Where am I?” He proceeded to tell us to look down at our feet, and where we are standing, and enjoy our moment.
I am so grateful and honored to be apart of the XXIV generation of EAW family.
After a car pool back to Manhattan we were so exhausted that we decided to order Chinese food in true NYC fashion. What I found inside my fortune cookie were the perfect words to sum up the weekend: “One’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” My mind, my heart, my dreams and my ambitions were stretched. I will never be the same.