Sunday, April 13, 2014

On Island Living

I've been really intrigued with island life since my second week at SALT. I came to Peaks for my neighborhood assignment. I had felt isolated, lost, and alone then. I've been back many times since. Exploring the island one little piece at a time...of course, it doesn't really take all that long to explore a small island, but there is just something about it. It's just so methodical here. You have to plan out grocery trips (if you don't want to shop at the only grocery store in town), and social trips since the ferry can be limited (although there are more ferries coming and going from Peaks than the others).

I've been daydreaming about what it would be like to live on an you can imagine my excitement when Mira, SALT's writing instructor, posted that she may need a dog sitter for the week. I volunteered as fast as I could. First and foremost, Mira and her family were gracious enough to bring me into their home on my first exploratory mission to Peaks. She noticed that I didn't have the proper footwear for all of the slow I was about to trek she offered here's to me. Her and her husband also offered me a map of the island and pointed me towards the right direction. Of course, I volunteered largely because I wanted to pretend to be an islander for a few days, but I also wanted to thank Mira for her kindness.

I decided, with Nelson's blessing, not to go to Worcester this weekend. To be frank, my pockets cannot afford the short trip every week...but I have been stretching it and "making it work." So I've been on the island on and off since Wednesday. My head feels clearer here. It's quiet and the dogs have been keeping me company. We explored the dirt roads together and took a nice hike on the beach during sunset. I've been getting a lot of reading done. It has always been a bad habit of mine to pick up a book, read a couple of chapters, and never finishing it. So my mission was to have a bit of a 'staycation' and try to chip away at this book I brought from home ("Her" by Christa Paravanni - a photographer who lost her twin). It's been quite therapeutic...all of it.

I'm also re-cutting my multimedia piece. The audio and B-roll rough cut is due today. I've learned that the difficulty with telling someone else's story is some how, you almost always suck at it. So basically, I'm trying not to suck. I've literally been cutting on and off since Wednesday.

I'm also working on re-sequencing my photo story, since I will not have any photos to critique on Monday (my very first time since the beginning of the semester and I feel weird about that). My goal today is to write a focus statement for the photo story and see if things become more apparent...fingers crossed...don't worry, I just learned what a 'focus statement' was yesterday...

Last night I hemmed and hawed over which photograph from my project I was going to submit for a show postcard. Everyone gets to submit just one photo, and I almost didn't, because I know my classmate's photo would win. Everyone, including myself, has been swooning over it and as of last night, there was only five submissions out of seventeen. I guess we will find out.

It's been raining all morning and I'm feeling sad about leaving Peaks.

Peaks Island

Peaks Island

Peaks Island

Peaks Island

Peaks Island

Observed: Lovers on the ferry

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Bus Life

You know, since I only have a learner's permit, I've been having to take the bus to Boston, weekly. I call these trips my "soul journey." Mostly because these days, I've been feeling like a hot mess. Not feeling like I fit in as an Asian and not truly American...but more on that later...

These weekly trips are for my multimedia and photography projects. I was warned that it would be difficult work on final project for both classes with the same subject, but I also got the reassuring "you can do it" pat on the back and the go ahead from both of my instructors.

I've been spending these bus rides (2 1/2 hours to Boston and then 1 hour to Worcester) writing a bit. "Cleaning House" as Nelson, my photography instructor, puts it. Really trying to capture my thoughts on paper. What I've been feeling. Any anxieties I may have. I spend most of the time reflecting on my life's journey thus far. It has not be boring to say the least. I'm hoping to compile these notes while traveling into something bigger. I've also been spending my time on the bus catching up on sleep. I've been putting in late nights at Salt and sleep is very scarce when you already have bad sleeping pattern...forgive me if I'm not making any sense, I'm falling asleep as we speak!

This past week has been a busy one. Our first final deadline is this Sunday. I've made sure to bring my computer and my things in case my partners need me. I'd love to write a little more, but my body needs a nap.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

On water rights

Tonight the photo kids are having a sleep over in Fryeburg, a little Maine town on the New Hampshire border. We are here on a mission...well, a group project really.

The town is fighting Nestle and their proposed 45 years water extraction contract. Water is currently being pumped out of Fryeburg's aquifer and sold in plastic bottles while the town drinks well water...still, their water is more clean than our public drinking water in West Virginia. Of course, there is two sides to every story, so we're here to 'investigate' ...or document this fight, a fight that's essentially a global fight. Privatization of's happening all over the world and it's happening in Fryeburg.

I'm going to stop here before I go any further. Tomorrow Nicole and I are taking to the roads on bicycles. Watch out everyone else!

Friday, March 28, 2014

On being a FANgirl

So tomorrow we have a lecture with Angelo Merendino. He is hanging his exhibit at Salt starting tomorrow and I am beyond excited. I've been following this work for some time now and I cannot wait to see it in person. I have so much respect and admiration for him so I'm probably going to probably stutter when I ask him questions!

I feel like we are so lucky here at SALT. Getting to speak to professionals and alums and asking them all sorts of industry questions is something you probably can't get elsewhere. At least not on a weekly basis. I am so grateful to be here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

On writing, photography, chanced encounters, and rants.

I told myself that I wouldn't leave the house today until I write one blog post. Writing has always been a concern to me. A good concern though, it's something that I'm trying to explore and blog post at a time.

Salt Alum, Molly Caro May came in yesterday to speak about her first published memoir and it was an awakening for me. She read excerpts from her book and I was carried by her words. I was inspired to write...and also thinking ahead about my artist statement and project statement at the end of the semester. I am one run on sentence sometimes. During the Q & A portion, I felt brave and asked her if she "had any tips or recommendations on how to awaken the mediocre writer." After a short burst of laughter from my classmates, she answers that she gives herself journal prompt like questions and allows herself to write for at least an hour (I think)...or even minutes.

I came home and started usual, I fell asleep, this time, mid thought...

                 Don’t fluff the hustle.

                 Last week was difficult. It just was. I don’t know if I feel disconnected or what. But I couldn’t handle it. 
                 I felt like my brain was unraveling with every turn of wheels on the bus. 

                 What does it all mean? I don’t fucking know. I just know that I must make photographs…and make 
                 photographs that are compelling to me. Photography is the window and a mirror. Right now, if 
                 photography was a mirror, it would see me eating cake on the phot

What the hell? What was I even saying? I know I probably started talking about cake because I made a photograph of a chocolate cake out of guilt. I was guilty for not photographing the sweet buns offered to me by a sweet Filipino woman the first time I visited my subject's house. I have no idea what question I was writing this prompt to. 

Were I'm trying to get to is that writing has never been my strong point. I envy the lyrics and the poets (essentially the same thing), who can craft up a world with words. I hope that by the end of the semester, I've at least unleashed some sort of inner writer in me. 

To steer clear into another subject, we are working on a conceptual video. The term, conceptual, is still a thing I'm trying to grasp. I took my classmate, Nicole, to Peaks Island and we got to enjoy the beautiful scenery while filming the world around us. 

Here she is having an American Beauty moment filming a plastic grocery bag blowing in the wind. Everything was so beautiful around us and the time slipped away from us. It got dark quickly and we still had a ways to walk to get to the ferry terminal. As we were walking, right after I had just mentioned how I wished a car would stop and give us a pulled up beside us and rolled down the window. Desperate, Nicole and I hoped into the car ignoring our guts. He spoke in a deep tone and a thick accent and I was scared. I started the conversation right away that we were students from Salt and that the time got away from us and we needed to be on the 7:30 ferry and it was currently 7:30. He mentioned being a Documentarian himself and having just reached out to our director early that morning and asked us what projects we were working on. Nicole took the lead and mentioned that she was Switzerland working on a project about asylum seekers from Burundi. They started speaking French and I was only able to pick up a few words. My guts were wrong and he turned out to be very kind and offered us to come back to his place for a drink if we missed the ferry. Fortunately, the ferry was running late and Nicole and I both shot out of the car and sprinted to it without exchanging our information. The next day he reached out to our director again hoping to get into touch with us (especially the sweet Swiss girl). In a twist of events, we went from walking in the dark to meeting a real life Documentarian. It was a pretty neat experience. 

And a post about writing got completely away of me! But what a good exercise it has been. Maybe I do need to make myself sit down and write more writing before bed when I'm exhausted. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

24 hours

Almost two weeks ago now, I finished my most dreaded 24 hour assignment. It took 5 no's to finally get a yes. I ended up asking a girl I met on the street and she volunteered herself actually. Thank goodness! I started following her after work on a Friday (my birthday to be exact). We went to her brother's house, the art walk, then to her home. I hardly slept on a yoga mat and got up to watch Saturday morning cartoons. We took a walk, ate chocolates, then she walked me to the bus stop. I felt like I had made a friend through the process. On top of that, I learned a good bit about myself and I really enjoyed the photographed made during the 24 hours. She was so sweet and gave me a birthday present once the clock turned 4:30 pm. We were standing at the bus stop.

Speaking of buses, I will be embarking on my second trip to Worcester, Mass. I decided last week to pursue a story there...both for my solo multimedia and photography project. It a two and a half hour drive from Portland but a six hour bus journey...starting from the public bus stop a block from where I am living. I would have preferred to follow a story here in Portland, but this story (in which I will dive into later), is very compelling to me...and that makes it worth the traveling and the money spent on bus tickets for the next month. I can stand to live off of ramen for a little while. I'm just worried about doing the story justice. I've been keeping a written journal, recorded while I'm on the bus...when I'm not feeling nauseous. This is definitely something I want to look back on.

My wake up call will be an early one tomorrow morning. I've got my batteries charging and I'm about to pack my bag. I'm not sure where I will be staying tomorrow night, but I'm sure I won't have a hard time finding a motel.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Following Strangers

Sorry I've been MIA for the past couple of weeks. School has been very busy and stimulating. So much so that sometimes I come home and end up doing absolutely nothing so my brain can be quiet. But this isn't a bad thing. I knew this coming to SALT that it wasn't going to be easy. I guess it's just very real now...duh, I'm five weeks in. So that's catch up.

I followed a stranger home. I did it. It was rewarding and exhilarating to know that out of the two most feared assignments, I had accomplished one and got to cross it off the ol' bucket list. I met a man named Steven on the street a couple of days before I followed him home and I was surprised that I even mustered up the nerve to ask him right away. I really didn't know what his story was excepted that he collects cans as a form of exercise to make a little side money. I guess I felt rather comfortable with him on first impression. Steven was great. I followed him around while he collected cans around Portland for at least three hours. It was 27 degrees and he didn't wear gloves where I was a vision of Ralphie's little brother from a Christmas Story. He had an exact route through the city (which varied between winter and summer) and knew every single trash can. I think the thing that was the most incredible was the fact that Steven has been legally blind since the age of 35. He has trouble seeing during the day but navigates the night extremely well. 

I felt a great connection with Steven and was really grateful for my experience with him. I'm grateful for this assignment too. I honestly would not have done this on a day to day life scenario. I think that's what its really all about her. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone. It's been challenging but nothing is ever rewarding without a challenge. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Practice makes perfect

Last week, a few of my classmates and I got together to practice. My photo classmate, Roger, and I were inspired by Eugene Richard's Dorchester Days and asked, Bram, to be our model.

Dorchester Days was in black and white but I went against the grain and decided to go with color. After a couple of hours with Bram (radio track), Roger and I took a walk around snowy Portland.

Monday, February 17, 2014

On Learning.

"Learn all the hardest ways to do everything so you can do anything." - Anne Bailey

That's how our day started. I feel pretty tired and emotionally drained...but in a good way. I learned that my time on Peaks reflected my emotions in the past week. It's pretty erie actually. I was wondering aimlessly and alone on Peaks and what I hadn't thought about was that I had picked an island in the winter time. Like I had mentioned in the last post, I was having a hard time with the assignment in general. I've been feeling lost, homesick, alone, and isolated. I freaking choose and island! That's like the ultimate parallel to the word isolation. I choose to wander alone in the snow covered woods and into some time forgotten bunker. I was alone. I didn't get it.

My second day on Peaks I found what I was looking for. As a photographer and as a person. During our critiques today, I cried. I cried once I realized I had somehow imprinted my emotions onto my work. It's an exciting revelation.

This week's assignment was to follow a stranger home. Before I came to SALT, I read about it briefly on a blog and I freaked! It's actually one of my most feared assignments, but I did it! I followed a guy named Steven around Portland for several hours collecting cans and bottles and then he allowed me into his home. I learned a lot about Steven and I hope we can stay in touch.

I'm learning that if I continue to push myself through these assignments, they are not as bad as I had visioned. NOTE TO SELF: be less dramatic.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Oh Yes

For the past couple of days I've done nothing but walked. I explored Peaks Island for two days on foot with improper snow shoes (only one of the two days) and I walked to some unfamiliar areas of Portland during the snow storm. 
Before I talk about what I found during my exploratory missions, let me be honest, our "neighborhood' assignment this week really kicked my ass. I don't know if I mentioned this the other day, but I felt like Nelson (my instructor), set the bar pretty damn high. To be even more honest with you, I didn't feel good about photography since day one of class. I felt like maybe I've been "doing it wrong." I never had any formal training, most things I know is self taught. I learn the business side from the ground up, much like the technical side of photography. I am not well versed in the who's who of photography. Basically, I felt discouraged. But I am excited to learn, eager really. I'm also excited about finding myself again as a photographer. 
Day 1 on Peaks was pretty great. I got some help from Mira and her family (Mira is the Writing Instructor at Salt) after I met them at the ferry station. They were so kind to give me proper snow shoes and pointed me in the right direction (as far as where to find certain things on the island). I walked until I got exhausted. I was alone for the most part so my journey felt lonely. I originally wanted to walk and cover the whole island on one day but I was defeated. 

When I got back on the main land, I met one of my classmate and told her what I was doing. When she told me she thought it was pretty ambitious, I started to feel paranoid. I didn't want to be ambitious and miss the point of the assignment...but I didn't want to play it safe. So threw my plans of going back to Peaks to finish exploring out the window and began to doubt myself. 

The next day I went to my favorite coffee shop and looked around. I thought about the word neighborhood and thought that maybe I could profile the shop. I felt pretty confused so I emailed Nelson. He mentioned that a coffee shop is not quite a neighborhood and said that he was sorry I didn't like Peaks. But it wasn't that I didn't like Peaks, I was afraid to get the assignment wrong...but why? It's the first freaking assignment for goodness sakes! Like I said, I have been questioning my photography since I arrived so it was easy for me to get discouraged. So I decided to go back and revisit. This time exploring the other side of the island. To my surprise, the second day really solidified my choice of choosing the island. I took a lot of photos...A LOT. I will have to narrow it down to 20 for my critic tonight. Here are some photos that I took with my iPhone whilst exploring. 

found my motto for my time in Portland
exploring during the storm
asked a local about hidden gems, he pointed me to the fish market
found a hidden gem in a alley way
Portland is full of graffiti 
beautiful light on Peaks Island
this here is actually a frozen pond from ice skating
Peaks Island was beautiful
lunch break on the coast
a view from the shore of Peaks
swamp grases are tall!
narrow snow covered boardwalk
Battery Steel built during WWII
can you tell why I'm in love?

What I've learned in the past couple of days is to really trust my instinct. If I wanted to profile Peaks as a neighborhood, why not? Say yes. I really need to believe in myself, my abilities, and judgement as a photographer. At the same time, be open to new methods, critics, and experiences because after all, I'm here to learn.


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