Clutter, Hope, & Charlie Brown (A Foundation First Experience)

This blog post has taken way too many days to compose. Why? Well, the Foundation First workshop has been one of the most exciting and amazing experiences of my life. (No, I am not exaggerating!) It has been difficult to put things down on paper and to open myself up so much. This may not be the best blog ever written...yet...but it is from the heart. So without further ado, here is my post. Enjoy (or cry like a baby along side me).

Foundation First

In January I attended the Foundation First workshop. Now I knew this workshop was going to kick my butt, challenge me, and even scare the poop out of me! I just didn't know how much and to what level this would have a permanent impact on my photography, my soul, and even my family life. I had read posts from other amazing photographers who had attended the older brother version of this workshop, Foundation Workshop, and all of those photographers had two things in common. 1. The experience challenged their perspective on photography. 2. Their lives had changed for the better.

Carlos, Melissa & Me. Picture created by Joe Apple

Carlos, Melissa & Me. Picture created by Joe Apple

So it was a "No Brainer" when I decided to sign up for Foundation First. I had been struggling with my photography vision and wanted more out of my photography. I wanted to compose art and not snap a pic. Unfortunately I was suffering from other factors that kept cluttering my brain and creativity. I had weird doubts and explainable anxiety with regards to both photography and videography. I would shoot and think "What the heck?" Something was just not clicking. I felt lost. Foundation First would give me the tools to find myself, and force me to not be so hard on myself.

Picture created by Joe Apple

Picture created by Joe Apple

I have attended other workshops and conferences. And the majority of them have left me more confused and overwhelmed. If any of you have seen national Lampoon's European Vacation, you will remember the Big Ben scene: It is when Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) is so excited to show his kids Big Ben (The clock tower). Unfortunately Clark can't seem to get out of the traffic loop and he is stuck going in circles. Every time he drives in circles he is pointing out in a not so enthusiastic way that Big Ben is there. "Oh look it's Big Ben AGAIN". That is kind of what my past workshop experiences have been. All super excited at first but then..."Oh look there is light and composition", "Hey Photographers there is light and composition again", "Did I mention you can use light to find your composition".

Foundation First was the total opposite! It began with a bang! Kelly Rashka, one bad ass photographer and human being, greeted me with a hug. Ok so here is a little secret I don't like to be hugged by people I don't know. But that hug meant the world to me. Kelly is my Oscar and Golden Globe winner Sigourney Weaver. (I idolize them both).  And the fact that she gave me a hug and the hug was super genuine, well that was like standing infront of the great Sigourney Weaver while shaking her hand at the Oscars. So yes it meant the world to me. Then I met Craig, Sherry, McKenzie, and Candice. What the heck! All these people were genuinely real and super nice. I felt like I was surrounded by family. Pinch me somebody! Is this real??? Later that night I met more mentors and awesome students. It just kept getting better! I felt like Charlie Brown. Super optimistic, open minded, and ready to take on the day (and class had not even begun). For the first time I wanted to befriend everyone on Facebook!

Day1- The Brain vs The heart.

This day was very important. We learned school stuff. It was a combination of what I had learned in 5 workshops plus more! I learned how my brain and my heart compete against each other instead of working with each other. I felt like I was slapped with a dose of Holy poop I do that to myself?? Yes... I do that to myself. My technical abilities challenge my emotional content. I got to understand how all these feelings and confused emotions were normal and were shared by my colleagues. Felt good to not be alone.

Candice & Me. Picture created by Jan

Candice & Me. Picture created by Jan

Picture created by Tyler Wirken

Picture created by Tyler Wirken

Day2- D-Day (Ok I am being a bit dramatic)

Day 2 was such a challenge. My mind was playing tricks on me and all I saw was clutter clutter clutter. I could not focus and I kept using everything I could as an excuse. The craziest thing was every time I felt like I was lost a mentor would come up and check up on me. Ok so that was a weird thing for me. In the real world when someone in upper management comes up to you it's because you are f'ing up. I was a bit uncomfortable. Not because they were my mentors but because I associated their presence with work experiences. Weird right! Funny thing is that they were there to help me and to guide me. I loved this new experience because they all were able to give me tools that made me be happy again. Joe Apple taught me to stay and wait for the moment. Candice taught me to enjoy the moment, to think about the emotion behind the moment and to get closer. Tyler taught me to let go when the moment was passing on and to look at the ground and see the potential of a different angle. Jan taught me what clutter was (this was my most important lesson and I will explain why). 

Picture created by Tyler Wirken

Picture created by Tyler Wirken

Picture created by Candice

Picture created by Candice

Clutter was everywhere even in my pictures. Now I could use the excuse that we were in a Stock Show filled with cows, poop, and people and that there was crap everywhere, and that distractions were all over the place. But the reality is that when your brain is fighting with your heart you get exhausted. The your brain starts to fight with your perspective and well then it all just goes down hill. Luckily Jan showed me one of my pictures and pointed out the distractions...the CLUTTER that was keeping me away from my creativity. In one of my pictures I actually saw what was bothering me and I understood why the distraction was bothering me. The clutter was competing with my subject, my light, my moment, and my composition. That was my first aha moment. By seeing what I didn't understand helped me understand what I wasn't seeing (Does this make sense?) Jan opened up my eyes to a whole new world. So I decided to practice removing the clutter from my pics. In the process I realized I had a tendency to shift my body every time I snapped a picture. What the WHAT! My body was creating the extra clutter in my pictures. That was my 2nd Aha moment. It took the last 15 minutes of an entire day for me to understand what clutter looks like in a photograph and that I am a human swing.

Day 3- The Melt Down (get your tissues out)

Day three was the most difficult for me. My pictures were going to be shown to everyone in my group. (Imagine Home Alone- Kevin (Macualay Culkin) screaming). The funny thing I was super excited. Maybe tooooo excited. When it was my turn I thought there has to be some really good pics...there were none. I didn't like any of my pics. Tyler was the mentor who critiqued and selected the pics that would be presented to the entire group. And he did select about 7 pics from like 900. Not too bad right? WRONG. I hated every picture. I hated every picture not because of what I was seeing but what I associated each picture with. Every picture was a constant reminder that I was struggling. I felt the pictures were terrible because of the experience I was going through at the time. The only pics that I really liked were the pics that I took at the end of the day. At the time I didn't realize what my emotions were stirring. After my time was up I got up and all of a sudden I felt like someone had sat on my chest. I couldn't breath. Slowly little tears started to form. I was trying super hard to not let them take over but I was not strong enough. A sweet voice to my right asked me if I was ok. In my head I was like "HUH? WHAT?" The tears overpowered me and they poured down my face. To make matters more intense I could not control my breathing. The mentors ran to me to make sure I was alright. I looked at their faces and all I could think of was "Oh no I made them worry. What the hell is wrong with me!" After some much needed sips of water I was able to gather myself and I could breath again. It was weird to see how so many people cared but it was really appreciated. (Even though I was super embarrassed). Although I had a meltdown it was the best thing that could have happened. (Only you Veronica thinks that a breakdown is a good thing). I felt like all the pressures, anxiety, excuses, and ill feelings I had about my pictures were finally released. It truley was a good moment for me. I learned more about myself and how hard I am on myself. There is still hope for me.

Picture created by ME!

Picture created by ME!

Picture created by Me!

Picture created by Me!

Over all this experience was phenomenal. And even though this was almost a month ago, I still talk about my experience like it was just yesterday. The last day of Foundation First was pretty sad but amazing. I got to tell my story and experience and that was very therapeutic. I compared my experience to the New Peanuts Movie. I compared myself to Charlie Brown, the optimistic, open minded, and ready to take on the day kid. And like Charlie Brown I had my challenges and my fears. But unlike Charlie Brown I was never called a block head nor did my new friends give me false hope. Tyler held the football while Sergio and the other mentors and students cheered me on! And even though I am still learning how to make peace with my brain and heart, I know one day I will get there. I have not become a Fearless award winner...YET!!!!

Disclaimer- The tears and emotions that were brought to you by this blogpost are not the responsibility of the blogger. The blogger will not be held liable for the endless amount of laughing or tears that were experienced during the reading.

Peanuts Character of Me!

Peanuts Character of Me!