When David Bram and I started planning our first invite-only retreat for photographers over a year ago, we never could have imagined how powerful these experiences would be - for everyone. David and I leave each and every one completely blown away by the talent, energy and drive of these artists. And then there's the bonding. . . something about living all together in a house for five days, talking non-stop about your art and life. . . it easily makes the retreats one of the most special and rewarding things I do. I have often said that living in the house together is like The Real World without the hot tub, and when I started my tour, so many of the photographers who have participated on the retreats either came along on a leg of the trip or participated in a pop-up or just showed up in a city for an in-person high-five. It started to feel like The Real World-Road Rules Challenge, with photographers from one retreat meeting photographers from another and sharing stories from what they all knew was a completely unique experience. "What retreat were you on?" sounded very much like "What Season were you on?".
Sean Dana and Kurt Simonson (Season 1 - aka Astoria 7/12, aka #Astoria6) drove with me from San Francisco to Portland, where we met up with Bill Vaccaro, who was also Season 1 and participated in the New Orleans pop-up (so did Kurt!) and met up with the Crusade in Cleveland. In Portland I saw Julia Vandenoever (Season 2, aka The Cat Cave) and Elizabeth Clark Libert (Season 3, aka The Bone Collectors) and Brandon Thibideaux (who was soon to be Season 4, aka Flashers). Sarah Moore (Season 2) was my co-pilot from Chicago (where we met up with Matt Crowther - Season 4) to Cleveland (enter Bill Vaccaro and Matthew Conboy - on Sarah's season) to New York (where she reunited with Muema from Season 2 and met Sara Macel from Season 4 and Charlotte Strode, who will be Season 5 in July). And to bring it all home, Heather Evans Smith (Season 3) met me in Richmond to celebrate the final Crusading days. Whew. Confused?
In all of the traveling excitement, I have not written up the last retreat (Season 4 - held in Astoria, Oregon in April). This group bonded straight out of the gate. It was almost alarming. We always try to put together people from different places, photographic experiences, types of work, etc. so that the participants learn from each other as much as they learn from us. And although this group had the usual amount of diversity, they were besties nearly instantaneously.
We had the usual agenda of intensive work on portfolios, sequencing, artist statements (my favorite!), and hours and hours of more, followed by after-hours bowls of Butterfinger ice cream and more photo talk. We also explored Canon Beach (Goonies rock!), made friends with some locals, rocked the DQ, and became flashers for life.
This crew. . . damn special. They all are, honestly. David and I say it constantly - we are so lucky to do what we do.
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