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Flash Powder Projects Retreat #11

I often talk about Flash Powder - the project David Bram and I started just over two years ago - because although it is not part of Crusade for Art, it is all about taking photographers to the next level with their work. Flash Powder hosts invite-only retreats for groups of four photographers to help them get a project ready to launch and to develop a 12-month plan.

Last month we held our 11th retreat, followed by a small reunion for all of the flashers (as we call retreat participants). The four participating photographers had very diverse backgrounds and aesthetics, which is something we aim for to get different perspectives and make the collaboration more powerful. David and I are continually blown away by the talent, dedication and energy of the photographers we work with, and this group was no exception. This group. Wow.

Justin Cook

Rod Fincannon

Honey Lazar

Audra Melton

Honey Lazar, Audra Melton, Rod Fincanon, Justin Cook

Honey Lazar, Audra Melton, Rod Fincanon, Justin Cook

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Flash Powder Retreat #9: I Just Love Photographers

...and working with photographers

...and being inspired by photographers

...and looking at the images made by photographers

Photographers are awesome.

Leading the Flash Powder Retreats (with David Bram) is easily one of the most gratifying things I do. We spend four days and five nights in a house with four photographers and work sun-up to sun-down on their photographic projects. The retreats aren't for making work - they are for taking an existing body of work, tightening it (edit, sequence, project statement), and creating a plan to launch it. It's intense and exhausting, but it is incredibly exciting to be able to immerse myself in someone's project and overall photographic goals and work collaboratively to move the work forward.

The 9th Flash Powder Retreat just ended (this one was in Highlands, NC), and as usual, the goodbye pulled on the heartstrings. Another great group, both talented and fun. I encourage you to check out these photographers' portfolios and keep tabs on them. I'm sure you'll be hearing a lot more from them soon.

Leon Alesi

Victoria Crayhon

Eugene Ellenberg

Hannele Lahti

And just so you know how much fun we had. . .

Flashers: Gene Ellenberg, Hannele Lahti, Leon Alesi, Victoria Crayhon
Flashers: Gene Ellenberg, Hannele Lahti, Leon Alesi, Victoria Crayhon
a rowdy game of Dirty UNO
a rowdy game of Dirty UNO
Sunset Rock
Sunset Rock
photo 4
photo 4
photo 5-1
photo 5-1
showing work
showing work
beautiful weather, working outside
beautiful weather, working outside
David on Impossible film
David on Impossible film
in town, at the Ugly Dog Pub
in town, at the Ugly Dog Pub
photo by Victoria Crayhon

photo by Victoria Crayhon

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Flash Powder Projects Retreat #8!

from left:  Jared Soares, Sarah Pfohl, Sean Carroll, Joshua Meier
from left: Jared Soares, Sarah Pfohl, Sean Carroll, Joshua Meier

THIS group.  Whoa.  David and I just continue to be blown away by the photographers we work with.  Sure, we select them, so we know their work is strong.  But they are passionate and driven and creative, and when they come together, sparks fly.

We spent five days holed up in our cozy house and rode out the Polar Vortex by the fire.  It was kind of blissful.  We worked hard and well into the night, but we managed to squeeze in some rowdy fun too, especially if the ‘90s tunes were spinning.

We strongly encourage you to check out these flashers websites (redone as a result of the retreat or well on their way to being redone).  But if you don’t, we’re sure you’ll be seeing plenty of them soon.

Sean Carroll

Joshua Meier

Sarah Pfohl

Jared Soares

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Flash Powder Explosion

Mark my words - these photographers are going to set the world on fire.

A year and a half ago, David Bram and I had an idea.  What if we invited a few photographers we felt had a lot of potential to a five day, four night retreat and worked with them to take their work to the next level?  We would all stay together in the same house, and everyone would bring their photographic project.  By the end, they would each have a solid edit, sequence, artist statement, a 12-month plan, and the knowledge to make it happen.  They would also have the two of us, as well as the rest of the group, as a resource going forward.  It was a big idea, but then again, I love those.

So we created Flash Powder Projects, and we haven't looked back.  Seven retreats in three different locations and 33 photographers later, we are constantly hearing from our retreaters with amazing news and successes. This is one of the best and more rewarding things I do, and the relationships I've made with these photographers have added so much to my life.  And luckily, they all seem to feel the same way about the value of this experience.

A week ago we finished our seventh retreat, this one in New Mexico. Even after all this time, David and I still get nervous about the group. We are really selective about the photographers we invite, because so much of the experience hinges on collaboration and each person bringing a unique and informed perspective.  The photographers need to be at similar levels and have a similar drive to move forward in their photographic careers.  And then the personalities need to mesh, which is the truly stressful part, because that is impossible to predict.  Luckily we have nailed it each time, and the bonding that happens is insane.

This group was no exception. The retreat was at a ranch in southern New Mexico, 90 miles from the nearest grocery store.  These four!  When the photos come out and we dig deep, the barriers just naturally come down.  We all left not only inspired, but closer than I thought was possible.

But enough of the sappy stuff, and let's get down to their incredible work:

Dustin Chambers

Steven Ford

Maggie Meiners

Lexey Swall

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Flash Powder Retreat #6 - Explosive!

August 6-11 marked the sixth Flash Powder Projects retreat.  Five photographers were invited to participate based on the quality of their work and their ability and willingness to contribute to the group.  And these guys? Home run. The five day, four night retreats are designed to help photographers tighten a body of work and develop a strategic plan to release it.  But that's just the tip of the iceberg.  We all leave exhausted, inspired, and ready to rock.  I am so fortunate to get to do what I do.

Take a minute to check out the work of this talented and diverse group:

David Kressler

Shannon Leith

Emma Powell

Nick Shepard

Tristan Spinski

Are you a photographer interested in getting a project ready to launch? Check out Flash Powder Projects here.

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Astoria Retreat (Season 4!): #flashersforlife

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.

Make sure you check out the work from this talented group: Matt Crowther, Elizabeth Fleming, Sara Macel, Brandon Thibodeaux and Annick Sjobakken.

Are you a photographer interested in getting a project ready to launch? Check out Flash Powder Projects here.

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Another Photographic Retreat Rocks My World

It is my most favorite time - five days, four nights, working intensely with a small group of photographers who are talented and driven.  David Bram and I tag-team, co-teach, and create sideline entertainment with our crazy banter that is all beginning to feel like some kind of choreographed photography production.  And maybe it is.  That is certainly the goal - that by the end of the week we have produced a handful of photographers who are ready to take on the world and have the tools (and a plan) to reach their goals. To fill you in, this is the description:

In these four-day, five-night retreats, small groups of photographers will have the opportunity to strengthen and package a portfolio of work and develop a plan to strategically launch a project.

David Bram and Jennifer Schwartz work with participants to achieve the best edit and sequence of their work, write a powerful artist statement, develop a plan for getting exposure, tackle social media, and identify target collectors and galleries.  Other topics include creative project funding, publishing, museum collections, setting editions and entering competitions.

David, Jennifer and the participating photographers (5 maximum) share a house and meals. Photographers are invited to participate based on their work, experience and willingness to share and explore as a group.  The intimate nature of the retreat is designed to foster community and create dialog around the work, as each participant brings different perspectives and ideas.

Sounds awesome, right?

I am just home from our third photographic retreat.  The first two were in Astoria, Oregon (as will be the one we are doing in April).  You can read about those hijinks here and here.  This retreat was our first in New Mexico - at a secluded ranch two hours from Albuquerque.  And secluded it was.  No cell service, which was both liberating and terrifying, and wildlife for days (perhaps you saw my facebook post about my encounter with a huge bobcat).  But the beauty of New Mexico is magical, and we all settled into our little ranch home like we had been there for years.

We dug right in, and before long we were one tight bone-collecting group.  In addition to learning about the fine art photography world and working out the kinks in portfolios and polishing statements and websites, we made adventures and friendships and made plans to revolutionize the known world.  It was epic.

Some highlights -

Looking at work
Looking at work
Heather Evans Smith setting up for a shoot with too many helpers
Heather Evans Smith setting up for a shoot with too many helpers
Modeling for Heather, and freezing my toes off
Modeling for Heather, and freezing my toes off
More White Sands
More White Sands
Photographer Daniel Coburn and NM Museum of Art Photography Curator Kate Ware came for the night
Photographer Daniel Coburn and NM Museum of Art Photography Curator Kate Ware came for the night
The #photoranch girls: Elizabeth Clark Libert, Marina Font, Heather Evans Smith, Lisa Blair
The #photoranch girls: Elizabeth Clark Libert, Marina Font, Heather Evans Smith, Lisa Blair

Are you a photographer interested in getting a project ready to launch? Check outFlash Powder Projects here.

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#Astoria 5: Photographic Retreat for the Record Books

As I write this, I am on my flight home from another amazing retreat in Astoria, Oregon (also known as:  my most favorite place on earth). For those of you who don’t know, the retreats are invite-only photographic retreats developed and facilitated by David Bram and me.  In these four-day, five-night retreats, small groups of photographers have the opportunity to strengthen and package a portfolio of work and develop a plan to strategically launch a project. David and I and the participating photographers (5 maximum) share a house for an experience that feels like a cross between a reality tv show and a big group hug.  The shared living quarters allow the learning, feedback and dialog to continue past the structured hours of instruction and creates a casual, comfortable environment to explore and share work and experiences – and lots of jokes.  Cat Cave, anyone?

We hosted our first retreat in Astoria in July with six photographers (you may know them as the #Astoria6), and the success of that trip encouraged us to schedule several more (January in Astoria, February in New Mexico, and April in Astoria).  The first was so great – both personally and professionally rewarding and fun – that David and I were both apprehensive about going into our second retreat.  But as soon as Muema pulled up in the minivan of champions with all five photographers and the first package of doughnuts was busted out, we knew we were home-free.  This was truly a phenomenally talented, spirited, and generous group.  David and I cannot stop talking about how fortunate we are to be doing what we love, surrounded by gifted, wonderful photographers.  It is a dream.

The #Astoria5:  Matthew Conboy (Cool Ranch), Kelly K. Jones (KK), Sarah Moore (Dream-Crusher), Muema (DJ SUV) and Julia Vandenoever (Pelligrino)

First full day in Astoria: Matthew Conboy, Julia Vandenoever, Kelly K. Jones, Sarah Moore, Muema
First full day in Astoria: Matthew Conboy, Julia Vandenoever, Kelly K. Jones, Sarah Moore, Muema
Photo geek-out day trip to Portland
Photo geek-out day trip to Portland
Beer makes writing artist statements less painful
Beer makes writing artist statements less painful

Are you a photographer interested in getting a project ready to launch? Check out Flash Powder Projects here.

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#Astoria6

If you have read a number of my older blog posts, you know that I have a love affair with Oregon (for example: Portland, Will You Marry Me?). But I have just spent over a week in Portland and Astoria, and since I left my husband at the helm of the house to take care of three kids, he strongly suggested that coming home and mentioning how much I love it there would be a serious misstep of goodwill and appreciation. So I won’t do that. . .   . . .

. . .

The reason for my trip to the totally average Pacific Northwest? David Bram (Fraction Magazine) and I hosted the Roundtable Retreat where six invited photographers came to participate in a four-day, five-night retreat on the Oregon coast.

The goal was for each photographer to strengthen and package a portfolio of work and develop a plan to strategically launch a project. We all stayed together in a quirky house, Real World-style – all the cameras, confessionals and late night debauchery but sadly no hot tub.

Photographers were invited to participate based on their work, experience and willingness to share and explore as a group. The intimate nature of the retreat was designed to foster community and create dialog around the work, as each participant brings different perspectives and ideas. And it rocked. Seriously rocked.

The group came together both personally and creatively in the most amazing way.  They became the Astoria Six, replete with a logo and nicknames.  David and I led discussions, critiques and instruction (on topics like social media, writing an artist statement, how to find your audience, what makes a good website and the artist-gallery relationship).  We even managed to scout out various Goonies filming locations and take a spin on a carousel.  You know, serious stuff.

I feel like I sound like an artist statement myself if I talk about the in-between moments being the most salient ones, but after hashing out nearly ten statements in half as many days, I guess that’s understandable. And nevertheless, that is the truth. The times spent informally discussing art and life and fears and successes were some of the most productive and gratifying moments of the week.

Although I was one of the “leaders”, I came away from this experience feeling inspired and recharged in a way I did not expect. So to the Astoria Six – I am grateful for your light and your humor, your talent and your energy. Thank you for giving as much as you got and for being unforgettable.

The Astoria Six:

Sexy Camera (Tatiana Wills), Cookie (Kurt Simonson), Bugle Bill (Bill Vaccaro), 5am Randi (Randi Lynn Beach), Dawnology (Dawn Roe), Fancy Bram (David Bram) and Vaguery (Sean Dana)

Are you a photographer interested in getting a project ready to launch? Check outFlash Powder Projects here.

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