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An essay about Rebirth Workshops

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  November 20, 2012 02:00 AM

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By Kate Passaro

Teresa asked me to write about my experience at the Rebirth Workshop last spring in Mississippi. Now that it's been several months since I returned, I'm happy to look back and provide an overview of what we did that made it such an intense experience for me as a photographer.

As the organization's website says, Rebirth Workshops is a week-long workshop and retreat about creativity, using photography as the medium.

Mine was a small group (~12 folks) of photographers who traveled to Clarksdale, Mississippi with varied backgrounds and different purposes. There were portrait, fine art, and wedding photographers from all over the country. There are several instructors and guest teachers who make it their goal to push you out of your comfort zone and just create.

During the week, we used all kinds of cameras: Digital, medium- and large-format cameras, toy/Holga cameras. To create final pieces, we used palladium printing processes, wetplate, digital printing, and encaustics.

In addition to the images we captured through cameras, the instructors also put together exercises for us to work outside of our medium. As a photographer who has never identified as an artist, this pushed me far outside of my comfort zone!

But I discovered that I liked seeing and thinking about things other ways. And I was surprised to find that some of the skills we hone as photographers translated so well to other mediums. Seeing light and shadow through a lens helped me draw an image on paper. And learning when to press the shutter for a moment helped me to see moments around me that would be moving in a photograph or in prose.

The other thing that made Rebirth such a learning experience for me were the times outside of scheduled learning when impromptu discussions and projects took root on their own.

For example, during an evening conversation about difficult lighting situations and dark portraits, a group of us created portraits using only the light from a citronella candle.

Another time, an early morning trip to Helena, Arkansas helped me create my final piece for the week. When we headed out that morning, I didn't intend to find a portrait subject – but it happened.

By the end of the workshop, all of us had to create one image that represented "Transformation" to hang in a show at the Wiljax Gallery, a short drive away in Cleveland, Mississippi. You can see all of our final pieces here.

It was incredible standing in the middle of the gallery and realizing that the group had chosen an almost even split of "newer" digital processes and "older" film/wetplate processes. The range of work created was stunning, and I’m proud to have been included in that show.

Next year's retreat will be held from March 7-12, 2013 at the Shack-up Inn in Clarksdale where we stayed. There are 16 slots, and 10 of them are still open. The cost is $1,800 for a solo shack you have to yourself, $3,200 for two photographers to share a shack, and $1,300 for just registration if you have a place to stay. They supply breakfast and limited lunch. There's more information on the FAQ page.

I urge anyone looking for a unique photography retreat to look more extensively through the website and consider attending.

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