We are proud to announce the first recipients of our Book Artist in Residence awards. These are the first artists in residence at Maine Media’s new Book Arts Studio, which opened in 2014.

The winners are Valerie Ann Carrigan, a print and artist-books maker in North Adams, Mass., and Richard Reitz Smith, an award-winning artist and designer living in Camden, Maine. Thanks to Maine Media’s generous donors, they will receive a stipend and materials support for their six-week residencies that will take place this fall.

“We are so delighted that these two talented artists will be our first artists-in-residence,” said Elizabeth Greenberg, Maine Media’s vice president of academic affairs. “There has been increasing interest in the Book Arts program and having this daily activity in the studio will not only add a dynamic element to the other activities happening around the campus, but also increase opportunities for our students and members of the community to engage with the Book Arts program.”

An afternoon drawing and photographing milkweed pods at Natural Bridges State Park in North Adams, Massachusetts, inspired Carrigan’s project, “The Walk.” Her monotype prints of the pods in various stages of life and decay will appear in a design based on a flag book, but with single panels that are attached to a concertina fold, extending outward when the book is stretched open.

Richard Reitz Smith has been a fan of some of the best children’s writers for decades. He plans to combine printed layers of letterpress words and images with gelatin prints and color washes to create a poetic and magical experience through a small, limited-edition book suitable for adults and children.

These two artists faced rigorous competition. But these two proposals particularly impressed the panel of well-known artists and professionals in the field of book arts that served as judges. Jurors included Cig Harvey, Liv Rockefeller, Daniel Kelm, Charles Altschul, Elizabeth Greenberg, Ashley Craig, and Meg Weston. 

The artist-in-residence program is an exciting addition to the book arts facility that was created through generous donor support. In 2014 Maine Media renovated the ground floor of the Ernst Haas Building building the new Book Arts Studio that is equipped with exceptional book arts tools, including Vandercook presses and bindery equipment. The studio is adjacent to our newly renovated Alternative Process laboratory, which allows students to be learn 19th century historic photographic techniques including tintype, collodion, gum bichromate, and calotype.  Consistent with our interest in honoring historic processes alongside the latest technological innovations, these studios capitalize on resurging interest in hands on processes. 

We've received more than a few strange looks and comments in response to hearing about our upcoming art sale fundraiser. When asked to participate, one of our instructors said, "Uhm, I'm not really into death." We understand. Exquisite Corpse is a weird name for a fundraiser. But we guarantee that you will never forget it. We also guarantee that you will never forget the art you will see at this sale, because these pieces, made especially for this event, can't be found anywhere else.


Exquisite Corpse is not about dead people. It's an artistic process that celebrates creative collaboration. Fueled by absinthe and the new vision of the French Surrealists, Exquisite Corpse was a popular parlor game in the early 1920s that brought friends together to create a single story, song, or drawing. In most forms of the game, only a portion of what one artist created could be seen by the others, resulting in strange, surprising, and even profound creations. We've taken this concept as the theme for our art sale because creative collaboration is at the heart of everything we do. We also wanted to see what amazing things our instructors could create when they worked together.


Late last year we shared our idea with photographer Sean Kernan, and in April he came to Rockport to lead a special invitational workshop for a group of eight artists representing a wide range of creative disciplines. Called Reviving the Exquisite Corpse, Sean's workshop quickly set about interrupting the artists' creative habits to provoke new ways of seeing and thinking. Artists paired up by pulling names out of a hat, and were instructed to work in areas outside of their normal artistic practice. "The art flowed from a sense of freedom to stretch into completely new forms," said painter Alan Crichton about his week of collaboration with photographer Jean Miele. "My connection with Jean was immediate and light, but we also talked deeply about family and friendship and trust, both in ourselves and in each other. It was a pretty extraordinary experience." 


Ranging from handmade books nesting within a custom wooden case to poetry layered with still life compositions on gunpowder drawings, the work showcases an astonishing range of talents that these artists are able to draw from. Despite never having worked together before, each pair created work that surprised us in its depth. "I was a little concerned going in that we might make things that looked like something we brought home to our mothers from kindergarten," said Sean. "But each pair made work that is thought-provoking, beautifully crafted, and gallery-ready. It affirmed that art arises from thought and action, not just medium and skill.


While Sean's workshop was taking place, we also invited all of our instructors to make exquisite corpses on their own. 24 of them took us up on the challenge, pairing with each other or with their friends to make unique works of art for our event. 

Watching the collaborations take shape, and now seeing the art come in

has been better than Christmas!


While several photographers collaborated on prints and diptychs, others crossed media boundaries, combining photography with painting, book arts, poetry, songwriting, and sculpture. Last week, Peter Ralston was seen waving his arms frantically outside his Rockport gallery. Painter EricHopkins had just dropped off their completed exquisite corpse, and Peter beamed like a new parent. "The best part of this project has been the challenge and the creative frisson of working with artists and friends who I respect and admire no end," said Peter. "The experience has been deeply gratifying and inspiring for all of us. I like to think the work mirrors exactly that."


In all, more than 25 original works of collaborative art will be available for purchase at Exquisite Corpse, held on June 24 in Rockport's Brewster Point Barn. We are honored to present the work of:


Sam Abell & Arthur Meyerson | John Paul Caponigro & Arduina Caponigro | Cig Harvey & David Graeme Baker | Peter Ralston & Eric Hopkins | Keith Carter & Cig Harvey | Brenton Hamilton & Shoshannah White | Jill Enfield & Connie Imboden | Eliot Dudik & Michael Draeger | Stella Johnson & Maria Michelogianni | Craig Stevens & Marcia Lippman | Jean Miele & Peter Ralston | Anneli Skaar & Abigail Stiers | Jay Gould & Kim DePaul | Jean Miele & Alan Crichton | Richard Remsen & Anastasia Weigle | Olaf Willoughby & Eileen Muldoon | Susan Bloom & Dr. Gretchen McKay | Michael Zide & Sally Taylor | Brendan Bullock & Colin Page | Kelsey Floyd & Andy Bloxham | Meg Weston & Ari Meil | Elizabeth & Howard Greenberg


In addition to these star-studded collaborations, two large-group exquisite corpse projects are still underway, and growing more fascinating by the day! Our Exquisite Corpse Book Project currently has more than 65 images, propagating the evolution of four separate visual chains lead by Sean Kernan,David LymanElizabeth Opalenik and Joyce Tenneson. Like a visual game of telephone, the chains are growing one image at a time and are very different from each other. The book will be completed in time for the Exquisite Corpse event, and will also be for sale on our website and in our galleries.

Some of our film faculty and alumni have also been working on an Exquisite Corpse Film Project. Like the book, the film is being built one piece at a time, in a series of 15-second clips. So far, it is flying its surrealist flag high. As much as we would like to tell you what it's about...we can't. Because we haven't figured it out yet! The final film will be screened for the first time at the event, and we promise you it will be very entertaining!


Please plan to join us on June 24 to see all of this inspiring work for yourself! Tickets to the event are available for purchase on our website. VIP ticket holders will have access to the VIP Reception, featuring exclusive food and drink pairings, a preview of the art for sale, and an opportunity for early purchase of select pieces. We are deeply grateful to our friends at B&H for being the lead sponsor of Exquisite Corpse, and helping us continue to bring creative minds together. Please be sure to check out the growing list of friends who are helping to make this special event possible when you BUY YOUR TICKETS

Maine Media Workshops + College announced today the receipt of a major gift that will serve as the cornerstone of our future growth plans, and reflects a trend of growing, positive momentum for this beloved center of visual storytelling education.

Through a generous matching gift from HomeFed Corporation, we now own an additional 14 acres of land adjacent to the current campus and connecting the campus directly to Route 1. It includes properties that we have previously been leasing from HomeFed such as the Campus Residence, the Windjammer Motel, and Kate’s cottage.  The donation portion of the property transfer to the college is valued at over $1 million. HomeFed’s largest shareholder is Leucadia National Corporation, which has a long history of providing financial support toward Maine Media’s mission.

The receipt of this land is integral to fulfilling a campus master plan that was completed at the direction of the Board of Directors in 2014 in alignment with the strategic plan for growth. The campus plan was developed with input from faculty, staff, the board, and with assistance and support from Elliott & Elliott Architects of Blue Hill, Maine. The goal of the plan is to upgrade existing infrastructure and seamlessly integrate new facilities. The plan is flexible, will accommodate changing needs or objectives, and will be implemented over time as resources allow.

The plan calls for those resources to go toward what will ultimately be a new home for the Young Artist programs, new housing for Young Artists on the campus, a new Media Arts and Technology Center that incorporates the existing sound stage and expands our facilities for production, post-production and large classroom space, and a handicapped-accessible Student Welcome Center, among other things. It is an ambitious vision that will be made possible, in part, by the acquisition of this contiguous property that more than doubles the size of the existing campus.

Some of our exciting growth began in 2014 as a result of generous support from donors. Last year, Maine Media renovated the ground floor of the Ernst Haas Building and created the new Book Arts Studio and Alternative Process Darkroom, paired with an inviting outdoor teaching space.  Additional gifts will allow us to host the first Book Artist in Residence this fall.

Maine Media sees the new studio — and this new gift of land — as emblematic of a series of positive trends that showcase Maine Media’s renewed growth. Maine Media has enjoyed increasing enrollment for the last three years. The number of donors to the school nearly doubled last year. And thanks to some of those generous donors, in 2014 we were able to grant more scholarships than ever before: 42 individuals received more than $60,000 in scholarships.

This latest gift of 14 valuable acres will be a linchpin for further growth, as this world-renowned visual storytelling center turns the page into a new chapter dedicated to serving talented students from Maine, across the country, and around the world in new and exciting ways. We appreciate your support for our efforts, and look forward to seeing you “under the tent” here this year!

As we continue to shovel and plow, shovel and plow, our gorgeous new 2015 catalog is travelling by land and air, making its way to our friends and alumni around the world. We know you are going to love it, from the subtle magic found in MMW+C instructor and alum Cig Harvey's cover image, to the dozens of new courses, instructors, programs, and destinations that you will find inside.


Photographers will see a fresh line-up of new workshop offerings in Rockport, with dynamic instructors who generate plenty of their own creative buzz. In the studio, you'll find Dan Saelinger, whose editorial and commercial clients include New York Magazine, Wired, Fortune, Nike, and Maxim. Dan also recently completed shooting for the Google Nexus ad campaign. Bil Zelman, known for his commercial work for Coca Cola, Miller High Life, SONY, Bud Light, and Harley Davidson will be teaching The Authentic Photograph


Many of you already know Aline Smithson through her LENSCRATCH blogzine, a must-read for all fine art photographers. Having recently received an Excellence in Teaching Award from CENTER, she'll be joining us this summer to teach Taking the Next Step in Fine Art Photography. New instructor Eliot Dudik's portraits of civil war re-enactors were recently showcased on CNN's website. His Lyrical Documentary Photo Series workshop will be paired with The Handmade Photobook, offering students a special opportunity to do even more with their images in our brand new book arts studio. And providing lessons in craft as well as perspective from a curator's point of view, artist and Flash Forward Festival co-curator Greer Muldowney will lead ourPhotographer's Eye workshop in August.


Our film line-up is more streamlined than ever before, and geared for both pre-professionals looking to gain lots of hands on experience in a short time frame as well as seasoned professionals looking to add to their skill set. This year we're offering more of our most popular courses and have lined up impressive new sponsorships with leading industry manufacturers, ensuring that you'll get your hands on top of the line gear that you won't find anywhere else.


For photographers and filmmakers who want to stay longer, dig deeper, and build a broader base of knowledge, our multi-week programs and intensives are still by far the best value you can find, anywhere. Students who attend our Four Week Film Schoolfilmor photography workstudy, or any of our eight or 12-week cinematographyproduction, or photography intensives routinely tell us that they leave with more knowledge than they could have gained in a year of school or on the job. It may be the best investment you can make in your career.


Last summer, you saw us unveil a gorgeous new Book Arts & Alternative Process Photography Studio. This year we're excited to announce our first ever Artist in Residence program, which will make full use of the new studio's capabilities and allow a book artist / letterpress printer an opportunity to spend six weeks focused on a project this fall. Thanks to generous funding from several donors, the chosen artist will receive a weekly stipend, support for materials and travel, scenic accommodations overlooking Rockport harbor, and meals on campus. To learn more about the program or to apply for the residency, CLICK HERE.


Those of you looking to travel farther afield will find entirely new destination workshops listed in our catalog. There are even a few to satisfy our friends who wouldn't dream of leaving Maine in the summer! This year we are partnering with the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park to offer three new workshops that make the most of Maine's spectacular natural beauty. Selected as Artist-in-Residence at Acadia National Park last year, Jim Nickelson will now share his knowledge in The Night Landscape at Acadia National Park workshop. Not a night owl? Veteran nature photographer Cliff Zenor will lead you through the park by day in Outdoor Photography at Acadia National Park. We even have a great 2-week program for teens led by photographer and educator Jay Gould.


We are thrilled to be partnering with renowned nature photographer and filmmaker Ossian Lindholm, who will be leading new destination workshops to Argentina's wine country and the mountains of Peru. Other new destinations include a writing retreat in Iceland, and a photography adventure in SardiniaWe even have something new for those of you who are, like us, facing a six-foot wall of snow outside your front door and are forced to travel by snow cat. Our first ever online photography course is now available! Made in partnership with fine art nature photographer Eddie SolowayA Natural Eye: The Foundation is a series of eight streamed videos designed to help build your foundation for photographing the natural world at your own pace. 


As we gear up for additional inches to our snow base, summer seems like a long way off. But it really is beautiful here in the winter, and we love seeing what our hardiest students make of it.  Our gorgeous catalog gives us plenty of dream fodder for warmer weather on the horizon, and we hope you will drop us a line and let us know what courses you have your eye on this year!

Taking the leap into a new career can be exhilarating, terrifying, and also a bit risky. For many of us, our first career path is launched after years of study in a cocooned environment. Sometimes those early careers become an unhappy rut, and breaking free to a line of work that ignites some passion and creativity can be a tall order. That was the challenge facing 

MMW alum Paula Bryant earlier this year. Stuck for more than a decade in 9-to-5 desk jobs, Paula found herself increasingly dissatisfied. "There's that little voice on the inside that constantly nags at you," said Paula. "One day I woke up and said, 'Okay, no more. I have to be me. I have to do the thing that I love to do.'"

Long before her office days, Paula was recruited by a friend to help with props and special effects on the Damon Wayans movie, Major Payne. That first experience had a profound effect. "I was hooked," Paula explained. From there, she tried to navigate a career on her own, working as a production assistant and helping friends with film projects. Then came time for her to make her own movie. As many first-time filmmakers quickly discover, starting a film is far easier than finishing one. Issues with her crew and other difficulties soon overwhelmed and eventually halted her production. "It was quite the turnoff," Paula said. "It made me hate the thing that I love." 

Frustrated and disappointed, Paula gave up her dream of being a filmmaker and settled into a series of unfulfilling desk jobs. "I really didn't like it, but when you have to live, you make the best out of whatever it is that you're doing." Eventually, though, that little nagging voice finally got her attention, and Paula decided to take another shot at her dream.

Like many career changers, Paula didn't have the time or the funds to spend years starting over. But she knew she needed professional instruction. That's why she was drawn to our six-week filmmaking workstudy program. Like our Four Week Film School, eight-week producing intensive, eight- or 12-week cinematography intensives, and our 30-week professional certificate programs, the workstudy program is designed to give maximum professional instruction in a fraction of the time. It also has the additional benefit of offering its students reduced tuition in exchange for helping out around our campus. 

Designed for new filmmakers, the soup-to-nuts immersion in film and video production leads students all the way from writing and pre-production to editing and screening their own short film, giving them hands-on experience in all aspects of the filmmaking process. It's also the first module of our new Independent Filmmaking Certificate Program.

Crewing on fellow students' films can be one of the most rewarding parts of the program. For Paula, it gave her invaluable insight to different directing styles. "The most empowering part was getting to work with other artists and getting to see their process," explained Paula. "I liked being able to contribute to their work, and having them contribute to mine. I learned to respect the process."

In just six weeks, an entirely new foundation of knowledge was laid, theory was put into practice, and work was seen through to completion. Successfully leading her crew and finishing her project were major milestones for Paula. "It was awesome. My crew made it work. They really allowed me to be the director that I needed to be and I really saw me again."

Paula has sworn never to return to a 9-to-5 job. With the knowledge, experience, and confidence she gained in this program, she's ready to take the next steps in a career in filmmaking. "I'm hoping that my next step will be to continue to write and really get into directing my own projects," said Paula. "And one day I hope I can provide jobs for other artists like myself."


--Thanks to Dennis Corsi for contributing to this story! 

The inside joke among the staff at MMW+C is that we are always looking forward to the slow time. Things never really slow down here, and this fall is no exception. We still have loads of great weekend and week-long workshops running, but we're especially excited about some new additions that take advantage of our area's seasonal focus on documentary filmmaking that comes with the Camden International Film Festival each September. 

With CIFF gearing up for it's 10th season later this month, documentaries are the primary topic of conversation around town right now. We're proud to be a major sponsor of CIFF, and are thrilled to view some amazing work by several of our instructors and alumni in the festival line-up. This year, we are also a cornerstone sponsor of CIFF's Points North Fellowship. "The program is a unique opportunity for six filmmaking teams with projects in development to receive intensive industry mentorship on the Maine Media campus with representatives from Sundance, Tribeca, Hot Docs, Kickstarter, and the LEF Foundation," said CIFF's Points North Forum Director Sean Flynn. Following this training, the filmmakers will pitch their projects to a group of leading funders, broadcasters, and distributors in the Points North Pitch. "As documentary film grows in popularity and becomes more artistically adventurous, we're excited to continue working with Maine Media to create a platform for the discovery of the next generation of documentary artists, storytellers, and media makers," said Sean. 

Earlier this month we announced the addition of Tawny Bradley as our new film program director. Coming to us from the UK's Sheffield Doc/Fest, Tawny brings new courses and instructors to a fresh line-up designed for filmmakers with projects in progress. "Perhaps the most exciting fall offering is a brand new series of workshops designed for independent documentary filmmakers who have their sights set on the festival circuit," says Tawny. A three-week strand, Doc Festival Prep pulls together heavy-hitting industry insiders to help doc makers hone their treatments, trailers, and pitches, as well as navigate the festival circuit to secure funding and commissions. 

Leading off the Doc Festival Prep strand is Crafting Your Story, a week of treatment and one-sheet honing taught by former president of National Geographic TV Maryanne Culpepper. "Maryanne has extensive experience as a commissioner and specializes in story development," says Tawny. "She'll really help students transform their story into a document that potential investors and buyers can latch on to." During the second week, filmmakers will work with veteran video editor John Freeburn to transform their project's source footage into an attention-getting sizzle reel in Producing Your Trailer, and rounding out the series is a comprehensive insider's view into Funding and Pitching with Sheffield Doc/Fest CEO and Festival Director Heather Croall. "Heather is extremely relevant on the festival circuit," says Tawny. "Her connections are widespread, and this is a rare opportunity for filmmakers to get one-on-one mentorship time with her."

Shortly before CIFF takes to the big screen, we'll welcome a new cohort of Professional Certificate students and launch the first module of our new Independent Filmmaking Certificate Program. For those of you who live in the Midcoast, or linger through the fall, be sure to ask about our once-a-week classes. The next session will begin in early January, giving community members the opportunity to learn alongside our PC students and get a feel for what more there is to explore here.

In October, National Geographic cinematographer and photographer Mauricio Handler will also be leading a pair of new natural history film and photo workshops that venture beyond our home base to take in the full scope of Maine's pristine shoreline and astounding natural beauty. And for those of you who weren't able to get in to any of this summer's sold-out alternative process classes with Brenton Hamilton, we're happy to announce the addition of a special 2-Day Collodion Process and 1-Day Cyanotype for Teens!

We hope you'll join us this fall, and take advantage of a season that many of us consider to be one of the most beautiful and also the most productive. It may not be the slow time, but it sure is gorgeous! 


I stopped by Richard Remsen’s Foundry in Rockport, a quintessential collection of New England style barns, an old farmhouse, rolling fields and a gallery filled with glass lures in various stages of completion. The sculptor’s retreat provided the perfect backdrop for a handful of lanky, otherworldly looking models running around the property like woodland sprites striking poses for a diverse group of photographers enrolled in Joyce Tenneson’s Portrait Workshop.   

“I want to capture movement. Can you try spinning?” Lisa directed the tall, thin brunette wearing torn, fashionably ripped jeans, complimented with silver metallic gladiator sandals and topped off with a cropped tank. The photographer, a painter and sculptor from San Francisco Bay Area, explained she was interested in capturing the spirit connection of her subjects.

Joyce called out it was 2:30 p.m. and that it was time to rotate. On cue, each group of three found a different location and model to photograph, choosing between the brunette, a set of strawberry blonde identical twins on their way to Bates and Wesleyan in the fall, and a young Jamaican man working in Camden for the summer.

While composing their shots, Joyce coached her students on perfecting composition, light, and ways to get below the surface of the model to their essence, their soul, so that the photographs would reveal a psychological dimension of being human. She asks her class, “How do you open them up? Communicate and collaborate.”

“The workshops give me the chance for total immersion,” shared Ed from Boston. “I’m living, breathing, and sleeping photography. I mean Joyce—we all hope some of it will rub off. Joyce is thorough, professional and getting a critique from her, she’s pointing out stuff like catch lights, saying that without that twinkle in the eye, the portrait is dead.”

Back on campus the next day, I sought out Joyce’s class again at lunch. They looked like the “fun table” as they sat and ate, thoroughly enjoying themselves, talking, laughing, and comparing notes. I sat next to Lisa, the sculptor and painter from the San Francisco Bay Area, and she introduced me to her teenage daughter Rachel, creative in her own right as a burgeoning cellist and writer.

For them, attending workshops had become a family affair. Years ago, Lisa’s father and mother took a class with Ernest Haas, the pioneer color photographer. Then Lisa came back with her father to take a class. Now she was sharing the experience with her daughter.  

“En lieu of Greece or Italy, I thought this would be an amazing place for us to experience together,” said Lisa. “At first Rachel wasn’t interested, but I told her she could document her other interests with photography. In our IPhone culture, media is so important.”

“I didn’t know this place existed. I have grown so much since I’ve been here. There are lots of artsy young people, and to be around Joyce, someone of that caliber,” Rachel added. “I didn’t understand photography as an art form before. Now taking photographs makes me believe that everything is art if I want to make it art. As an artist, getting a grasp of yet another medium will add to my repertoire, which I can use to express the things I want to express.”

After lunch, we all head back to Remsen’s Foundry, more statuesque models, not all of them completely dressed or dressed at all. I sat down in a comfy, cushy outdoor rocking sofa set along a barn wall. Maria, a neonatologist, sat down with me for a short break from shooting. Maria and her son Drew had driven to Maine together from their home in Madison, Wisconsin.

“I got into photography years ago before my son was born. I took pictures of him, then I did some documentary work at spaghetti dinners,” she added with a wry smile. “It was Drew’s idea to come here together. I think this is his fourth time at the Workshops. I’d been looking at the catalogs for years, and he said I should take a class with him this summer,” Maria explained.

When I asked Maria how the experience has been for her, she said, again with that same smile, “It’s exhausting! I’m so left sided. The right side of my brain is being stressed, so Drew came to my room last night and helped me pick photos.” Then she looks down, thinks a moment, and in a more serious tone of voice added, “Joyce is awesome. She’s self-effacing, extremely talented and gifted but approachable, positive and patient. She demonstrates how to engage models and get something out of them. The things I’ve learned here, I would have never figured out on my own.”

After Joyce called it a wrap for the day, and the team took a group photo, I finally pried myself from the comfy chair and walked around the property till I found Drew, who was packing up his gear. I told him I had chatted with his mom, and wanted to ask him about his experience at Maine Media, getting the mother-son angle of the story.

“I attended two summer residencies here in 2008 and 2009. I loved it so much that I wanted my mom to experience the same—that feeling you get in Maine when immersed in the workshops—especially now that I’m older, and we actually get along,” he said. “She was worried about being in the same class, but I don’t mind. I liked helping her pick out her photos, but my fear is not to interfere with her choice too much so she grows as a photographer. I asked her what she likes, why it works and why it doesn't, so she could develop her eye as an artist. Not everyone is going to like your work, and that’s fine. It’s kind of a role reversal for us!”

Drew, who is a full-time web designer and professional photographer back home, then switched gears to discuss his style and intentions for taking Joyce’s class.

“I want to shoot portraiture in a photojournalistic style. I love people. People are expressive. Landscapes are beautiful too, but to me if I look at beautiful landscape shot, I think but where are the people? Joyce develops a connection with her subjects. Her photos are very intimate, and that’s what I want to bring to my portraits. She’s helping me to know if I’m actually engaged with the subject and if the photo is engaging. I had a good grasp before, but I’m better now. She describes my style as edgy, and likes that I push the envelope.”

After talking with her students, I found Joyce back at the studio. She shared that she really loved this class in particular, the diversity in age, students from 17 to 75, a balance between men and women. “We all got along,” she commented. “What was particularly interesting were the mother-son, and the mother-daughter combinations. The class was very much enriched by having these two younger members. It’s inspiring to see new ways of viewing something. They think out of the box, and that gave us cross-fertilization of ideas for the entire class.”

Next time you come to Maine Media Workshops, bring you son, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister. Make it a family affair will also allow you to receive a 10 percent discount for each additional person attending a workshop from the same immediate family. Click here for details about our family and other discounts available at MMW.


                                                                                                                   – Jennifer Cook, 2014 MMW+C PC Graduate in Visual Storytelling


I chose a sunny Thursday afternoon to duck into Sam Abell’s classroom, a cool respite a couple flights of stairs below Maine Media’s Gallery overlooking Rockport Harbor. My timing was perfect. As the group settled in after indulging in the lunch spread served back on campus, the Nat Geo veteran prepared his students for a collaborative crescendo culminating the past sever

al days of shooting.

After reviewing a few housekeeping items, including plans for a ferry trip from Port Clyde to Mohegan Island the next day, Sam dove into the essential theme of his class. It was time for each photographer to display the fruits of their efforts and edit them down to a five-image poem, complete with a succinct title to introduce its essence to audiences at the weekly Friday night show.

“Epic enterprises are largely out of fashion. We are past the time of showing a trip to Italy with 60 slides,” explained the renowned documentary photographer. “Poetry is an idea for our time, and a poem can be visual. But the idea should be strong-minded and heartfelt, a poetry-sized expression of an idea, person, thing or object. The Coast of Maine, for example, is not a poem, but a cemetery on the coast of Maine could be.”

A Maine Coast cemetery did in fact inspire one of Sam’s students to create a photographic poem called “Grave Gardens”. Clicking through the series, Sam advised that the first photo should be the one that’s a suggestion of the grave with the back layer of fog, adding that fog is your friend here. The second should be the grave peeking out of the trees. And so the critique went on 

from there until the final five images were selected and refined into a lyrical sequence, hanging tightly together just like the poetry-sized expression Sam had discussed.  

Other poems explored included “Not Here” depicting life in transition; “Day Drinking” complete with a photo of PBR, Tabasco and a drink umbrella; and a rich autobiographical story called “My Journey Thus Far.”

“Yes, no, no, yes,” Sam said, selecting images as he clicked through each series. I sat down scribbling notes as fast as I could, while he generously imparted words of wisdom to his students. 

“A poem can’t be redundant. We can’t be slammed by the fact of it. I’m looking for the intimacy of a poem. It needs to be delicate. Keep the maintenance of tone or the spell is broken. The visual tone needs to be true throughout,” Sam said.

He came to Paola’s photographic verse, “Everything She Touches Changes”, about a local woman weaver. Sam suggested “Song of Susan”, while Paola described the songs the artist sung while she wove. Then an image popped up on the screen, which Paola said was a recreation of a dream the weaver had. 

“In the dream a ghost told her she could weave masks. I wanted to take the idea and make it real,” Paola said, pointing to a picture of the woman in a white woolen hand-loomed mask. 

That image made Sam's cut.

During the class, Sam also reminded the group that they are here to disallow creative burnout. “How will you keep your love alive?’ he asked the accomplished photographers, some who even earn their living with a camera in hand. Sam then shared a secret of how he maintained his passion over a 30-plus-year career with high demands and constant deadlines—he kept a diary, a daily personal photo diary, used for his own creative expression.

“Think outside the box,” he advised. “Pick up a color Holga some weekend, and I promise you it won’t be Groundhog Day.”

Watching Sam teach, with a quite confidence, warmth and genuine interest in his students, I certainly didn't fell like it was Groundhog Day.

That’s just how it is here, working side-by-side with the giants of photography, film and other media arts, without feeling like your standing in their shadow. Time and time again, I hear that the most meaningful experiences students have during their week at Maine Media is finding out how approachable everyone is, no matter how long they’ve been in the business.

                                                                                                                   – Jennifer Cook, 2014 MMW+C PC Graduate in Visual Storytelling