Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Finally! Here is my multimedia project on Camp Half-Blood.
Don’t read further until you’ve watched the Soundslide.
This is probably the longest blog I’ll ever post.
I attended a photo workshop in Austin at the beginning on August. Before the workshop started, we were told to come up with some projects to work on while we were in Austin. I struggle at the best of times to come up with a project. Never visiting Austin before, I felt really clueless.
I think it was the Friday before I left for the workshop and Lynn Johnson, one of the workshop coaches, recommended to me to look up this bookstore called Book People for information on things happening in Austin. So, I went to their web site to look up a phone number, was exploring their site and saw this banner advertisement at the bottom of a page that said something about this place called Camp Half-Blood. Curious, I skeptically clicked on the banner ad, because generally nothing good comes from clicking those ads at the top or bottom of web pages. The ad pulled up this web site for a children’s fantasy literature summer camp. They had some photos of kids fighting with swords and shields, and some of the other activities. I’m pretty sure the 9-year-old nerd in me shot up from sleep and said, “hey this looks cool.” The 22-year-old nerd concurred. I was still skeptical, because it was a summer camp. I immediately thought I would hit a wall of policy because I was this random adult male trying to go photograph an organization that works with children. Also, I did not think the coaches at my workshop would be super pumped about it. I definitely had some quizzical looks when I first pitched my idea.
Still, I figured it wouldn’t hurt. I contacted the camp’s director, Topher, and he was really supportive of what I was trying to do while participating at the Austin Photo Workshop. Within hours of first talking to Topher on the phone, he got me clearance and I was set. The camp ran Monday through Friday. I met up with Topher on Monday night and started my project on Tuesday. Monday night, Topher walked me through the camp, and explained a little of the back-story of that week’s main adventure for the kids. I had not heard of Percy Jackson and the Olympians before this week and Topher explained that one of the main locations in the books was a summer camp called, Camp Half-Blood, and this camp was the Austin satellite branch of the camp; the camp in the books is located on Long Island, NY.
The back-story of the week I attended was about this League of Machines and Monsters. They had kidnapped some Naiads (water nymphs) and deployed an army of Spy-bots to observe the kids at camp and prevent them from finding the key to freeing the Naiads. Ok, these Spy-bots were like these spider-like creatures with this camera lens body. I show up Tuesday morning, start shooting to get the kids use to my presence and making sure they weren’t going to stop, look at me and smile every time I tried to photograph them. They were cool with it in about 5 minutes. Well, almost everyone was cool with it.
I had this one group of kids giving me these very suspicious glances and whispering to themselves in a very conspiratorial manner. Great thing about kids is even when they are “whispering” they still talk loud enough for other people to hear. I heard one of them say, “He’s probably with the league. I mean look at him. We need to keep an eye on him.” Confused at first, I look down at what I was wearing, jeans and polo, and then just laughed. I saw the camera hanging off of my shoulder. They thought I was a Spy-bot in human disguise. Then counselors came up to me and were telling me how a group was out to get me because they think I was Spy-bot. Thankfully, the counselors talked to the kids and explained I was only a photographer. Most of the kids in the conspiracy accepted this, but it took a couple more days for the ringleaders’ suspicions to be quenched. With my name cleared, I was accepted as a mortal who had the ability to see the world of the demi-gods, which there are characters in the books like that as well. This helped the kids work me into their imaginations and how they were enjoying the adventure of the camp. Great for me because it relaxed them enough to enjoy their adventure and leave me free to document them. Each day, Topher takes a group of kids out on a quest and I would tag along. A couple times, I had kids seriously approach me and say to me that since I was a mortal and was unarmed; I would be at risk if we were attacked by Spy-bots. Some told me they would use their swords and shields to protect me. The pinnacle moment came on the last day when a parent approached me and asked if I was the “nice mortal who takes pictures.”
I was blown away by the power of the children’s imaginations at camp. At times, we would be out questing and a kid caught a splash of moment or a reflection of light, when nothing tangibly was there, and say it was a Spy-bot. They all drew their swords and get into defensive positions until someone could better assess the situation. I would be ducked low with them, thinking how I didn’t have a sword and how unfair that was. Even coaches at the workshop were amazed at the camp when they visited to coach me in field, because on the surface it’s a pavilion in a national park with some props; yet so much more goes on beneath that surface. Topher and the counselors really pull the kids into the story.
So, this is the finished product, more or less. I did not know what shape any of this was going to take ultimately. We had not talked much about distribution at the workshop or even audio. I had brought along my recorder to play with because audio is still a new frontier for me. I know on some level it’s kind of an out-of-date style with a single interview narrating over the photos and no ambient sound, but I’m learning. I don’t have a class or job to do this for, so it’s all on my own time. Also, I’m the kind of person who is way more productive in that threatening sense of a deadline, and something like this that has no set deadline has been tough for me to stay on focus. I’m satisfied with the result. It’s a growing experience. Now I that I have gone through this process of gather and editing both photos and audio on my own time, and have this experience to draw from, I feel I will being to dig deeper into this kind of storytelling.
Please leave any feedback, comments or critiques about the Soundslide. As I said, this is a growing experience for me.
Posted by Kyle Kurlick at 1:41 PM