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|| News Item: Posted 2010-11-11

WORKSHOP DIARIES: Missouri Workshop
'Not only were most of us thrown into a foreign land, the small rural town of Macon, Missouri, but also given a 400-frame limit for the week.'

By Christina House

At the end of September, I had the opportunity to participate in the 62nd Missouri Photo Workshop. I flew from LAX into St. Louis and drove a rental car 2 1/2 hours northwest to Macon, passing many farms and churches along the way.

After checking into the Super 8, a cruise around the town to get acquainted seemed fitting. What a shift from Los Angeles, there was no traffic and it took 10 minutes to get anywhere in the city!

During my amateur self-tour, I ended up visiting a flea market and the old Opry Barn where a local band performed country music. This was day one. Day two shifted gears. It was a typical introductory, the agenda and rules were set forth and we each got a chance to introduce ourselves.

There were about 40 photographers and what amazed me was how far and wide they all came from. From California to New York, Singapore to Scotland, and the Italian from Japan!, it was really neat. The workshop challenged each of us to find and research story ideas, pitch them to our editing team for approval, shoot and complete editing all within one week!

Our headquarters in town was the Elks Lodge. During the day, we were able to check-in with our editing team for help, feedback, etc. At night we had presentations by the photographers and photo editors that made up our team staff. They showed us their own stories that they've worked on and some of their colleagues' stories to help interpret what we should all strive for.

Photo by Christina House

Photo by Christina House

Con, left, and Kaz, right, play with their "faux granddaughter" Hayvin Mitchell, five months old, in the kitchen of their home in Macon. Hayvin and her two brothers visit frequently.
Not only were most of us thrown into a foreign land, the small rural town of Macon, Missouri, but also given a 400-frame limit for the week. This was something I was completely unaccustomed to yet most grateful for. It taught me to think harder before I pressed the shutter button rather than bursting off frames without thought and also to concentrate on every single detail and element of my story, shooting only what contributes to the advancement of the project. The hard work resulted in little sleep and few showers....but a new knowledge in storytelling.

The story I found is of a lesbian couple in their 60s as they approach their 44th anniversary together, are still uncomfortable being openly "out" to their surrounding community by fear of being unaccepted and/or targeted, therefore spend most of their time in their home, a place they call their "safe haven".

Here I was, this stranger standing on their doorstep, showing up out of the blue, and they welcomed me in. I earned their trust and spent a few nights living in their home. I was there during breakfast, lunch, dinner, and studied their daily routine to understand what their life was like.

My job was to document it for others to understand. Yes, there were times when I could not be invisible and thankfully times when I felt like I was, which allowed for me to capture more candid, natural moments between them. The lack of sleeping and eating began to hit me hard one day when I saw a sign hanging inside their kitchen. It read: Be Thankful When You Are Tired And Weary Because It Means You Made A Difference. It was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. This simple sentence is something I still think about today when I feel rundown. A little motivation sure can go a long way and is all we may need at times.

Being surrounded with photographers from across the country and around the world and being able to share each other's struggles and triumphs during the workshop was a great experience that I will take with me throughout my career. I am honored to have been a part of the Missouri Photo Workshop legacy.

Con & Kaz: A Love that Lasts

Christina House is a freelance photographer based in Southern California. You can see samples of her work at her Sports Shooter member page:

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