Roots '09 reflections


I've been staring at a blinking cursor for an hour trying to come up with how I can accurately explain the effect Roots Workshop has had on me in the last week. And while the words have been slow to form, the tears have been quick to flow. It was that emotional and deep and life changing.

Hosting a workshop is no easy task. When the idea of Roots was hatched two years ago, I was almost certain it would be a one-time thing. But riding a post- week high that can only be compared to summer camp, I breezily agreed to a return when positive feedback made it nearly impossible not to.

Between then and now, however, the economy tanked and it was a year that many photographers chose to invest in gear and not workshops. With a little more than half of the students enrolled as I had hoped, the staff decided that we should continue anyway (but made the sad decision to merge three teams to two, thus cutting team leader and my first newspaper boss, Arnold Miller). Coming from DC, Atlanta and even Kansas City, this talented dream team sacrificed their precious time to give of themselves to this experience. Their love and dedication to share with others what was once given to them is beyond humbling, and I am so ridiculously honored to have such great friends. Greg, Tyler, Jenn, Mark, Rachel, Eric and my sweet J, I love each and every one of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The true success, of course, was in the progress made by 7 remarkable students who I now also consider beloved friends. The transition from Sunday night to Friday is insane, and I beam with pride when talking about the growth- both photographically and personally- that every one made. Signing up for a workshop where you are going to live, eat and sleep with photographers is daunting enough, let alone willingly subjecting yourself to brutal critique. But this cast of characters all arrived with the most positive of attitudes and soaked up every conversation, every exercise, every opportunity. They appreciated the intimate environment and were not shy in acknowledging even the smallest of lessons.

The camaraderie among the group was something from a movie script, yes, made only more sweet by the campy Cape Cod compound that wrapped its arms around us, inspired us with its history and beautiful light, and recharged our creative spirit. Sound hokey? To you, maybe it does. But to those who were there, the house was just as much a piece in the puzzle as were the staff, the assignments and, oh yes, that yummy lobster bake. One evening just before sunset while we were outside under the grove of old trees and filtered sunlight, Jenn exclaimed, "This house is magical." I couldn't agree more.

Drawing on a backlog of contacts from my days as a photography intern at the Cape Cod Times during college, many of the assignments were repeats from our inaugural year. Most fascinating was the variation of photos from these same subjects, and the very different journey had by two photographers at the same scene one year apart. The assignments, however, don't make a lick of difference at the end of the day, you should understand, because when it comes down to it we could be photographing sailboats float by from our dock and learn just as much. The assignments are simply an exercise to put the art of seeing into practice and, thus, become better visual storytellers.

So now I'm a bit stunned that it's come and gone. Again. It feels so strange to be writing a recap of the week when I'd really rather just go back to the house, the Roots house, to spend more time with my awesome friends. But unfortunately it's business as usual, and back to the grind as is the case when summer camp ends. I feel extremely lucky to add to the Roots alumni list: Audra, Christina, Roxanne, Rob, Andree, Earl and Ned, my summer '09 BFF. Please check back to see slideshows of each of their assignments from the week in the upcoming days.

And in case you missed it:
Roots Workshop Day 6
Roots Workshop Day 5
Roots Workshop Day 4
Roots Workshop Day 3
Roots Workshop Day 2
Roots Workshop Day 1

(Thanks again to Eric for documenting our week so beautifully and thoughtfully).


  1. So looking forward to next year already! Everyone that was involved this year made it special and yes the house is magical!

  2. Such a fantastic week. Thanks for having me be a part of Roots this year, Emilie! Everybody who was there are simply incredible. Thanks, y'all!!


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