Monday, October 24, 2011

Post-Camp Post: an attempt

I've had a few people email me and ask about Camp Shutter Sisters, and those I've met in person have all asked. So maybe it's about time I try to put my feelings into words about this experience. Which is hard because the feelings run deep and strong, and I find myself at a loss for words (which is very, very rare for me).

The easy way to answer, "What was it?" is to say that it was a women's photography workshop. But that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.

I can't remember now what I expected before I went. I'm not sure I had even set up any hard expectations as I was extremely busy with work in the months leading up to it, and found that I hadn't thought about it much at all before beginning to pack a few days before. I was so caught up in work and Zoe and planning for a new home (and all the other stuff that pops up in daily life) that I would find myself pleasantly surprised to remember, "I get to go to that thing!"

We have a private Facebook page for the Campers, set up so we could "meet" each other before arriving at Asilomar. We had lots of fun there, and plans were made for pick-ups and rides and sharing rental cars and finding rooms in Monterey the night before Camp officially started. But it's one thing to communicate on-line via an open forum and another to actually meet people live, face-to-face (and in our case, lens-to-lens).

I considered getting into the details of my trip (I arrived at this time, and was picked up at this time, etc.), but that's really not important compared to what happened at a much deeper level.

And that's what I'm struggling to put into words.


I went into this with a completely open heart and willing spirit. It turns out that every single one of my fellow Campers did the same. As a result, we were all welcoming and welcomed, loving and loved, seeing and seen. It sounds crazy, but it was like being suddenly plunked down into the middle of 70 (yes, seventy - 7dash0) of the best friends you'll ever have. Instafamily.

I tried my hardest to absorb every single second of my time there. It was magical. I felt every atom of my being vibrating with energy and connection. I learned so much, far more than I contributed, and gained not only hard photography knowledge but a new way of seeing the world. We spoke about shooting through a lens of gratitude, of looking with love. We shared stories and lenses and tips and tricks and everything we had. It was the best sort of community - one that felt like it was created specifically for me.

Several of my Camp sisters have done a far better job of explaining this.  I should just shut up and link to their posts. There are many out there now, and more continue to be posted each day, but for brevity I'll ask you to read this one.  I first read this in the car Friday night on the way to our friends' wedding in Indianapolis. I bawled. When I finally got myself together, I read it to M. I wondered how he would take it. It's hard to tell your husband that while you absolutely love your life as a mother and as a wife, it's not enough. He listened quietly, and even though I choked up while reading it, I got through it and waited anxiously to hear his response.

"Wow," he said reverently. "When is the next Camp?"

And I burst into tears all over. I had just essentially opened my soul to him and he not only fully accepted me, but encouraged me to continue pursing whatever it is I need to feel fully alive.

This experience is not something that ended Wednesday, October 19 at 11:05 a.m. when I went wheels up over Monterey. This is something that continues to grow, to flourish, to change how I view myself, my relationships, my photography. I am forever a different person, and in good way.

In keeping with the spirit of Camp and the idea of putting things out there into the universe and trusting the process, I share what I'm truly feeling. It feels a bit like I'm standing here naked, but I'm learning that with stretching boundaries and the accompanying uncomfortable feelings, comes power.

Me, seen by the amazing Cyndy Bresden

I struggle with permission to be truly myself. I struggle with the idea that it's okay to take time for myself. It feels selfish. I'm not sure if that's from my innate desire to please others or if it's part of my essential femaleness (so many of us fall into this trap) or if it's this sense that what I need simply doesn't matter compared to what others need. But perhaps the most important thing I learned at Camp is that not only is it okay to be truly myself and make time for what makes me feel alive (photography), it's required. In other words, if I don't ensure that I have ample time to look for, create, and process images, I will not be all the way alive. I will be a shadow of myself. I do not want my daughter to be mothered by a shadow, nor my husband to be married to one. I want them both to see me as 100% me, and in turn feel okay to be 100% themselves.

The other thing I'm gonna throw out here is gratitude. Thank you to Tracey Clark and the Shutter Sisters, and thank you to my Camp sisters for creating a whole new universe and way of seeing for me. Thank you to my family for supporting my desire to continue to grow and learn and find myself. Thank you to my friends for accepting me, flaws and all.

I am so incredibly lucky to be alive in the very best world: mine.

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Anonymous Corinna said...

Amy, this is so wonderful, as was the beautiful spirit you brought to Camp. Thank you for sharing your experience here and for allowing yourself to be seen. I can so relate to your fear of being naked in the world... Don't know if you listened to the Steve Jobs Stanford commencement speech, but I loved this part: "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Amy, wow. You said it perfectly and brought tears to my eyes. You, my friend, have moved me beyond words. As a Shutter Sister, thank you for this, from the bottom of my heart. ;)

10:55 AM  
Anonymous tara on the wander said...

"...i will not be all the way alive." these words resonate with me so much. i can hear your big, playful heart in your words. xo tara

11:11 AM  
Blogger Eva said...

Beautiful words! I think you said it all perfectly. :)

11:25 AM  
Blogger Val Foltz said...

lovely, sweet friend! thank you for sharing....

7:57 PM  
Anonymous wendy said...

really wonderful post, Amy. you did it justice!!

10:25 PM  

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