I woke up at five in the morning, a hundred dollars to my name, and headed northeast, driving into the sunrise, watching it emerge over rural Ohio’s great expanse of corn. Sixteen hours later, forty dollars poorer, I watched that same sun set behind Vermont’s green rolling hills (mountains by my midwestern standards). In one day, I drove nearly seven-hundred miles, alone. At first I was terrified, but by Pennsylvania I had begun to get the hang of it, enjoying the loneliness. I screamed country music at the top of my lungs, stopped every time I had to pee, drank gallons of horrible gas station coffee and held entire conversation out loud by myself. Around mile three-hundred I was invincible, a self-proclaimed badass, able to go wherever the wind might take me.
Four years ago, when I moved into my freshman dorm room, I met a ray of sunshine. My roommate would quickly become my best friend. It was a short lived living situation; in February she decided that Ohio wasn’t for her and so she went home to Vermont the following semester. We feebly attempted to stay in touch, but like most long distance friendships ours eventually fell apart. I hadn’t seen her in nearly four years when I decided to go to Maine, but called her anyway to make up for lost time. She showed me around Putney, we stayed up giggling, reminiscing and filling one another in on major life events. I remember why I loved her so much as an eighteen year old, her welcoming personality and infectious smile, literally it felt as if no time had passed.
I left Vermont and drove through New Hampshire, crying as I crossed the bridge into Maine. I pulled over the first chance I got, ratty hair, hugged a tree and took a selfie. Four hours later, I arrived at my destination. Maine Media Workshop and College is a wonderful, soul feeding, escape. While there I was able to escape the anxiety of my daily life and focus on failure. My photography took an amazing aesthetic turn and I began to see in a whole new light. The people I met there were wonderful and they pushed me well out of my comfort zone. I am just now beginning to write about and share those images on my personal blog.
The Expressive Landscape, a weeklong intensive taught by Eddie Soloway, introduced me to a lot of middle-aged, hobbyist photographers who were shocked to meet a living, working, broke as shit, artist, in the flesh. We were intrigued by one anothers lives, asking questions and broadening our horizons. Many of them had been to Maine or even the workshops before, a few lived just up the road. They took me under their wings, telling me (a first-timer) where all the must see places were to go. After class let out each day I set out, alone, to photograph, hike and explore. What was quite overwhelming at the beginning of the week seemed incredibly manageable by the end. I climbed Mt. Battie, read Emerson’s Nature Essay as the sun rose over the ocean and saw the most beautiful thing thus far in my life.
While eating lunch one day, I mentioned that I wasn’t sure where to go shoot that evening after class. A woman who lived there as a child told me of a tiny, secluded island that she used to go to with her family, saying that it was so beautiful she still finds herself having dreams about it. So I went. An hour south of where I was staying I arrived to Clark Island (or rather the mainland before the island) as the full moon rose and the hot sun sank. I walked out onto the causeway and into the thickest swarm of mosquitos I have ever experienced. They tore through my skin as I stood in awe of the earth around me. On one side the sun dipped below the pines, providing a splendid cotton candy sky that reflected just as chromatically in the ocean. The other side was cool, the perfect contrast to the sunset. Behind me the full moon rose, its dazzling glow dancing on the water. For twenty minutes I stood mesmerized, then I wandered back to the car and drove silently and without music one hour back to my temporary home.
Maine: (follow me on instagram @kaitlynjosmithphoto)