Salt Institute for Documentary Studies

Located in Portland, Maine, the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies offers a 15-week immersion program for advanced undergraduate and graduate students in documentary writing, photography, or radio.
This blog is an update of current Salt students insights and musings.


you might have to wreck it.

A few weeks ago I found myself sitting on a screened-in porch with a painter who fidgets and a comic-book illustrator who lives in his moccasins and talks to his cat. Both men have ridiculous vocabularies and, ironically, both had a wandering left eye. That's besides the point, though.
The painter is Charlie, I've been writing about him the past month. Dennis is his buddy. They talk to each other about their crafts. During their porch chat Dennis interrupted Charlie to say something that explains much of what the "Salt experience" has been for me these past weeks. Dennis said, "If it isn’t working you might have to wreck it in order to break it open.” Salt ripped my writing away during the first few weeks. Poetry, gone. Artsy language, gone. Clutter, gone. Rip, wreck, rip. I was pissed. Now I'm grateful.
It's hard to put into words what I've had to learn through, well, doing. So instead of babbling I'll leave you with an image.

When I first met Charlie he had just covered his whole painting palette with black. I was startled until he explained that too much color eventually becomes distracting and he has to smother it and start over. I understood when he smeared fresh red oil paint on the black surface.
Wreck it. Strip it down. Start over. And all of a sudden you have something striking. A splash of red cutting through the dark. A compelling story.

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