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.


"They are pretending they are not here"

Well I shot for a total of 25 hours this weekend, no, not including sleeping, and I am still happy, motivated, and excited about my photo essays. That’s the thing about doing something you love, even if you are putting in a five million hour week, its ok because you are so excited and happy to be doing every second of your work. So In addition to having many break throughs with my subject for my personal essay, I had an amazing weekend with my collaborator working on our homesteading essay. On the drive up we had a sort of epiphany about why we were following each family and what we wanted to show in each family. It was like the photo / writing gods were smiling down on us and granting our every wish! We were staying with the family that we wanted to document to show the homesteading community at large. As soon as we got there the community started flooding into our subjects barn to press apples. Within this community was the woman who started the Montville ordinance (the ordinance that we have based our story around and had yet to incorporate in the context of real live people), The man who started the community outreach for economically depressed families who don’t have food to get vouchers for the farmers market, and some homesteaders from the first wave of back to the landers (exactly what Colin had asked Rachel to find). We managed to sit down with all of these people and conduct an interview that lasted for maybe about an hour! It was one of those amazing moments where everything you were searching for just falls into your lap unexpectedly. We now have the glue to hold the pieces of our story together. After this amazing day we sat down to a great diner. One of the great perks about shooting homesteaders is that they love to feed us dinners composed of fresh food they have harvested mostly from their farm. So Rachel and I started to sit down to a meal of chicken (from the farm), kale (from the farm) cooked in apple cider (that we pressed that day), carrots (from the farm), Pork (bartered from a fellow homestead), and some rice from a store. Just as we were about to sit down I explained to Rachel that I needed to get a shot of the dinner table so, we needed to take our place setting away from the table and wait to be served, so that it wouldn’t appear that we were altering the scene. One of the children asked what we were doing and the mom said “they’re pretending they’re not here”. This struck Rachel and I, we both found it ironic and very comical. Of course we were there! And what were we doing by moving our plates? …. calling attention to our presence! I remember Rachel laughing and saying ‘this isn’t documentary’, and I said something to the effect of sometimes you have to sacrifice one truth to show another. I thought this was a really interesting moment, I can see both sides, in fact I’m on both sides, it’s something to ponder I suppose… After our freezing day outside we couldn’t resist a post dinner sauna in the sauna behind the barn that the family had built by hand out of local cedar. Little did we know that this would mean chilling out with our subjects naked, but at this point there was no turning back. Rachel and I rapidly undressed in the cold and modestly sat in the sauna with our towels surrounded by our buck-naked subjects. One of their moms got up to put the kids to bed and asked if we wanted to stay in longer I replied ‘If I were a good documentarian I would shoot you putting your kids to bed” and with that I ran with her and Rachel back to the house through the frost.


Rachel pressing apples ( left) and me shooting (right)

shooting in my p.j.'s

Rachel taking feverish field notes

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