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.


Ode to Strange and Beautiful Moments

Mark Twain said that "analyzing humor was like dissecting a frog - both die in the
process. These days, we want to try to let them both live". I thought of this quote as I was trying to practice "creative construing" or what positive psychologists call
"finding something meaningful in a hard or new situation". Or asking questions like: If this were happening for a high purpose, what would it be?

I questioned this higher purpose/learning thing when on Sunday I, instead of indulging in the New York Times and strong espresso, was sitting in a house miles from Portland, working on a story about a variety of different motorcycle ministries. I thought to myself, Dear God, how did I get here and why is my head pounding? Outside it was raining cats and dogs and inside, I was claustrophobic, stuck behind two couches, the lighting was terrible, every picture was blurry and the snap of my shutter echoed across the room during every prayer. I felt out of place and recognizing the need for fresh air, was relieved when the time had finally come to exit the building. I asked myself, was I the only person who thought that was strange?

The following day I was relieved to find myself suddenly whisked away to a place that felt a little closer to home. On the collective farm that day, I ate an apple right off the tree and felt the breeze off a beautiful lake. I heard a woman talk of justice and equality and pesticides and living in a community of like-minded people. I weaved in and out of drying laundry and dill plants. I felt the mud seep up over my sandals. I climbed a ladder and sat under the skeleton of a house in progress. I watched two little kids make ice-cream out of dirt and imagined the dirt melting back into the ground. The birds chirped and the leaves rustled. I asked myself, how wide must our eyes be in order to see and feel beauty?

As I wonder about the concept of storytelling, I wonder how I am going to document these very different stories. I wonder how my different levels of curiosity and intrigue will affect me. Beyond my camera, my experiences of two very different slices of life happening within two hours of each other was enough to prove that some moments are truly strange and others are simply beautiful.

Anna (photo track)


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