This time last year, I was fighting with my anxiety over leaving my kids for 2.5 weeks & flying over to the Pacific North West in the USA to attend a week-long workshop with Sam Abell(yeah, I realise there’s an extra 1.5 weeks to account for there – include staying with friends, family sessions & some time in Seattle!). Amongst worrying about missing the kids(spoiler alert: I didn’t! Gah!), my biggest worry was totally failing at this workshop. Yeah, I know that doesn’t make sense(how do you fail a workshop?), but let me explain. Sam Abell is one of my top 3 photographers(the other two are William Eggleston & Alex Webb. The list has remained fairly steady for the last few), so I was totally worried that he would take one look at my work, declare that it totally sucked & that I shouldn’t bother picking up a camera ever again. The other worry was that I would meet him & he would be a total douche bag & that would just ruin life for me in general. Well, get ready for a shit load of spoiler alerts.
First up, let me explain why it has taken me so long to write something about my time with Sam(you like what I did there? Sam my buddy, my pal!). The number one reason that I can not escape & won’t even attempt to lie about – I’m a procrastinator. Number two? I don’t know what to say about it. I mean, how the hell could I put in to words what I learned from Sam & just the whole experience? Sure, I could tell you what we did during the week-long workshop, but that wouldn’t really explain much at all. We would go to class in the morning, Sam would talk to us about stuff, then in the afternoon, he would set us an assignment, we would go out to shoot it, come home, cull & edit, shower, sleep, repeat. The magic was Sam – the stories he told us, the way he explained things, the experiences he shared, the laughs we had, the way he thoughtfully gave you the most constructive of criticism without ever making you feel like shit. I’d need to talk to you using lots of hand gestures over a few glasses of wine to really explain just what an experience it was.
And Sam, he is a funny guy! And smart, & gracious & knowledgeable & respectful & talented & an amazing storyteller & I could go on & on forever. We each got to spend some one on one time with Sam. I showed him my work & talked about the projects I had in mind. He gave me encouragement & advice. We bonded over Australia(he spent a lot of time here on assignment for National Geographic & he’s a fan of us!). He is just awesome. We finished up the week with a lovely dinner altogether. And somehow at some point, Sam & I began singing ‘I Still Call Australia Home.’ By the time we got to the ferry, Sam had decided that we were going to make a video clip of us singing it as the ferry pulled out of Port Townsend, pretending we were leaving Australia. I was getting over a cold & sounded ridiculous. But it was hilarious. And something I will never ever forget.
So, you know that thing people ask you? If you could have dinner with anyone at all, living or dead, who would it be? My person would be Sam Abell. Even though I have already had dinner with him, I’d take every chance I could get to do it again.
You want to see the clip of us singing out of key, right? Yeah, I knew you would. You can find it here(make sure you don’t have your volume turned up too loud!).
Thanks to Erika for this photo & the video footage.