How does one approach creativity creatively? I have been honored with the task of photographing the diverse participatory and interactional events as well as working the 3rd Friday photobooths at the MAH this Fall. Reflecting on my experiences, I realize that this is the question I had been asking myself consistently but in many different ways. The energy and creativity at the MAH can only truly be felt by attending an event and actively participating, but I hope to have represented at least some of this in the photographs I have taken in the past few months.
What is beautiful about the MAH is its commitment to the cultivation of already thriving communities and bridging them via these creative artistic pursuits that are so important to the progress and enrichment of broader Santa Cruz County. I feel lucky to have been fully immersed in this sense of community and being able to photograph and portray this through various social media and marketing channels. However, representing such dynamic events and diverse interactions is absolutely a challenge. My approach to this challenge has been to think less about the actual photographs or what I’d like to capture, but instead feel fully present in the event, experience it, and interact. Through this, the photographs seem to create themselves around the unexpected connections arising around them.
Capturing creativity creatively in this setting actually comes easy. There is never a moment of doubt about what to shoot, but when. Some of my favorite photos from the past Fall were taken at typically “unexpected” moments, when instead of composing a photograph, I thoughtlessly lifted my camera to my eye and released the shutter. The better photographs appear when the released shutter becomes more than a deliberate thought but the expression of a desire and a feeling.
Here are some of Justin’s favorites from 2013:
Photo by Justin William / a candid shot during the Angklung Gamelan performance by local Balinese musicians Anak Swarasanti. Radical Craft Night 2013.
Photo by Justin William / Riding high above the dancing crowd, glow stick in hand. GLOW Fire Night 2013.
Photo by Justin William / Visitors gawked at the visually compelling local Balinese musicians Anak Swarasanti before PechaKucha 2013.
I came into this internship opportunity, excited to be exposed to different artists and interesting multi-media art I might not be able to experience otherwise. What I wasn’t expecting was that the greatest impact on me would be the MAH community.
Who are all these people who come to these events, and what exactly are they experiencing when they interact with these exhibits? What I’ve gleaned so far, from tiptoeing around, trying to capture these candid moments is that, we are families, artists, grandparents, couples, and lone wanderers. What the MAH has done with these events is they have created, from a gathering of ordinary people, a wonderful social collaboration, a true community, which I believe is one of the most beautiful things Santa Cruz has to offer. This is why all of my favorite photos aren’t just of the events or the exhibits, but of people genuinely interacting with the environment and one another.
Its with just a smidgen of irony that I consider the most important element of the museum experience to be the social aspect (Since I spend most of these events with my face smushed behind a camera), but I have found that the gathering of people here are so friendly that even the buffer of technology does not inhibit museum patrons from approaching me and engaging in lovely conversations.
I feel greatly privileged to be documenting this community, and hope that I have been successful in capturing its genuine energy. In the following quarter I hope to be able to employ more of my film photography skills, as well as undertaking the larger project of a short documentary narrative about what the museum offers to its members and the Santa Cruz community.
Here are some of Jessica’s favorites from 2013:
Photo by Jessica Varela / a special moment between father and daughter in our Santa Cruz is in the Heart show, now featured on our Winter 2013 Newsletter.
Photo by Jessica Varela / Santa Cruz kids dressed up in their Halloween best and gathered with friends and family at Evergreen Cemetery for the annual Spooky Tales event.
Photo by Jessica Varela / Shows at the MAH are dynamic experiences for visitors. Here, visitors peer, stand back, and get hands dirty in an interactive on the opening night of Journey Forth.
Working at the MAH was a great learning experience. Why? I felt like I got a taste at what it’s like being a photographer for a career. I was given instructions and visions that I tried to capture and there were also those deadlines! These elements helped me grow at being a photographer, but also a worker. I tried my best to meet expectations that would satisfy others, but in the end, I was satisfied with myself and was happy with how much I had learned. I came into this internship knowing I would be photographing various events. However, the diversity in events and the people I would photograph made this internship interesting. I would go into events thinking, what type of people would I photograph here today? Because the MAH is a place where the entire community can come and gather, it was great seeing new faces as well as those I would see consecutively.
In trying to capture the vision of the MAH, I would navigate the event to the best of my ability. I wanted to capture the many types of beautiful people who gathered. The excitement, concentration, and rare bonding moments were just some of the images I tried to get on camera. Personally, images of happier moments are those that I like to look back on and store in my memory.
When I look back at my journey as an intern, I would say my favorite event was the Spooky Tales at Evergreen Cemetery. The backdrop look of the cemetery, the children dressed up in their Halloween gear, and the cool props made this event most memorable to me. I can’t forget to mention that the event ended in a zombie flash mob!
In closing, I think that being an intern at the MAH taught me how to be a more efficient worker. I learned that I could complete the vision of someone else, while adding my own perception. I could frame and capture a photograph in complete freedom. The deadlines helped me have better time management. This was valuable to me because as I graduate from university, I understand that in any job, having good time management skills is a must! Finally, I learned that approaching people and conversing is what makes them the most comfortable with you. While I might have not taken any pictures, meeting people and exchanging warm smiles is what made this internship enjoyable in every way! It made me feel that I was also part of this great, growing community at the MAH.
Thank you MAH staff, visitors, and my fellow interns for a great time!
Here are some of Kala’s favorites from 2013:
Photo by Kala Narayan / A quiet moment between mother and daughter during the December First Friday art activity.
Photo by Kala Narayan / Kids dressed their Halloween best for Spooky Tales 2013.
Check out more of our recent photos on the Santa Cruz MAH Flickr page.