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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

RGK on the Telluride Photo Festival

 I spent the last week teaching and lecturing at the 1st (and I hope, annual) Telluride Photo Festival, and I would like to thank everyone that cooperated to make it possible because it was a fantastic week and I think there is a great future for this event.

Executive Director, Eric Moore, dreamed the Telluride Photo Festival up, making a connection that seems obvious now - in the peak of fall, Telluride is one of the most spectacular locations in the Rockies and hosting a photographer's conference as seasonal colors changed would provide an amazing setting they might enjoy. No kidding! And if the colors were not enough, on Wednesday eve when we 'officially' passed from summer to fall, a midnight thunderstorm put down new snow on all the surrounding peaks and shimmering golden trees. It was quite a sunrise!

From Left-to-Right, Eric Moore, Crystal Geise.  Photograph 2010 Copyright Mark Christmas
Crystal Geise was Eric's 'right-hand' in all of this, but given the amount of work and coordination these events take, Crystal was more like the East Indian Goddess Kali with many arms. Nice job Crystal, I hope you stay with the festival and continue to help Eric grow this into one of photography's premier learning destinations.

From Left-to-Right, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Tom Mangelsen, Carlton Ward, Jr., Cristina Goettsch Mittermeier.  Photograph 2010 Copyright Mark Christmas   

An important aspect of this festival (certainly from my point of view) was that Eric wanted to specifically include photographers in the presentation program who were using their work in purposeful ways. To that end, he invited the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP), which I helped to found, and our fearless leader Christina Goettsch Mittermeier closed the festival with an inspiring view of iLCP Fellow's work worldwide that got a 'full-house' audience to stand up and cheer.

Be sure to check out the recent article by 'A Photo Editor' or 'APE', "Using Photography to Create Tipping Points Around Conservation," on the Telluride Photo Festival.

I would also like to thank Mountain Lodge Telluride for being a festival sponsor and offering great packages to house students and teachers. The accommodations are quite nice and the bar/restaurant is called 'The View'. My iPhone snap (see below), taken shortly after I checked-in confirms the truth of that, and it only got better after the snowfall. The pool/hot spa is a great luxury, and the public areas are graced with beautiful regional photography provided by their own Director of Communications, Neil Hastings ­ a very good photographer in his own right, and one of my workshop students for the week.

Photograph 2010 Copyright Robert Glenn Ketchum

Often the reward of participating in one of these festivals is the serendipity of networking and meeting someone that becomes a friend or that inspires you. My moment at this festival came on the night of my lecture when I shared the podium with fellow photographer, Ace Kvale. Ace has had an extraordinary career of high adventure following some of the world's best climbers up to summits never previously attempted, and base-jumpers down into abysses that would scare most of us to just to peer into. In the end, however, Ace had a significant shift in purpose and vision, making the decision to photograph the people of the places his adventures passed through, and then ultimately dedicating a good bit of his work to international doctors that do humanitarian surgery for people in these communities who are sightless, restoring their vision.

Photograph 2010 Copyright Ace Kvale

It turns out that many years ago Ace and I both did stories for the then-formative POWDER magazine, so thank you David Moe (founder of the mag) for giving us both a break as young photographers. Most importantly though, it is the way Ace closed his lecture that has truly stuck with me. His final picture is of the terribly battered hands of an old woman that he found begging on the sidewalk. It is a very sensitive and powerful shot, but the closer is Ace's comment that he looks at that picture all of the time to remind himself that he has NEVER had a bad day!

Photograph 2010 Copyright Ace Kvale
Kashmir Earthquake Survivor
Ace Kvale  2006
These hands belong to a woman. She was waiting in line as we handed out medicine in the cold winter light of December. 80,000 people had been killed in minutes. Hundreds of thousands of lives were affected. This woman was missing one foot from a land mine. She had a horse missing a hoof, also a mine. When I look at this image I am reminded that I’ve never known a moment of real hardship in my life.

Thank you, Ace, for your amazing journey to purposeful photography, and for helping me to remember that I have never had a bad day, either.

I hope to see many more of you at next year's Telluride Photo Festival!


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