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Ambrotype by Bryan Hiott.  Photo:  Madge McKeithen

A few years ago, New School writing professor Madge McKeithen gave a workshop for my wife’s Blueridge Writer’s Workshop at Lake Summit, NC.  She posted about her experience there on her blog  New York + Points South.  These are some of my favorite excerpts from that post.

Who expects surprise when a creative couple leaves New York for up-country South Carolina? Debbie Rice and Bryan Hiott made the leap in 2012, friends’ admonitions trailing them — “when you move to a rural place, your mind slows down.” A year later, Debbie has produced two successful rounds of the Blue Ridge Writers Workshop, one at Lake Lure, NC, and this year’s at Lake Summit, near Saluda, NC; she is volunteering at Hub City Press and Bookshop, is writing poetry, and has a treasured routine visiting her 90-year-old father’s nearby home every evening. Bryan Hiott is up to his elbows in the ambrotype photography he loves in a spacious studio north of Greenville, SC, and is teaching photography and art history at three area colleges this fall (two more than last year).

The week-long workshop emphasized interdisciplinary work in the arts and combined writing with music and the visual arts.  As part of the workshop, I made ambrotype portraits of the participants as well as landscape images.

Wonderfully meshed with the week’s creative experience was Bryan Hiott’s photography. To watch him work, to hear him speak about it is to take in a history lesson, an artistic passion, a skilled craftsman’s meticulous attention to detail, and a content practitioner’s deep pleasure. Friday and Saturday, he set up his camera and developer’s materials, made ambrotypes of landscapes and then turned more directly to his current fascination with portraits and photographed each of us at the lake house. To sit for Bryan’s photography is an experience like none I’ve had. First there is the photographer — in this case an engagingly intelligent, serious, and yet very funny man. Then there is the process which he calmly, ably narrates, all the while attending to his materials — the box of a camera with its heavy drape, the plastic pans of chemicals — discussing exposure time, the nature of the chemical baths, the “development” of the final product over the course of multiple steps.  As the onsite developer (another box and drape under the carport, not moving), Bryan interacts with the image appearing; there is a sense of creating alongside the mechanism that is different from a typical photo shoot today.  Holding the pose for the time requested (mine for 19 seconds, best I remember) and following the instruction not to smile (smiles held for the time required can look odd, rarely good, he told us) and experiencing something not of this but of a bygone era, something of Matthew Brady, Queen Victoria, the American Civil War, the sense of being seen and not heard was a memorable experience for a group of the wordy sort.

Our very talented friend, cellist Sharon Mulfinger Gerber, gave a wonderful solo performance on the dock as twilight fell and the stars began to come out.

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Sharon Mulfinger Gerber.  Photo:  Madge McKeithen

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Portrait of Sharon – Wet Plate Collodion Ambrotype (6.5″ x 8.5″)

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It’s a pleasure to be a mentor for Antonio Modesto Milian, a Brandon Fellow at the Greenville Center for Creative Arts in Greenville, SC. Thanks for asking me to be your mentor, Antonio! You all did a superb job yesterday at the Artist Talk, and I look forward to seeing this through to your exhibition in August!  The other fellows are Naomi Nakazato and Glory Day Loflin (Photo by the super supportive Latosha Nicole Milián).

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L to R:  Naomi Nakazato, Antonio Modesto Milian, and Glory Day Loflin

Bios of the inaugural group of Brandon Fellows at the Greenville Center for the Creative Arts:

Naomi Nakazato is a graduate of Anderson University, where she focused on painting and drawing as well as the history of portraiture. Communicating the challenges and experiences of mixed ethnicity is the driving force behind her work. She is passionate about helping other young artists experience and understand their identity through art. The Brandon Fellowship will give Naomi the opportunity to explore new approaches and mediums in which to pursue these goals.
Anthony Modesto Milian is a graduate of Greenville Technical College and has pursued studies in hospitality at Bob Jones University. He is the creator of the popular Faces of the Upstate page on Facebook, which highlights the beauty of the diversity in our community, and through which he fosters dialogue and reflection on social issues.  As a Brandon Fellow, Anthony will hone his technical and artistic skills to enhance his street photography and the impact of his project. He also plans to explore publishing a book depicting the cultural richness of the Faces of the Upstate.
Glory Loflin is a graduate of the Cooper Union for Advancement of Science and Art in New York City where she studied painting and an alumna of the Fine Arts Center and the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities. She has taught arts to children and volunteered her artistic abilities to benefit a variety of causes, from raising awareness of human trafficking to promoting a local farmers’ market and helping feed the homeless. As a Brandon Fellow, Glory will continue championing social issues through the arts while preparing a portfolio of ceramics work in view of applying to graduate school in this medium.
The Brandon Fellowship will provide Naomi, Anthony, and Glory with individual studio space, a stipend for art supplies, access to a variety of classes, as well as guidance and mentorship from the other GCCA studio artists and exhibiting artists.

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Greenville, South Carolina

Greenville, South Carolina

Social Media Obsessed on Main Street - Greenville, SC

Social Media Obsessed on Main Street – Greenville, SC

While out on a date, the importance keeping all your friends updated on the progress of the evening cannot be underestimated. We have all become scribes to the lives we live. How did it get this way?