It’s taken me more than a whole week to really process everything that was the last four months. It’s hard to sit down and write about an epic cross-country road trip taken with your best friends, let alone one that saw you reach the snows of Glacier National Park, the Volcanoes of Hawaii, the warmth of the California sun and the bustling subways of New York City.
The Wild Ones 2014 Workshop Tour was an experience that is difficult to sum up in words, photos, even a movie would be a stretch. Last year’s tour was one of discovery, of exploration and confidence building between Sarah, Shane and I and this year’s was even more along those same lines. When we decided to run a non-profit workshop tour we had no real idea what we were in for. It’s a daunting task to set up a non-profit organization (Sarah, you’re a saint for that), to live out of a van for 14,000 miles, to stand in front of hundreds of students and teach what you know about your shared passion. Last year when the tour ended we felt that it was a success and we were ready to grow and try to expand this community as far as we could.
It’s an interesting journey to take with friends. Quickly the lines between friend, colleague, photographer and teacher become blurred and suddenly you’re just family. During workshops we got to the point where we could finish each other’s sentences, we recognized in each other’s faces when something was wrong, when one of us was absent it felt as though a part of our own bodies were missing, a limb that became affixed in such a short amount of time. Finding friends that you can spend 4 months with is not an easy feat, to find people you get along with, that will take care of you when you’re sick and laugh at you when you do something stupid. Who know your coffee order and your favourite television show, who will stand in a line for hours to for you to experience a few minutes of happiness. It’s rare, but we found each other and it was just that. A tour of friends, now family, that developed a shared passion for learning, teaching, exploring and building community.
The Wild Ones is not just a workshop tour anymore, it’s become a lively community of artists, models, designers and supporters who have built the walls around our group to be sturdy and supportive. There’s not a day that goes by when a student posts a photo and shares it with us, sends us a message to update us on their lives, on their journey and on their next photo idea. It’s humbling to know how something we thought would be so temporary has blossomed into something so powerful. It makes me so happy to see students working together, to see them answering questions, to see them taking huge strides in their photography and in their own businesses. It’s a sign of success as a teacher to see your students succeed.
A few years ago if you would have told me that in such a short amount of time I would have crisscrossed North America a few times by car, visited 37 states, taught almost 300 students and stood in front of the doors of Yahoo, Coca-Cola, Kingston and Vanguard not as a consumer but as a teacher and partner, I wouldn’t have believe you. But that’s just what has happened. The amount of support from family, friends, other photographers, students and businesses is staggering and it’s incredibly powerful to see how much passion people have for sharing our message.
The Wild Ones and our workshops exist not make money, or to elevate us as instructors but to grow an inclusive community of artists that believe in the power of good, the power of community and the power that anyone regardless of age, background, ability or vision can achieve success by surrounding themselves by those with a shared passion. I’ve always said that the ‘right’ people come to our workshops, looking out at our groups I see this light emitting from each one and it’s a shared light that I think is only going to grow stronger.
This year’s tour was one of change, of growth and development. I went into it feeling lost, feeling very distant from myself and very unsure on where I fit into the world. But now, just a few days after we closed the chapter on the 2014 tour I feel fulfilled, reassured and confident of what I want to accomplish. I gained this confidence from the friends I spent this part of my life with, the students who embraced us. I gained it from the dolphins in Hawaii, the redwoods of Oregon and the towering mountains in Banff.
Thank you, for believing in us. For supporting us and for making The Wild Ones not just a workshop, but a family and a community.