Thursday, September 8, 2011

Return from the Mountains

What is it about the mountains? Their spell is unshakable. This past Monday, four In a New Light artists returned from a two week expedition to Rocky Mountain National Park, and I suspect we are all still enchanted by those peaks. The trip made memories that won’t fade anytime soon. Memories of grueling hikes fueled by unfamiliarly thin air to pristine mountain lakes two miles above sea level. Memories of dozens of native greenback cutthroat trout hooked using the beautiful simplicity of Tenkara-style fly fishing. Memories of enormous bull elk wandering surprisingly close to camp, as if requesting their photo-op. And memories of unparalleled photographic magic chronicled in a sample of photos below. Adapting artistically to such a foreign landscape was initially challenging for the young photographers, but, in predictable fashion, they figured it out quickly and returned with image portfolios that would make many pros jealous.

Our expedition to Rocky Mountain National Park reminded me more powerfully than ever before what In a New Light is all about. Yes, it’s about creating great art, about connecting with nature and national parks. But above all, it’s about using art and nature as beacons on kids’ deeply personal quests for healing, renewal, and hope. Jourdyn, Brack, Renny, and Shane found hope in those mountains. They put their hearts into their photos and bared their souls for our documentary film camera. They emerged from the clouds with a newly defined sense of who they are and what they’re capable of. Yes, the mountains cast their spell.

Like every In a New Light endeavor, our expedition to Rocky Mountain National Park would not have been possible without a tremendous community of supporters. Foremost, I must acknowledge fellow Northwest Passage staff members Christy Ammend, Chris Flottum, and Wes Olson for providing essential support on this trip. RMNP staff were also critically important to making this trip happen. Larry Frederick, Jean Muenchrath, Kathy Brown, and Kyle Patterson provided planning and logistical support. Biologist John Mack spoke with our riveted group for two hours about bears and other Park wildlife.  Artist-in-residence Emily Harrington spoke to the boys about her art and making a career in art.  Thanks once again to Jeff Butler for teaching us Tenkara-style flyfishing and TenkaraUSA for providing us with fishing rods.  Interstate Batteries donated a two-week supply of batteries for all of our still and video camera equipment.  Finally, thanks to the dedicated staff at St. Croix National Scenic Riverway for helping plan this trip from the ground up, and to the National Park Foundation for funding In a New Light through an America's Best Idea grant made possible through the generous support of the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation, The Anschutz Foundation, and Ahmanson Foundation.

-Ben Thwaits, In a New Light Project Leader 

"I Am the Mountain"
by Brack, 17

I am the mountain
I am the river that gives life
I am the priceless scenery
I am the highest of the peaks
I am the rain
I am every shadow under a rock
I am the sun that reflects in the lakes
I am every life
I am every death

by Shane, 16

I stand alone
Thinking about how to get home
People think I'm bad to the bone
But I need to stop running from home
So I don't have to be alone.

by Jourdyn, 17

I took this picture in broad daylight, but I wanted it to have a darker look, so I adjusted my exposure.  I got really close to capture the beauty of these berries.

by Renny, 15

Colorful spectrum
full of life
penetrates the rainy haze

Moving forward
I'm following the light
Forgetful of the darker days

by Jourdyn, 17

This bird sings to me
and I listened.
This bird watched me
and I watched it.
This bird flew away
but I'm still here.

 "The Four Brothers"
by Shane, 16

This is me in the sky with my brothers.
All we ever do is think about our mother.
This is where we all come together
I never stand alone.

"Standing Strong"
by Renny, 15

Standing strong
against the wind
against the rain
against the clouds
I am a mountain

Standing strong
before the world
before the doubters
before the haters
I am a mountain!

"Fallen Tree"
by Brack, 17

Who stood with this tree?
when it grew leaves
when it was buried in snow
when it grew tall
when its leaves fell
when the tree came down
Who stood with this tree?

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