Make Internet Friends. Now Go Meet Them.

I call this picture "Restoring Balance." This happens to be the host of the Silver Lake Flickr gathering, Valerie Kasinski!! She. Is. Awesome.

        I was invited by the glorious human Valerie Kasinski (pictured above for those of you that skipped over the caption), to a Flickr gathering at her family's cottage in the small town (village?....area?) of Silver Lake, in upstate New York. What is a Flickr gathering you ask? Well friends, it's this odd phenomenon in which you meet a bunch of strangers on and decide that it's a good idea to gather together and take pictures of each other. It is a good idea. It's actually the best idea ever. Period. The End. (Not the end of the blog post, please keep reading.)

        I must say there have been very few times in my life (ok just this once really...) when I had the opportunity to walk into a room full of people that I have been stalking on the internet for years. (Creepy?) It's the strangest thing to go from lurking on people's Flickr feeds, commenting about how amazing they are, reading their blog posts, and learning about their lives, to BAM I'm in a cottage full of them.  I went from sitting at my computer ogling at their gorgeous self portraits, to hugging their actual selves. My brain melted just a little; it was a lot to handle. THEY WERE ALL REAL PEOPLE! Not just colorful pixels arranged into pretty pictures for my viewing pleasure, but real life actual humans. Whoa.

       You would think that slapping a bunch of very similar creative humans into a small dwelling (with one bathroom) for a week would lead to some tension and the butting of heads. False. It apparently leads to instant best friends, and laughter to the point of tears. Seriously, I don't think I could count the amount of times I was laughing so hard my face hurt and tears were streaming down my face. These are the tears I strive for in life, the crazy happy tears that only come once in a while when you are just so freakin' happy that your face leaks. These strangers from the internet are people I can now, with full confidence, call my very good friends.

       So, what exactly goes down at one of these meet-ups other than hysterical laughter? Allow me to paint a picture for you (with words though, not paint): The sky is a murky shade of gray, the color of water after rinsing your paint brush too many times. It's just barely raining, but you don't mind the slight tickle of droplets on your face. You are wandering into the woods with a dozen other people, all carrying strange objects and clothing. Capes, wings, swords, magnifying glasses, lanterns, ropes, dresses, suspenders, helmets, chains, suitcases, and giant keys are among the many trinkets being carted into the depths of the rusty burnt orange forest. You all plop down your items into a giant heap of inspiration, and stare at it for a time. The gears slowly start to churn in the artistic sector of your brain. Then somewhere in the back of your collective minds, a starter pistol is fired and everything happens at once.                     

        Suddenly everyone becomes a big, harmonious, creative machine. Someone is over here throwing handfuls of confetti on this person so that person can take pictures of them. A photographer over there is directing a cloaked figure to dance circles around a tree in a very cult-y fashion, but it's cool. Someone is setting off a smoke bomb in the background of another person's epic picture. Photographers are swapping clothing, holding lenses, and shedding their shoes. Someone is running through the forest with a hoop skirt over their head, while another person climbs a tree. One minute you're a photographer, then a model, then a photographer again, and the next minute you're the frog wrangler. Every moment is crazy, amazing, all over the place, and utterly perfect. This is where art is born.

       I know I know, you feel like you were there, right!? Well you should have been. I have never been so creatively energized in my life. It was like I was feeding off the palpable cloud of inspiration that was floating through our little corner of the world. I'm so extremely excited by the experience I just had, about all the concepts that I shot (aka, I HAVE SO MUCH EDITING TO DO YAAY!!!), and I'm so over the moon to have met this group of photographers. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for many new works of art and stories from my epic journey.

         If you take anything away from this blog post (other than a good chuckle at what crazies we are), it should be this: make friends on the internet, stalk them to make sure they are not serial killers, then do whatever you can to gather a bunch of them together IRL (that's internet speak for In Real Life) and just make art. But be warned, it's gonna be so awesome that you'll want to drop everything else in your life (other than your amazing wife of course), and just make photos in the woods with your new friends for the rest of forever.        

Admit it, you just watched this on a loop for way longer than you realized or are willing to admit. You're welcome.

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