And suddenly it’s over.
The last week or two at Salt isn’t necessarily a pleasant experience. It does have a very happy ending, but when I walked into the building on the last Monday morning, a few days before the opening of our show, the tension in the air was thick enough to knock you off your feet. I’d had a good night’s rest and a square breakfast, but instantly I felt squeamish. We’d finished all the work, but what about all the loose ends? The release forms and the uploading and the archiving? And aren’t we also responsible for organizing the show schedule and creating a show program, too? Group panic had landed, and for about two solid hours, I honestly felt like the show, or even graduation, wasn’t going to be possible.
But of course, it was.
The show all went off quite smoothly – and even on schedule, believe it or not – but by far the most memorable experience was showing my final projects to my subjects. The family I had been following for almost two months, the ones who’d started calling me “Stalker Smith,” arrived during the private-viewing portion of the evening. I got them all situated in front of a computer and stood back and watched them as they watched themselves, their story. There was tears and Kleenex, even though my pieces weren’t sad, and when it was over, there was silence. Which worried me, until the wife turned around and stood up and look right at me and sniffled and said, “I love it.”
They watched it again. And again. And I watched them watch it again and again. It was one of the most intense acts of sharing that I’ll ever experience. And it was with a group of people I never would have met had I not gone to Salt.
At graduation the next day, both Anne, our multimedia teacher, and Donna, the Salt director, talked of our ability to connect with people – by telling their stories and finding our voice by expressing theirs. “That’s what it all about,” Anne said. It wasn’t about money, or gunning for a hot-shot career. Because, as we’ve heard many times this semester, this field we’re venturing into still doesn’t have a sturdy business model and the big bucks will be elusive for the time being. A fat check would be nice, sure, but could it really be more powerful than what I felt while bonding with that family?
Nope, not really.
Last time I was handed a certificate at a graduation ceremony, I felt pressured to go out and take on the world. Now that I’m finished at Salt, I feel eager to keep my eyes open, my ears perked and make some meaningful connections.