I’ll be honest. When we first hatched the idea of teaming up with Camp Encourage, a camp for kids on the Autism spectrum, for Camp Wirkshop the idea of wanting to give back with as a workshop was not the sole purpose we had in mind. Brandon Parigo and I first were introduced to Camp Encourage a few years ago when they hired him to do a documentary video for them for use at their annual fund raising gala. I simply tagged along to do still photos. I had little idea what being Autistic really meant and I even less of an idea how being around these kids and part of this camp would effect me. Seeing what this organization does for these children is nothing but astounding. On the surface they play games, cook smores, go zip lining, horseback riding and swim but this camp is way more than that. This camp encourages self confidence, and changes these kids many of which have never slept away from home their entire lives.
To see how these kids open up from day one to the end of camp is nothing short of amazing. They seem to leave a little bit different. It was awesome to watch and it was a story we wanted to tell. It only made sense to tell those stories on a bigger scale than just what Brandon and I could do so Camp Wirkshop was born. The idea was simple. Let’s make a workshop for photographers that helps them learn how to tell better stories visually. As photographers there is only so much of the story we can tell. It is an inherent problem with photographs. While a single still image is powerful it can lack the addition of sound like video can offer. Thing is most photographers have little interest in doing video, me included, but need the ability to tell better stories. That is where the use of multi-media comes in. The perfect blend of powerful still images and audio capture put together into a short film can move mountains. The films our students worked so hard on to make while at camp ended up being shown at Camp Encourage’s S’mores and Pours fund raising event and helped the camp to raise over $35,000 for the camp. To know that all of our work literally paid off ended up being so much more than we expected out of this Wirkshop.
In the end Camp Encourage surprised us all with what it gave us. Most importantly it gave us all purpose.
It also gave us an experience beyond any workshop I have ever attended. We knew this was going to an adventure. I mean how could it not with 11 strangers all living and sleeping in a one room cabin in bunk beds for a week? I was honestly a bit nervous how this would go as it is something I have never done before. I had thoughts of how are we going to do this? There is one shower, one bathroom, and 11 people. I never went to summer camp as a kid so that most likely contributed to my concern but in the end that cabin, those people, are what made this such an incredible experience. I can’t imagine having more fun if we all had our own rooms. We started as a group of photographers and left as a family. Wouldn’t change anything.
We laughed, we cried, we sweat(a lot), ate every meal together, and left better people, better photographers, better friends, and better storytellers.
If you are wanting to up your documentary photography game and learn to tell better stories and think the idea of sharing a one room cabin with 11 people sounds exciting then join us for Camp Wirkshop in Kansas City, Missouri July 15th-19th 2019.
Limited space available.
Read more about Camp Encourage here: https://campencourage.org/
Sign up for Camp Wirkshop here:
Photos by: Craig Fritz