This was probably the craziest transition into a group I experienced while I was in Marfa. I know I mentioned how the 2nd group, Hall Pass, was extremely different from the 1st group, Men Take Marfa, but this was different for a few reasons. The first was that by the time they arrived on the last night of Hall Pass, I was absolutely exhausted. Like, delirious exhausted. Running on about 3 hours of intermittent sleep and having run up and down a mountain for a photo shoot in the morning followed by a trip out to Balmorhea and a full day of travel and fun, I could barely even comprehend that we were now changing groups and the relationships we had just forged were already being pulled away and we needed to transition and create new ones on the fly. It was an awesome lesson in how journalists and editorial photographers have to function, constantly diving in to a relationship that is going to be short-lived and figuring out how to tell that story in photos in the shortest time possible.
The second big adjustment was just the differences in the group again. Where Hall Pass was definitely identifiable as being a younger crowd finding themselves and enjoying their time in Marfa, the Namaste group was defined by the collective term of Yoga. They truly lived the practice of Yoga and you could see it in there personalities and interactions with each other. It set the tone for some truly awesome friendships to form, but it was completely different from a) the Hall Pass group and b) my typical daily life. I have a formal background in Biomedical Engineering and have spent my life learning efficiency and physics and the conservative thought processes that tend to follow that line of reasoning. That description would not be the way I would define this group and I really wasn’t sure how I was going to find friendships and create relationships that would help me tell their stories for Lululemon. Honestly, the moment it changed was after dinner the first night after the Hall Pass group left when Eric and I headed back to El Cosmico (we finally got to sleep in a bed!!! In a tent! At a hippie commune… yeah… things were definitely a little different from our previous experiences and it was another awesome adventure!). We were enjoying the starlight and the clear skies and having a glass of whiskey before heading to sleep when we were joined by Kathryn for a whiskey and just getting to talk. Getting to know her and how she was going to help these awesome Yogi leaders find their voices gave us an idea of what the tone for the group was going to be and how awesome these people really were. Sleep came quick and we had one more morning with the joined Hall Pass/Namaste groups before we were full bore into our last few days in Marfa.
The first morning was awesome for one particular reason: The Alpine Coffee Company. Seriously, if you’re anywhere in the vicinity of Alpine, you MUST stop in at this place and try their coffees – both hot and cold brew – because they are absolutely mind blowing and the owners are some of the nicest baristas I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I’m not even kidding here, Eric and I drove an entirely different route home just so we could drive through and hit this place up one more time! But, I digress… After a final farewell to the Hall Pass gang, we kicked things off with some Yoga and Kathryn leading the group through their initial exercises in finding their voices. Afterwards, we loaded up and it was BACK out to Balmorhea again for one last dip in the natural spring. It was a little more overcast, but after a little while everybody was in the water and relaxing on a variety of blow up rafts, sharks, and giant balls. After a few Boomerangs and some time enjoying the cool water, we headed back to the camp and grabbed some dinner before turning it in and heading back to El Cosmico to enjoy the stars again. This time though, we busted out the tripods and the cameras and did some quick experimenting shooting the wondrous night sky. The Milky Way just happened to be at one of its clearest points in the sky and we captured some really cool stuff (while enjoying more whiskey) and just having fun out at this place that neither of us probably would have ever stayed if it weren’t for this trip. And I can honestly say that we would have truly missed out. Tents and outdoor showers/toilets would not have been my first, second, or third choice, but it was a freaking blast!
Day 2 finally kicked off the way that I like to kick off: with a good old fashioned photoshoot! The group wanted to take some cool portraits around El Cosmico and Eric and I were more than happy to oblige. The weather, however, wasn’t wanting to play quite as nicely but we jumped out from under cover when we could and made it happen with the overcast light we were given. Eric took half of the group and Kelley (my official/unofficial Art Director for the day) and I took the other half to get some fun portraits for them to have when they got back. Kelley handpicked who would be going with each photographer and it really worked out well. I would have loved to have gotten some time with everybody, but matching personalities was a great thing and with Eric and I’s talents differing slightly, it was a lot of fun to see how that shook out. It also gave me time to get to know some amazing people that much better with a little one-on-one time. My group was Madonna, Jennifer, Jamie, and Kathryn. Each one was unique in their personality and it was fun to try and translate that into photos. Madonna was so sweet, quiet, and physical that we wanted to get her in some poses that were really difficult and that she made look extremely easy and tranquil. Jennifer is – just as her Yoga Studio eludes to – a wild spirit and we captured her dancing and moving and just having fun in front of the teepees.
The second half of the group was a little different experience though and I really didn’t see that coming. Jaime was next, and Jaime became my muse for this entire group. I seriously loved shooting her and getting to know her more which blew my mind because after listening to her the first few group conversations I wasn’t sure she and I were going to get each other at all. I can’t explain what it was, but she just had this enlightened soul to her that I finally saw when I was taking her portrait just standing in front of the teepees.
This set of portraits happened completely organically and it was from that point forward that I decided I could shoot her every single day and get something completely different. She just has a life to her that I loved and even though her path is completely opposite of anything I’ve really experienced, I felt like I truly got her, understood where she was coming from, and enjoyed listening to more and more and learning from her what I could in the short time we had. Hell, I even grabbed her after a long yoga session back at the house and asked her if I could shoot another portrait of her at the house just being herself. No make-up, no set up, no nothing. Just capture her as she is and let her true inner and outer beauty shine through in black and white for the world to see. I loved it and I honestly hope that I can keep a relationship with her in some manner moving forward to see where life continues to lead her.
The last subject for the morning was Kathryn. The first time I saw Kathryn she was just getting into El Cosmico and we were pulling out and I saw her blue hair, turned to Eric, and said, “See, I will never ever be cool enough to pull off blue hair.” Fifteen minutes later that same blue hair came walking through the camp and I knew we had to get to know her better. My initial reaction was absolutely spot on. She showed up for the portrait shoot rocking an acid wash jean jacket, coffee cup with red lipstick stain, red lipstick, her blue hair, some killer shades, and looking fly in her Portland Blazers hat (gotta represent that hometown team!). The first shot I took of her was off the cuff and unplanned while she was turning to talk to me and it actually ended up being one of my favorites from our entire shoot together. She’s another one of those people that I would love to shoot anytime, anywhere and I hope that I can make it out to Portland soon and catch up with her again.
With the El Cosmico shoots taking up the majority of the morning, the group headed back and working on their voice exercises and practiced some more Yoga before it was time to gear up again and head out to Prada Marfa. No, you can’t buy a damn thing at Prada Marfa, it is just an art installation, but I get where it’s an odd fashion destination mostly because of how oddly placed it really is just outside the sprawling (sarcasm) expanse that is Valentine, TX. This time though, there was a new fly hatch and I have never seen swarms of flies like this anywhere else in my entire life. Holy crap! We were inhaling them and watching people run around like they’re crazy was hilarious! I’m not going to name any names *cough* Madonna *cough* but I swear some people literally ran a 5k in circles while we were out there. Another one of those experiences you can’t make up and its amazing what a little rain can bring up in the desert.
That night was a blast and I think the one-on-one time we had with each of the group in the morning helped Eric and I relax and truly enjoy these awesome people the rest of the time we were there. Looking back on it, it was such a short time and it went see quick it’s crazy, but it was so much fun getting to broaden my understanding of different people and different points of view that I’m truly thrilled and honored to have had the experience. I learned that we really get so clustered and surrounded by people that tend to share our same experiences, beliefs, or views on life and sometimes we have the chance meeting here or there that we might remember for a bit, but rarely do those meetings change the way you look at the world. But, being thrust into a group of people so different from myself all at once and not just having to coexist but needing to get to know them all in a way that I could tell their stories in a responsible way was something that I believe changed me forever. It changed how I view the world for the better and I think it opened up my heart and my walk in Faith as well in a way that I don’t think I could have seen coming before I left. So, thank you Jamie, Kathryn, Kelley, Eric, Jennifer, Claire, Jonathan, Elliot, and everybody else on this trip for giving me the experience of a lifetime and ending my time in Marfa with just as much magic as it began with. I can’t wait to see where relationships like these take me next.