Cabin Fever: Photography at the Macdowell Colony

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I was recently fortunate enough to be able to spend some time at the Macdowell Colony in Southern New Hampshire. The first medium people think of with this particular artist residency is writing, and then people think of music. Visual artists come next, and within that genre, there are the photographers, but only a relatively small number over the years. At residencies I often feel a bit like the odd man out - literally out, as in outside. Since I only use a studio space to print, edit and reflect, I spend most of my time out exploring and shooting - on foot or in a car, sometimes aimlessly, following instinct, or sometimes with at least an end-point in range, like some tourist attraction, taking back roads to get there. I get to know the general local outside world pretty well, but not so much the four walls and beautiful grounds that typically frame an artist's stay at the Colony.

 This is not the case for every photographer, though, and they provide two spaces that contain darkrooms. Putnam/Graphics, my studio, is essentially two studios in one building - a traditional printmaking area as well as a black-and-white darkroom. The building itself is from about 1910, the old pump house, and the interior adaptation looks like Sixties or Seventies to me. The other one, Nef, was only built in the early Nineties, and is an ideal, dream space, with living loft, very high ceilings and nice light, as well as a huge darkroom. It's a one-person wet darkroom that is the size of a typical college gang lab. You could comfortably make 20x24's there, and even 30x40's.

 One of the great things about working in any of the spaces is the weighty sense of history that preceded you. There are wood boards on the wall in each studio, aptly called "Tombstones," that every artist working there signs. In Nef, some of the illustrious names are Stephen Shore, Justine Kurland and very recently, Matt Connors. In my studio, which has names going back over thirty years, the boards read Barbara Ess, Zeke Berman, Peter Garfield, Stephen Tourlentes, Lynn Geesaman, and most poignantly, Francesca Woodman in July 1980, who committed suicide less than a year later back home in NYC. There is definitely at a (ghostly) presence of photography at Macdowell.Visit for a complete list of fellows.

Lee Friedlander, Robert Frank and Harry Callahan were all awardees at the annual Medal Days over the years, with Friedlander being the very first photographer in1986. This current year's recipient is musician Sonny Rollins. All are welcome to attend the event. To register:

 And just a few years ago, a handsome book was produced featuring commissioned photos by Vicky Sambunaris. The library of Congress page for the book gives a great history of the place:

Go for the lunch baskets, but stay for their trademark "Freedom to Create."To apply:

Name index: 
Lisa Kereszi