Salt is good for you

Right now I’m hanging out in Portland, Maine, where my friend and host Tommy is about to graduate from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. According to the website, Salt offers “semester programs for advanced undergraduate and graduate students in documentary writing, photography or radio,” which sounds cool, but I don’t think it adequately communicates HOW AWESOME the place really is.

Each student assembles a few documentary stories – radio pieces, photo essays, non-fiction writing or some combination of the three – and then there’s a big gallery opening where EVERYONE comes, including all the subjects, the students, everyone’s friends and family and whoever else is in the area. Check out this invitation:

HOW BADLY do you want to go to the show now?? The opening is this Friday, May 16 at the Space Gallery in Portland, come on by!! I’ll unfortunately already be barreling through Kentucky or somesuch, but I’m sad to miss it. Some of this year’s subjects include a man who collects buildings, a boxing lady, a family of dogsledders, kinksters, nuns and many many more.

Right now Salt is based out of this old union building in downtown Portland, but next year they’re apparently moving locations AND they’re actually switching the photography program from all film to all digital, which is pretty huge.

The current building has three or four floors, which for the past week or two have been filled with sleepy looking young people in headphones, black and white prints of all sizes flattening in presses and under old books, and a plethora of pizza boxes, coffee cups and poster boards tacked with photos and comments (see the example of one of Tommy’s below).

A board with some of Tommy's photosAll the students have been putting in crazytown hours preparing archive materials, making final edits and arranging the gallery, so if you were out in Portland last night, you probably ran into a rambunctious documentarian or two blowing off some steam.

If you’ve got some time on your hands and this stuff is of any interest, you should absolutely check out the students’ blog, as well as a couple samples of the kind of work Salt has put together in the past, links below:

Dr. Phil: Molly Myers’ photographic documentary of an active, octogenarian Portland native, Dr. Philip Thompson, Jr.

Ride This Train: Writer Brendan Hughes and photographer Tim Greenway collaborate in this glimpse of the Downeaster Train.



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