I am terrified, in a good way…maybe.

Below are the selection of images that I have submitted to the Artist in Residence program at Badlands National Park. What is the Artist in Residence program and why is it important to me? Well, keep reading to find out.

What is the Artist in Residence Program?

Many of our National Parks across the country give the opportunity for artists of many disciplines to apply, and if chosen, spend four to six weeks working in the park on an project that helps to tell a story about the park. The artist spend that time within the park and works closely with the park staff. Some of that time is spent working as a park volunteer on projects that directly help the park, but a coordinated amount of time is spend on that artists project directly.

One of the specific goals is not only to offer presentations of the meaning of the art to students and the community, but also to host a presentation in the artists home area. The idea to to share the impact of the art created in relationship to the wonder of the park.

My application

I have applied for the program at Badlands NP, and my goal is to tell the story of how climate change is affecting the park. My goal is to work with the park directly to show the past and what trends are currently happening, but also to work closely with the indigenous tribes of the area as their connection to the land is critical in my view to helping to foster the idea of taking care of our land. If I were to pick a specific interpretive theme listed, it would certainly be heavily influenced by the “sacred landscape” theme. Though not entirely driven by that theme, I wholeheartedly believe in the idea that some land is indeed sacred more so than. Our entire existence has happened on this planet; and for the foreseeable future, this is all we have.

If I am chosen

The specifics will of course be closely coordinated with the park staff under the guidelines of the program. But, I want to work closely with the ecologists and biologists in the park. Our changing climate is driving rapid change within the wildlife and ecosystem of the park. I am not an expert in either of those fields. So, it is critical for me to partner with those who are. I also want to work with geologists to showcase how the landscape itself is changing. One unique thing about the Badlands area is how rapid the topology of the park can change. Due to the geological makeup of the land, it is very susceptible to changing precipitation patterns. The can vary from year to year, not just decade to decade.

For my medium of work, I will primarily be using digital of course. It offers me the most versatility to tell my story. However, I am hoping and planning to bring my large format film camera. There is something about the park that I feel needs to touch of such a “grand” format. 4×5″ film offers a look and feel that digital just can’t replicate.

Why I am so scared?

Most people would think that I am scared of being told “You are not quite qualified.” Or, “Your idea just isn’t what we are looking for.” While I am of course afraid of that outcome, I am honestly more afraid of the the possibility of letting someone down if I am chosen.

I consider myself a fairly skilled photographer. I have also been reassured by many other photographers that I indeed have the skills. What I am constantly afraid of, in nearly all aspects of my life, is what happens if I let someone down? What do I do if I am chosen, and I am not able to tell the story I promised to tell? That terrifies me.

I am sure that with the planning and coordination with the staff, and already having a solid idea of my goals going into this…as well as having been to the park multiple times, I am overly concerned. In the back of my head though, this will continue to haunt me.

I hope that later this summer I am writing again to let you know a positive outcome from my application. I am completing this goal even if I am not selected. This is a project that I need to complete for myself, regardless of who is there by my side.

Thank you,
Shawn