This weekend, 15 “visual storytellers” from all over the world are convening at the headquarters of Little Brown Mushroom (LBM), an interdisciplinary publishing outfit based out of photographer Alec Soth’s St. Paul studio. The LBM team – including Soth and photographers Carrie Thompson, Ethan Jones, Galen Fletcher, writer Brad Zellar, plus a rotation of interns and collaborative partners – invited artists of all kinds to apply for a spot in their week-long Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers. LBM selected a final list of 15 artists and writers from the pool of more than 400 who responded to the call; the international assortment of “campers” gathered in Soth’s studio for the free, five-day workshop this week.
The original call for artists describes the endeavor this way:
Visual storytelling tends to be a lonely business. As such, it attracts more than its share of wallflowers. Here at LBM (home to more than a couple introverts), we thought it would be worthwhile to bring creative loners together to see what we can learn from each other. We’re envisioning a gathering that is more summer camp than classroom. After various daytime outings, we’ll sit around the digital projector and tell each other stories. From there we’ll discuss the ways in which visual stories can be translated into book form.
In a recent email, Soth said the group will spend four days this week in various workshops. On the fifth and final evening, Saturday, July 13, the participants will offer brief, Pecha Kucha-style presentations of their work, at a public event emceed by comedian and writer Brian Beatty at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis. A party will follow, with a cash bar, socializing and dancing to tunes spun by DJ Vu-Vu Zella (aka Brad Zellar).
Participating “campers” include: the LBM team, plus Hans Seeger, Delaney Allen, Horatio Baltz, Jeff Barnett-Winsby, Julian Bleecker, Elaine Bleakney, April Dobbins, Brad Farwell, Adam Forrester, Colin Matthes, Bucky Miller, Diana Rangel, Jim Reed, Caitlin Warner, Tara Wray and Wenxin Zhang.
I’m telling you – this can’t help but be interesting. Little Brown Mushroom has been publishing such surprising, compelling stuff in recent years. Of particular note is the “LBM Dispatch,” occasional road trip photo and text collaborations by Soth and writer Brad Zellar – tabloid-sized newsprint pieces produced in the style of a small-town newspaper. Thus far, LBM has published five installments: “Ohio,” “Upstate,” “Michigan,” “Three Valleys” and, most recently, “Colorado.” (The pair recently wrote a fabulous piece on the project for Vice magazine, if you’re interested in reading more.)
Little Brown Mushroom’s Summer Camp for Socially Awkward Storytellers runs from July 9 through 13. The camp culminates with an event, The Socially Awkward Storytellers’ Slideshow and Dance, on Saturday, July 13 at 7 p.m. at the Soap Factory, 514 Second Street SE, Minneapolis. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.littlebrownmushroom.com.