Picking up a camera is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m so sure of it.
It started as a hobby and then before I knew it, it became such an integral part of me. It shapes many of my decisions and actions. It fuels my curiosity and pushes me to experiment and explore.
I started out with a digital camera, my Canon Rebel (which is actually still what I use for most events now), about 5 years ago. Then I stumbled upon the photography department at school, which got me interested in analog photography. So I bought a film camera. Then another film camera. Then another film camera. I loved the control that comes with film photography. I’m involved in every aspect from exposure to the finished print. It’s tactile. I can feel it and hold it in my hands. And once I felt comfortable with making a technically correct print, I started to experiment. I was mixing chemicals, changing exposure times, masking prints, stacking negatives, and painting on my paper with developer. I found myself more and more involved in it all. I started spending hours and hours in the darkroom every day.
Then I started experimenting with large scale alternative process photography. I made these 18×24″ prints that sometimes took hours to expose, then I’d sew into them, paint on them, cut into them, write on them, pour wax on them, and draw on them until I started questioning whether I was a photographer or a mixed media artist.
(Fun fact – my longest exposure was one month. ONE MONTH! nonstop. With sensitizer made out of beet juice. yeah.)
But I’ve never once been bored with photography. Whenever I felt like I had no more ideas, I’d just go and do something completely ridiculous, like put plaster or clay all over my face in the middle of class just to see what happens. (Conveniently my photo teacher also taught a pottery class.)
Or bothering the biology teacher down the hall to help me grow bacteria for a week just so I can take photos of it.
But my experimental nature that came out whenever I stepped into the darkroom started to follow me whenever I stepped out of there as well. It pushed me to want more from myself and my photography. It pushed me to apply for an internship with these awesome wedding photographers I’d heard about. Even though I knew nothing about wedding photography and I definitely wasn’t familiar with any sort of event photography. I was used to posing a model in a studio where I had hours to get the photo I wanted. I wasn’t used to hundreds of people running around and me chasing them with a camera just the get the shot.
But I wanted to learn. So I applied, and I got in, and I pushed myself WAY out of my comfort zone. And sometimes my photos were not so great but sometimes they were awesome, and most importantly, I LEARNED. I learned to shoot and I learned not to be afraid. And look where it got me. I’m a plus! I’m so satisfied with how far I’ve gotten, how much I’ve experienced, and the variety I have in my portfolio now. But naturally, I’ll always look for more. I’ll always seek out the boundaries and try to jump over them. I can’t wait to see what I have to tackle next.