My Photography Journey: An undying love
As is typical with the majority of photographers in this visual world, I was a lover of photography early on. This can be mostly blamed on my mother…she had albums and albums and ALBUMS of photographs of me growing up. I loved flipping through the sticky pages with the plastic film holding memories from years past promptly in place.
It wasn’t until I hit middle school were my fascination with old photographs really started to bloom. My Grammy wanted to sort through her collection of pictures and put them in photo boxes for her kids and grand kids (prepping for the day she takes her last breath and becomes a beautiful angel). I quickly jumped to help out gathering boxes and albums, I sat on the bed in the spare room to start the task at hand. It quickly became an adventure; seeing black and white photographs of my Popeye as a high school basketball star…my Grammy wearing her black frame cat glasses with her cheer leading sweater and mini skirt cheering on Pop from the side lines. A portrait of a younger couple on their wedding day back in August of 1957. My Dad as a child instigating the 3 younger siblings who invaded his time. An all boys hunting trip, where Dad was NOT enjoying himself (he later confessed all he wanted to do was go eat lunch!) and Uncle Pat grinning like the Cheshire cat, soaking in every glorious millisecond of the hunting adventure.
With each photograph I discovered and devoured, I felt as though I had time in a bottle in my hands. Holding those photographs of times that happened long before I was even a twinkle in my parent’s eyes, I could feel history; feel it as a part of me, molding and shaping the person I was and who I would grow to be. I’ve often looked deep into the eyes of those staring back at me from the Kodak paper; wondering what their voice sounds like, their personality, the worries and stresses, what joys they carried in their hearts. Every photograph has a story to tell, even if the story teller is no longer with us.
Sitting on that bed spread in the spare room for hours, I was there until my legs and back were aching. I was totally smitten with photography and the moment in time it created as a paper freeze frame. Within a year or two, I was constantly carrying my mom’s film camera around. Just a 35mm with a built in zoom lens. Nothing overly fancy. Before long I ended up with my first Canon film camera another 35mm with built in zoom. My mom was tired of tracking down HER camera 🙂 Countless rolls of film wound through that Canon. The film department at Walmart knew me by name. I always spent extra to have double copies and share with those in the photographs. I quickly had shoe boxes full of images; from family, friends, nature, adventures. Some were good. Some were poor. I used that camera for 4 or 5 years devotedly. Then entered the world of digital photography…
My first digital camera was an extremely cheap $75 piece of crap (I want to say it was a Vivitar?). At 15-16 and not having a job yet, it was all I could do to scrounge up money to buy it. I know I did not use it long at all. At this point, online diaries (haaaay, Diaryland!) had become all the rage and these writers/bloggers were posting awesome images DAILY and I could not get enough. I wanted a better digital camera. Color me a female obsessed!
The summer after 10th grade, I got hired at Hoss’s. Orientation was the first time I met my now husband 🙂 It wasn’t long after that I had enough saved for a new digital camera. Enter the Kodak easy share. It was bulkier than my Canon. The picture quality was worlds away from the Vivitar scrap of plastic I had previously owned. I used this camera side by side with my Canon 35mm film camera for about a year. I was in love with the Kodak’s quality, but hated the added bulk the camera had when put in my purse. This is where my affair with different digital cameras started to resemble my collection of beanie babies…too many to name…too much money spent…and always wanting the next thing.
By the time I hit my senior year of High School, I was known as the girl who always had a camera. It was ALWAYS on my person, day and night. If something was going on and I wasn’t around, someone would scope me out to take a picture. This trend continued into college. I couldn’t name the digital camera I was using at the time if I had to. I just know I had one, it fit in my purse and I used it a TON. After transitioning from PSU Dubois to PSU Main…realizing that Accounting was NOT for me (I could do it…however it was way too boring!)…I quickly switched to Marketing and never looked back. It fit my personality: creative, problem solving, statistics, research. Because I switched majors (and also failed Supply Chain, ugg!) I ended up with a full boat of classes my last summer before graduation. Summer classes were six week long courses; I had 3 classes the first 6 weeks, a week and a half off and 2 more classes the second 6 weeks. Summer was quickly followed by fall and getting back into 15-16 week classes was the PITS. It was brutal. One quickly becomes spoiled when class duration is only 6 weeks long. I was feeling it for sure.
It was about Thanksgiving break when I stumbled upon Joelle Watt’s photography blog. I think my mom emailed me the link, explaining who she was related to. She thought I’d like to look at the images (she knows me all to well!). I really didn’t pay much attention at first. I’m on break at home, let me unwind before we get into finals! Eep! It wasn’t until a month later that I really stopped and checked out Joelle’s work. I was swept off my feet by their story telling and captivating quality. I read every blog post she had on the internet in one sitting. (It was a happy reprieve from homework and studying!) I would check her blog almost daily to see if new images were posted. The stories were sweet but I wanted to consume the photographs!
Then and there I decided I wanted a better camera. One with changeable lenses and options. To hell with this point and shoot. It was great for the bar scene, concerts and other outings. I had my eyes set on the real deal. I started internet shopping for cameras. They were SO expensive! Especially to a broke college student, up to their eye balls in loans (already!) and only waitressing to pay the bills. The spring semester bills were quickly due and I took out enough money to cover the semester, a chunk for books and enough for a camera. I remember hitting “Confirm purchase” and vomiting in my mouth a little. I couldn’t believe I just spent over $600 on a camera. That’s two months rent money with some left over for groceries. Buyer’s remorse? You betcha!
My Canon digital rebel Xti with the silver body and kit lens finally arrived at the apartment. I opened the box with shaking hands…a nervous excitement over finally getting my hands on it, will I even LIKE this camera? I’ve never used a DSLR, simply bought it on some what of a whim online, on blind faith and a prayer. It was love at first click of the shutter 🙂
Buying a camera in January is a really bad idea. You can only photograph so much snow before you are bored out of your mind. I still loved my camera and the images I got. I was an auto mode shooter with the pop up flash. Yup. Didn’t have a CLUE about manual mode. Quite frankly was afraid of it. Yet I’d be incredibly frustrated when certain shots didn’t work out. I did a bunch of free lance work with it. Eventually charged $50 a pop here and there for sessions. Images on a disc. You name every just starting out faux pas, I did it. Overly photo shopped? Check. Over saturated colors? Check. Under or over exposed? Check and check. Overly obsessed with vignettes? Check and mate my friend.
I continued to shoot this way for about 2 years. I had these gorgeous breath taking images trapped in my head and couldn’t get them from my mind’s eye and out of the camera. I felt like all these other photographers who were in the biz for a shorter time than myself were lapping me on the photography track. Well. DUH. That’s because they WERE.
After giving birth to my daughter and seeing that photography money was able to keep me on maternity leave longer than we had originally planned, I finally grabbed the bull by the horns to step up my game: I switched to manual mode, followed a bunch of big name photographers outside of my home town, devoured thousands of images and just heaped on the education through online forums, videos and webinars. My book shelf quickly shouted photography titles.
I was quickly falling in love with Jesh de Rox, Jasmine Star, Bobbi + Mike…all offering encouragement, real life trials and triumphs. Each photographer having a personality bigger and louder than the next. Their visions so clear; they knew exactly what they loved to photograph and why. Falling in love with another person’s work can be a godsend and a curse; you want so much to recreate that scene and they make it easy by telling you their “secrets”. Before you know it…you become a copy cat. I believe all creatives go through a window of time in the copy cat bag. It’s a a time of learning, but not really a time of discovering.
At some point my brain finally shouted “ENOUGH!” and cried out for a break from the education madness. It also encouraged me to hone in on what my muse is, my why, and most importantly what I dislike photographing. Overwhelmed with ideas and a million notebooks of scribbles, it was time to pull up the sleeves and start digging in the dirt.
I still feel like I am in the land of cultivation. Still honing my skills, pulling out weeds by narrowing my genres and educating myself on those specific areas. What do I want my work day to look like? Where do I want to focus my time? What do I need to outsource? Is my original direction still bringing me joy? These are constant questions an entrepreneurial must ask and answer.
Today I focus on babies/bumps/birth, Glamour/Boudoir and Cosplay. If I am not photographing people, you will find me creating content for Pinterest and blogging. I’ve had my work featured on a handful of websitesand displayed locally. I am excited to see where the future will take my camera and I.
You stop living when you stop learning. Vow to never close that study book.