Many inspirations translate into my creative drive toward photography. Colors, textures, lights, shadow, food, fabric, sounds, smells.. The list goes on and on. In order to really understand what inspires me, I would have to take you back to where I started in photography: a national chain portrait studio. This was the home of the forced smile and the awkwardly posed portrait that lacks personality and originality. Since this was where creativity came to die, they would hire just about anyone and I was in desperate need of a job. I had spent the summer doing volunteer work in New Orleans with AmeriCorps, helping to restore youth summer programs. Hurricane Katrina had all but swept away the buildings within which these programs had previously flourished in providing youth with alternative options to negative choices. While my adventure in New Orleans had quickly become the most challenging summer of my life, it had also lit a passion inside me that I would not begin to realize until years later. Upon returning to Michigan, I had immediately fallen back into the unemployed, college student slump from which I had come and taking pictures seemed like a pretty fun way to get back into the game.
I was terrified to step behind that camera-on-a-stick contraption which had somehow given me the power to convince passers by that I was a professional photographer who could be trusted to capture their treasured family portraits. Only weeks before, I had been trained to 1) look at a live view screen showing what was in front of the camera; 2) zoom the lens to get closer, filled frame shots or out to gain a wider view of the client; 3) turn on the different flash settings to get several desired lighting elements; 4) raise and lower backdrops; 5) use props and 6) push a hand-held trigger to take the photo. All of this magic was made within an 8′ x 8′ room during a 15 minute session. The goal was to get as many different shots as I could in that time frame in order to sell the many high-priced portrait packages that would help us reach a commissioned sales goal. We were directed to start the session with a generic wide-framed pose with a backdrop chosen by the client. This photo would be the only photo they could use for the highly advertised $4.99 portrait package, which was dangled like a carrot in front of each customer to get them into the studio. The additional photos were then treated as strategic moves on a chess board that would ultimately create an opening to allow us to move ‘in for the win’, so to speak, during the sales portion of the session. While at the sales computer we would upload their precious photos and also add edits to the portraits in order to offer what would taste like creme brule in place of that carrot they had already so desperately chased. Some might call this method of sales the ‘foot-in-the-door’ technique; I soon came to call it shady.
After working at this scene for awhile and never learning a thing about the camera I worked with every day, I had graduated college and moved out west to serve a year with AmeriCorps running a gang prevention program for high need youth in the San Diego area. This job was one of my favorite service positions and also the most emotionally stressful. I even experienced a lock-down my first month at the elementary school I had worked at while
a man near campus was spotted with a gun. Gangs in Oceanside fought over territories by shooting teens and innocent bystanders and the schools I represented were near a park that had become infamous for police shootings and other gang related activity. The stress from the pressure of trying to influence young children to somehow navigate through this life, had created for me a weight on my shoulders that literally broke my back. After suffering from a pinched nerve and having to take weeks away from the youth I so desperately wanted to create a buffer for, my boss urged me to find an outlet for my stress. I needed some self care or I would never make it through my year of service. After learning from my colleagues that California residents are offered college credits at an insane discount, I decided to take a film photography class at the local community college to take my mind off things.
That class saved me. I met some insanely awesome and creative minds and had a professor who made hearing the phrase “Now you’re cookin with gas!” a goal after the development of every photo that came out of the dark room. When I was in that lab, everything else stopped. I got lost in processing film, learning the rules of composition, studying historically relevant photographers’ works and presenting my own pieces that would represent the creative challenges our great teacher set before us. I developed a knowledge of the camera, film and light that made me see the whole world differently. Everything I looked at from that point on was framed. Life was composition, light, shadow, overexposure, underexposure, shutter speed, aperture… A click away from freezing a picture my soul could relive every time I viewed it. From that point on I had a place where my mind could go to forget about the woes of the world that I faced everyday, and just BE. I was reminded that, although there are injustices that may never be defeated, there will always be the beauty of this moment and this moment can never be experienced twice. With a camera, I could capture these moments and GIVE them to people, SHOW them, FRAME them and hang them up for all to see. Through my ADVENTURES I had learned many life altering lessons. It was this KNOWLEDGE had led to an ultimate PASSION for photography as a creative outlet that cared for my soul.
My First Self Developed Print
This print now hangs framed in my Grandmother’s home 🙂
THIS is what my blog is about. Adventure. Knowledge. Passion. The every day inspirations that drive my creativity and influence my constant growth in the field of photography. I am blessed and humbled to share them with you in hopes that it might spark a little AKP in you.