I feel as though I need to have a polished journey in order to write this–one that has resulted in me feeling satisfied with my work as a photographer. But I don’t. I think I am just at the beginning of my journey as an artist.
(This is me with my camera, 11 years old)
I received my first camera when I was 9 or 10 years old. It was a film Kodak instamatic. My older sister handed it down to me – it was hers from the ’70s. I remember feeling mature upon receiving such a gift. I could take my own pictures! Then I’d drop off my rolls at Wal-Mart and wait a week or two to get my 4×6’s back.
(One of my first high school photos developed in the darkroom)
My senior year in high school I took my one and only photography class. I used a Canon Rebel SLR and we developed our own film in the darkroom. I learned the basics of photography and it was fun to attempt being creative with my camera. I also took multiple art classes in high school. Looking back, these classes were instrumental in my journey as a photographer. I now realize that I have always loved art and engaging in the creative process.
(This is Wei Hei–his parents asked us to adopt him)
Then I went to college and got a bachelors degree in nursing and didn’t take a single art or creative class. Being a professional photographer or artist had never even crossed my mind as a career option. Upon graduating, my husband and I moved to Beijing, China for 2 years as English teachers. It was in China that my interest in photography came back, even though I only had a crummy digital point and shoot. The people of China were intriguing and beautiful. I wanted to capture the culture and bottle it up forever. It is a dream of mine to go back someday and travel that country and take a million photos of the people and their lives.
(My winning PW image. $75 gift card to B&H.)
In 2009, I got my first dSLR, a Nikon D80. I started back at square one. I didn’t remember anything I learned ten years before and my camera settings stayed on auto. Although I didn’t grasp technical skill until a few years later, I still had the desire to be creative and artistic. I even won a Pioneer Woman contest – do you remember those?! I was so proud.
(Can we say Photoshop abuse?!)
I went through the phase of over-processing images in Photoshop, going into business way too early, not having my own vision (and therefore trying to copy everyone else) and shooting in jpeg. It was through Clickin Moms, a couple of online mentorships, and reading on my own that I finally gained a level of mastery of photography skill. It is cliché and yet true for me, one day it just clicked and I saw the light.
In 2012, I upgraded to a full-frame Nikon D700. That year I spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what I wanted to photograph, who I wanted to be as an artist. I wanted to have a vision. I wanted to answer the “whys” behind my work. I desired cohesiveness, but didn’t quite know how to get there. I wanted to have my own voice.
Like I said, I am new at this artist stuff. I have realized some themes and desires and I’m going with it for now. But I hope I never stop learning or growing. Here is what I know: I like people. I like transparency and honesty. I like different cultures. I like being a fly on the wall. I like observation of human interaction with each other and with the environment. I like street photography. I like going into people’s homes. I like kids. I like wrinkles. I like the context of the photos, details of that season in life. I love a good story.