Today, I was finally getting around to wrapping up some of the editing on photos from my Alaska trip in September, and I wanted to reflect on and share my origin story for getting involved with photography.
My dad used to always carry around a handheld camcorder and a pocket-sized silver digital Canon. Any special occasion or family trip was accompanied by these portable, digital eyes. I constantly badgered my dad to let me use the small Canon. At first, I pictured the little device as some sort of weapon, a gun that used my vision as fuel and recoiled with a reflection of the trigger moment. I dashed around corners, fired off shots from unpredictable angles, and learned to anticipate my targets' movements. Taking photos was a practice of memorializing what I felt in the moment—the artifacts lost in the annals of the memory card post-trip.
When I got my first smart phone, the camera was what shocked me most. I suddenly had the power of my childhood in the palm of my hand anywhere I went. Photos were easily stored on my phone, and I actually had the fruits of my work to review, feel, and share out. I graduated to my first DSLR, a Nikon 3300, with a prime lens in 2017, and my relationship to photography began to change.
The limit of zoom on the prime, forced me to actively consider my composition, and thus, the story I was trying to tell in each photo. Before, I had taken photos with the intent to capture as much as I possibly could in my field of view. I tried to stuff as much of the beauty as I could snatch into the tiny viewfinder. I wanted to hoard the emotion of the moment, preserve it during the winter and save it for a rainy day. In my constant chase after beauty, I lost the fullness of the moment as it unfolded in front of me, the beauty and the exciting—as well as the ugly and the disconcerting. In being forced to think about composition, I learned to appreciate focusing on a specific story, to fully immerse myself in this little world rather than scratching the surface of the infinite multitude of worlds.
I started to think of photography as a medium of art: a way of creating tiny epoxy resin windows into the soul. Each photo I produced was a story of two parts. One, the story told by the actual picture, and two, the story told by the conditions under which the photographer breathed life into the photo. From the composition to the lighting to the color scheme to the overall vibe, every aspect of the photo shares something about the photographer, tiny hints that point back to their creator. Each photo is a collaboration between these two stories, an artifact of the people and places and emotions of a moment interwoven with a million little knots.
Now, I try my best to follow my heart when taking photos. I rely on instinct to capture the stories and moments that suck me in. I tap into my inherent curiosity to find the specific worlds that I care most about exploring. I observe. Then, I create. Conspiring with the universal present, I make a permanent snapshot of the intimacy I shared with this tiny world I had the privilege to enter. And then I move on—searching for another world to visit and come to know.
P.S. check out my photos to get an idea of the final artifacts.
This is the 85th installment in my experiment of publishing raw, lightly edited mini-essays every day towards achieving 100 public pieces. Check out the rationale and the full list here.