Like most little girls, I loved to daydream. Mostly, I dreamt of what I wanted to be when I grew up: an Air Force pilot, a doctor, a nurse, a pro soccer player, or maybe I’d skip college all together and just be a stay-at-home mom. These among many other options accounted for the many phases of my childhood. But no matter what phase I was in, the one constant was my desire to find a career that is fun and allows me to serve others.
At one point, I was determined to major in fashion design. This stemmed from a family history of seamstresses, my fascination with wedding dresses and an obsession for coming up with new designs for wedding gowns. I watched all the design shows on TV, poured over every $5 bridal magazine I could convince my mom to buy. I even went to bridal trunk shows, and my sister would pretend she was getting married so we wouldn’t get shooed out. But regardless of all this obsessing over bridal design, magazines and shops, there were a few not-so-minor details I couldn’t deny. No matter how much I wanted to, I lacked a natural ability to draw – and I couldn’t sew either. I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to create an adequate visual representation of my concepts to share and it was discouraging. Still, I wasn’t motivated enough to learn. It took this realization to admit to myself what I already knew. Fashion design, as much as I loved it, was not my passion.
Around age eleven, I developed a hobby. My dad had just bought a digital camera, and I had new, adopted twin baby sisters. I took his camera and I would shoot floppy disk after floppy disk of pictures of them. I wanted to capture their story and how they were affecting our lives. Of course, I knew nothing about the camera’s features or settings, but I was intrigued, so I kept playing. I began taking pictures of flowers and trees, animals, houses, and landscapes. I’d go out for hours with that Sony Mavica: just me, it and nature. Soon I graduated to photoshoots with my friends. I was really only fooling around, but I seemed to have a knack for it. Then I was given a Sony Cybershot T33 at the age of 15, while on vacation in
I’ve come quite a ways from propping up the Cybershot on my dresser to get the perfect modeling shot of my new outfit with my colorful curtains as a backdrop. I now have the privilege of using a Pentax K10 D SLR which has become an extension of my arm. I hardly put it down. I love exploring the settings, the ups and downs of ISO and aperture.
I spend hours examining photoblog after photoblog from amateurs to well known to infamous photographers, from all over the world. I absorb everything I can that will help me gain a better knowledge of shooting and processing. Then I go out and experiment. As I shoot, I ask questions. What’s the best angle? What’s the mood? Is the lighting right? How about B&W? What am I really capturing here? I challenge myself. I actually enjoy learning about photography, whereas learning about fashion design was a chore. What started as a hobby developed into a passion.
When I stay at my sister’s house in the Prairie Avenue Historic District, I often slip out for a few hours of stimulation, capturing the essence of the architecture. I see shots of the same mansions in her books from the late 1800’s and even recent ones from local photowalks. But this is looking through their eyes. They never see them how I see them, and I want to share. When I have the opportunity to attend a wedding, I have a whole new appreciation for those wedding dresses as I try to get the perfect shot that captures my lingering fascination. Even as recently as a few weeks ago, I was honored to be able capture one of the last moments of physical connection between my sister as she held the weathered hand of our grandmother in a sacred covenant that cancer can never destroy…. You see, anyone can pick up a camera and push a button, but when your heart is in it, the result is much more than just a picture.
I’ve been asked many times, what I will study in college, what I have chosen for my career. I tell everyone that will listen, how I’m pursuing a major in photography. Most people are fascinated, ask me why I’m interested, and wish me luck. Others scorn me for bothering with anything less than a “real job”. “Let photography be your hobby. Use it to make a little money on the side while getting a degree in something that matters.” they tell me. I just laugh inside because only I can possibly know how I feel about photography. Only I truly know that it is a part of me just as much as my own eyes. It is my voice. Why would I want to live without my own voice? Instead of hearing their ridicule, I focus on what my mentors tell me, what my audience tells me, and I am not discouraged. I’m in love with photography. It is me, and it is why I will dedicate my whole lifetime just to capture a few moments.
Special thanks to my sister, Hope, for her superb editing skills.