This is the twentieth article in my 30 in 30 challenge, where I write 30 things I'm thankful for in the 30 days leading up to my thirtieth birthday.
I believe it was my 12th birthday when I received one of the most epic birthday presents ever. My brother and sister-in-law gave Theresa and me our very own camera. It wasn't a crud camera either! It was a slate grey Fujifilm camera with a flash that I could set all by myself. I was in heaven. One of the first times I used the camera was at the Cincinnati Zoo and I remember taking pictures of the Gibbons and just for a brief moment I felt like I was a Photographer for National Geographic.
That birthday gift revealed a talent and passion I never knew I had. I instantly fell in love with photography and that I was able to capture emotion and tell a story through my own photos. It was then I also promised myself that photography would ALWAYS be apart of my life.
I was fortunate enough to work for a local studio as a photo assistant and I was responsible for managing the "shot list", loading the camera backs with film (yes, film) and running lenses to the photographer. It was at this job that I learned more of the technical side of photography and after a few weddings I could already guess what lens the photographer would need for the next set of shots! It was a grueling job, but it was a fun job! Not only was I learning the trade, but I was also allowed to be such a very small part in a couple's very big day! I learned in the job that each photographer has their own style and way of setting up a shot and there is way more to capturing an image than just pointing and shooting. I am grateful to all of the photographers I worked with and all the little tips and tricks they shared with me because it only deepened my passion for it!
Photography was such a serious part of my life that I enrolled into the photojournalism program at Western Kentucky University. I was thrilled to be studying in one of the top PJ programs in the country and I was excited to learn the skills needed to be a successful photographer! However, a little point-and-shoot camera wasn't going to cut it, I was going to have to commit to a larger camera. The camera I purchased was a used Nikon FM2 and it came with four fixed lenses. It was an all manual camera, so there was no auto focus and I had to correctly expose all of my shots instead of relying on auto mode.
When the teacher walked around to look at everyone's camera, he took one look at mine and said, "This is some beautiful glass, but you are going to be very busy!"
Of course, I was going to be busy...kicking ass!
And that I did.
It is tradition for first year PJ students to photograph an egg on their first assignment. I remember gathering up my new found friends and went gallivanting all over the campus trying to find unique spots to photograph an egg.
Once I developed my film I ventured into the darkroom to print my selected photo.
*tangent* I feel very sad for photographers who got their start with digital camera because they will never know the magic that happens inside the dark room.
I ran my photo under the chemicals, rinsed it and brought it to a lab tech to see what adjustments I needed to make. One of the tech's said, "I wouldn't do a damn thing." So I mounted the print, crossed my fingers and headed to class.
After each assignment, every student would put their work on the front board and the teacher would choose three people to pick their favorite photo. Then, they would talk about why they chose it. My egg photo wasn't chosen and I was devastated. My classmates talked about the three they chose and the teacher talked about whether he agreed or disagreed with them. He then grabbed my photo and said that he would have picked it.
I was shocked.
It was one of the first times in my life where my work was noticed and it gave me a great sense of pride knowing that my passion for photography could be more than just a hobby, but a career. I knew I had a lot more to learn, but it was that day that gave me the confidence in my art and that moment is something I cling to when I get down on myself.
While my Photojournalism career aspirations were put aside when I transferred home, the lessons I learned my first year and with my camera will stay with me forever.
The gift of telling stories through pictures is one I do not take lightly, and it is a blessing to be able to capture memories for my family and friends. I may never use my first camera again, but I will also never part with it because it serves a constant reminder of what I have learned and how far I have come. Plus I hold onto hope that just like the bad 80s fashion is back in style now, that film photography will be in style again in the next 20 years ;)