When I was in high school, my dream job was to be a photographer for National Geographic. Get to travel the world? Take incredible photos? Immerse yourself in new cultures and languages? It sounded perfect to me. Until I watched a documentary on what the reality of being a photographer for National Geographic entails. 6 months to 1 year on location. Waiting days and days for an animal to appear so you can capture it on camera. A semi-permanent nomadic lifestyle, away from friends and family. I didn’t think I could have that kind of lifestyle if I also wanted to have a family.
While in high school, I took two years of film photography classes and one year of digital photography. I absolutely loved film, and still think that there is a quality that film has a digital camera simply cannot capture. In these classes, we learned how to develop the film, make emulsion lifts, and how to completely manually operate a camera. I loved going out, finding the perfect lighting, experimenting with my camera, developing my own film, and then printing my own photos from our school’s light boxes. I feel very fortunate to have been able to take these classes, and that the school I went to offered such in-depth photography training to high school students.
My photography teacher offered a three-week school photography trip every summer. I went on them for two summers in a row–one to China when I was 16, and one to Southeast Asia (Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Singapore) when I was 17. These experiences completely changed my worldview and made me interested in studying more about these cultures, not just taking pictures of them.
On these trips, I brought both my digital camera and my film camera. I enjoyed using my film camera because my dad got it when he was an LDS missionary in Japan. It’s an old Cannon and using it made me fall in love with film photography.
When I got to college, I was split between studying photography or anthropology (equally useless college degrees some might say, but hey, I’m a millennial–what do you expect?). I eventually chose to study sociocultural anthropology and never looked back. I was really happy with my decision, and I think it not only influenced my education but also my worldview. Obviously, photography took a backseat for me.
As part of my undergraduate degree, I had to spend a semester conducting a field study. I chose to go with my school to Visakapatnam, India, where we lived for about 5 months. While there, I focused my study on how those with physical disabilities were treated in Indian society. I brought my Cannon DSLR, but honestly, I didn’t take many photos while there. I remember thinking, “I’m here to do my field study, not to do photography.” Kind of seems like a wasted opportunity looking back, but it made sense to me at the time. I wanted to “blend in” as much as possible, and sticking a camera in people’s faces didn’t feel like the right thing to do at that time.
Now that we live in Guatemala, I have lots of opportunities to take photos. I’ve learned a bit more about ethical and developmental photography, so I’m more careful with how I take pictures. With all of this in mind, I want to recommit myself to taking photos, even if it means carrying around my heavy camera or going out of my way while we are out. I would like to improve on a skill that I used to consider a talent, but that has taken a backseat for the last few years of my life. I don’t necessarily need to be an amazing photographer, but I want to be able to take decent photos for myself and my family. This is the perfect time to get back into it after a few year hiatus away from photography. I hope that as I do so, it will be reflected in a positive way on this blog.
Here is a link to my old website, which mostly consists of high school projects (film, emulsion lifts, and digital): http://awhite5.wix.com/audrey.
What is your experience with photography?