Now that you know some of my personal background, let me elaborate on how I became infatuated with photography. In my 7th grade English class, we had a short segment on photography. A graduate student from Duke University taught the students how to print photographs in the darkroom from disposable cameras. At the end of the segment, the Duke University student approached my teacher about a recommendation for a student to help her with her thesis project. She explained that the project involved her closely mentoring a middle school student in taking, developing, and printing his or her own pictures to create a picture book on their life. My teacher, realizing how much I took to the photography project, recommended me. After getting approval from my sister, she followed me around for a few weeks while I photographed the events in my life.
It was a fascinating experience. I had never really had any interactions with cameras before this. The concept that I was portraying my life, even if it was literal, was something I had never done in any form before. I was so used to being closed off, guarded, and quiet. I didn’t talk about my feelings or express my thoughts. Once I started printing the photographs and writing little captions for each one, I started having to express my personal feelings about the things I had been shooting. It was the start of being able to convey my inner life through photography. Once I got my first camera, I carried it around with me everywhere, photographing anything that spoke to me.
I found I was drawn to desolate, deserted, derelict objects and buildings. It mirrored the way I felt on the inside. That quickly led to taking self-portraits. I never showed most these pictures to anyone because they were entirely too personal. I couldn’t imagine opening myself up to someone that way. It was a horrifying thought, but the act of taking the photographs helped me start my recovery. Eventually I was able to start showing these pictures and digging deeper and deeper into my psyche. Now, I can take photographs that portray something intensely personal, and show that picture as part of my work. Its even better when someone can understand it, when my photograph can speak to someone on a deeper level. Photography has changed my life. Photography has saved my life.