How It All Began

It all started with a disposable camera.

At the end of every school year, I would get a Kodak disposable camera and take pictures of my friends so I could always remember them and our adventures despite being away from them during summer vacation. I would take interesting pictures. Some of my friends would deliberately model, and I was the girl behind the camera capturing those few minutes of shared laughter before going to take final exams.

The dinky Olympus.

Come junior year of high school, I finally received a digital camera of my own. It was a gift from a friend, a hand-me-down of sorts. He had recently bought a new digital point-and-shoot complete with touch screen capabilities and fancy settings. He no longer needed his old camera, so he gave it to me. I had been given an old school Olympus, one of its older models that was among the first to incorporate the sliding cap power technology that still ran off of two AA batteries. It sported low megapixels, short digital zoom, no microphone despite having video capturing capabilities…but I had to admit that I was actually quite excited to have it. Taking pictures had become easier. Rather than paying to have film developed, I could just upload my pictures to my computer. But I still wasn’t quite stepping into the photography realm. It would be another year before I formally entered that operation.

The class.

My senior year, I had a free space open in my schedule amongst the hectic classes that I was taking for the International Baccalaureate program. So to fill that space, I decided to take the Visual Communications class offered at my school. It was a class devoted to studying and practicing various techniques for both film and digital photography as well as learning the basics of the photo editing software Adobe Photoshop. I thought it would be the greatest class ever. I don’t really know how I had gotten to the point where I was interested in photography, but I knew that I wanted to learn and take that class. However, it was nothing like I had expected.

In all honesty, the class was a total joke. Whatever I learned in the class I had learned on my own. Since pretty much all the other students were taking the class for an easy A (which, now that I think about it, none of them got because they slacked off too much), our teacher spent more time yelling than teaching. So whenever I had the opportunity, I would rent out a camera and go take pictures on my own just to get away. But something happened that I didn’t really anticipate.

The jeans, the auditorium, and Cinderella.

I had somehow managed to become a photographer. It was all purely an accident. I wasn’t trying; it just sort of happened. As a part of our semester spent on digital photography, we were given an assignment, one of the few we were ever given, in which we as a class had to decide on a subject for our photos. We were then supposed to take pictures of this subject anywhere and in any way we so chose. Our chosen subject: jeans.

Hence came forth the first of the accidents. I had an idea in mind, a vision per say. It involved going to the paint room in the theatre, my second home, and using the paint in the pictures alongside my jeans. The point was that when I worked in the theatre, I usually wore a pair of jeans. I had brought with me two pairs that day, one to wear and the other to shoot. I laid the pair I was going to wear on a nearby table because I had decided to test the camera just to see how it would shoot. I got the following result:

I honestly had no clue that the camera was in the monochrome setting, and I didn’t realize that this was going to be the end result. Despite the bit of blur at the bottom of the photo, I had fallen in love with it. Apparently everyone else fell in love with it, too. This photo has received more compliments than any of my other works from photographers/artists and commoners alike. There’s just something about it. Maybe it was because it was my first time using a Nikon, a legitimate Digital SLR. Maybe it was because it was my favorite pair of jeans. I don’t know. But this photo was the first and the best picture I took throughout the whole paint series.

As if that wasn’t enough, I did a second day’s worth of shooting for my assignment that involved a different pair of jeans, a nicer pair that belonged to my theatre teacher. (Awkward? I know.) On a nice cool sunny day during class, a group of us students went out into our school’s courtyard to work on our assignment. The following picture was also the first and best of the series:

Though this was planned a lot better than the first jeans favorite, there were still elements of the photo that I had not initially intended upon. Yes, I noticed the blue smiley face on the picnic table, and yes, I intentionally laid the jeans next to said smiley, but I didn’t intend for the photo to look like an ad for this brand of Old Navy jeans. The lighting was perfection, and even though I was aware it was sunny that day, I hadn’t intended for it to look that nice. Again, maybe it was the fact that I was using a Nikon, I don’t really know, but I know that my abilities to get accidental results had proven itself to me for a second time.

After the jeans assignment, class slowed down again, but I still had reasons to take pictures. Not too long after these events, the theatre department mounted our production of Cinderella. Because I was in a photography class, I became responsible for taking pictures of the show. Never mind the fact that I was stage manager and scenic crew and a chorus member, among other things. No. I was asked to be the photographer, albeit an amateur, for the show. And thus came another accident:

Another one of those “I didn’t mean to do this” photos. I was testing the camera, this time a Canon, just to see how it operated. I had never used a Canon before, only a Nikon up until this point. But this was the result. This is my friend Eliana. Let’s just say that when she becomes a famous author one day, this will be the photo in her “About the Author” on the back inside cover.

The show gave me a second accident:

Completely overdone in terms of hair and attire, just as they should be, this shot took me a couple of takes. I had originally been on the other side of them, taking a picture as if I was in the audience. Sadly, the result was their shadows on the cyc behind them being a total pain in the butt to see. So I decided to try taking the picture from a different perspective, as if I were another actor on stage, and this is what I got. The profile of their facial expressions, the orb of light from the balcony…this was not what I had imagined. I just wanted to capture this moment like I was asked to do. As my photography teacher described it, “This is a very interesting picture…”

Alas, the end of the year was vastly approaching, and second semester was spent attempting to work on film photography. Developing film became my second favorite thing aside from just taking pictures. But film wasn’t what got me going. One of our major assignments for second semester involved entering five pieces into our school’s Festival of the Arts, an evening to showcase the wonderful talents of all the visual and performing arts programs including theatre, art, band and orchestra, chorus, etc. And so for the art gallery, which hosted both painted and photo works, I chose to use the four photos from above and a fifth piece that actually took me back to the year before when I received that dinky Olympus:

It was my real first accident. The lighting in the auditorium was different than usual forming pools of light that had never really been there before. The seats were empty as my theatre class decided to sit on the stage. It was my teacher’s theatre from the actor’s perspective, something that is rarely ever seen. And this was the picture that, through a little contrast editing, became the winner of so many of my friends’ hearts. I asked people to vote on which of my works should be the 5th piece, and this was it. And this is what really inspired me to begin my hobby as a photographer.

It all started with a disposable camera.

If I hadn’t had those disposable cameras, I never would have gotten into photography. Sure, it may have happened eventually, but I think having spent all of that time watching my friends model and taking random pictures helped me to really see how much I liked being behind a camera. And though those days of Kodak cameras are long gone for me, though I do want to return to film one day, it propelled me forward to where I am now. Besides, accidents happen. 🙂

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