To add to the life transition/ moments of clarity, of late, I was talking with my photography teacher (Mr. K) after class last night.
For a little background, since January I’ve been taking a Digital Photography class through the local community college. We meet for 4 hours on Tuesday nights. I’m an avid photographer documenting nearly everything from what I eat, to life events, to a particularly interesting road sign or flower bed. And I’d been wanting to upgrade my point and shoot Samsung to a more formalized DSLR (as my old SLR used 35mm film). So I made the switch and signed up for the class for a refresher, and to get the most out of my new camera.
The class has been excellent – we spent time reviewing the mechanics of photography (focus, aperture, lighting, exposure, etc.), and learning how to manipulate and use the functions on our DSLRs. The best part of the class (I think), has been our photo journals – each week we have a homework assignment (portraits, still life, etc.) that helps us apply what we’re learning. We take specific photos, print them, and record the settings used to create the photo as well as any notes on time of day, weather, location, or any random thoughts. I’ve really enjoyed looking back through my journal and seeing how my skills have progressed, as well as remembering each photo – where I took it, why I took it, how I composed it, etc.
Yesterday, it was class as usual. We’d gone to City Hall (which is a great location for portraits in the late afternoon, by the way) for a class trip, and once the sun went down, Mr. K spoke a bit about lighting for outdoor portraits and then we all packed up and got ready to head home around 9pm.
I stayed behind to ask a couple of questions about group portraits (here’s what I learned in a nutshell: use a smaller aperture for greater depth of field to try and get more folks in view, and try to position the subjects on the same plane as well as create warmth/connection between them by having them lean in/sit or stand close, etc.). And Mr. K gave me some tips, and then offered to drive me to my car (since I parked a couple blocks away; parking in Downtown Austin can be a pain).
While he was driving me back to my car, he remembered a series (collection of photos) I’d discussed with him. My series was going to be focused on chairs (why chairs? well, with a back injury, I have a love/hate relationship with chairs of all kinds; I’ve never felt such emotion toward a physical object before).
I explained that I hadn’t done much with it lately. I tried, but the chairs I’d been using were cumbersome and difficult to lug around to photograph. I’d taken some photos of “found chairs” (i.e., NYC subway seats, benches in parks), but it wasn’t quite the same idea I’d been going for. And plus, with my recent level of stress and schedule craziness, I’d honestly been doing all I could just to complete the homework assignments – chairs had mostly faded from the forefront of my mind.
Mr. K encouraged me not to give up on the chair idea, to keep trying. He actually suggested I search for an older chair, one made of of lightweight material (e.g., wicker, or hollow wood, etc.), and one that “spoke to me” in some way.
But then he asked me the most meaningful question:
“Sarah, what’s your story?”
He explained that he was working on a series of wet plate (yes, photography circa the 1800s – Google it, it’s really neat) photos that were telling a story of two men who made decisions to become either good or evil through physical items (for instance, pitchforks). But then he said that in general, there’s always an undercurrent to one’s photography (of any kind, wet plate, digital, etc.). He said one photographer might choose to make a comment on society with his/her photos – they feel that the world is consumed with materialism, for instance, and so they focus their photography on showing society engorged with money and things. And so again he said:
“What’s your story?”
As you might have guessed, this rang true on many levels (see an earlier related post on Personal Mission Statement). With the recent news from grad schools, sitting in pre-trial limbo from the lawsuit, and realizing that the me of today is not the me of just a few years ago, “my story” is on the forefront of my mind these days.
What do I want to share with the world? What do I find most important? What moves me?
I thought I had those questions all figured out; crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s.
Now, not so much. Or maybe, I did have it all figured out, but only relative to what I knew at the time. Now I have more information, and as I said, I’m not the same me. Well, I’m still Sarah, but I’m a different Sarah. the quest for self-identity and self-expression has been reframed, redirected.
So I’ll be thinking about my story for awhile. But I’ll figure it out again.
What’s your story? And how did you determine it?
Thanks for reading, S