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My daring choice to enroll in photography my sophomore year has awoken a slumbering giant. Initially, this giant (like most giants) didn’t awaken as much as it slipped from deep sleep to almost consciousness, to the murky transition between here and there. It would take one more prod to bring it to full and complete focus.
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Once I got my F-1 Canon, my first real camera, I knew it was love at first sight. However, my initial flirtation with the 35 millimeter soon faded to confusion and apathy towards the art. At the start of my second semester in photography I had low expectations for the course ahead. This initial hesitation soon turned into a budding romance once I let go of my inner inhibitions. I am now able to view my whole world through the eye of a lens. A cluster of dandelions is no longer an infectious sprinkling of weeds plaguing an untamed lawn, but a sea of yellow waves that engulfs my senses. The ubiquitous D.C. rush-hour traffic jam is no longer a daily frustration but a playground for the eye. The utter candidness of any situation brings an opportunity to be captured on film. Learning how to correctly analyze a situation and establish a shot has come to me easily through a short period of practice. Not only can I plan the composition of a shot without fear of failure, but I can plan goals for other aspects of my life as well. I am learning to take risks and initiative to get what I want out of life.
Inhale deeply. Hold it steady. Press the shutter release. These are the necessary steps for a quiet camera. I have always been obsessive about my work, but never did I think that I would spend hours in the darkroom to perfect a single photograph. Although a snapshot can be easily produced, it takes much effort to create something worthy of being displayed some place other than a refrigerator. I have learned to apply my techniques to real-life situations. When taking a picture, I must first plan the composition, steady the camera and put it into focus before I can capture the moment on film. For instance, I recently decided that I wanted a job at the local movie theater. I went there the next day, and asked the manager for an application. This simple, direct approach helped me to obtain the job I want, with no apprehensions and with no “what ifs”. When it comes time to take a picture or apply for a job, I know I simply must take the risk.
The orange darkness answers many questions. Lighting. Composition. Aperture. However, working towards an image and finally attaining one are on opposite sides of the spectrum. A mediocre picture can be composed in a short ten minutes, but only from afar will it look good. Once closely examined one would find lint, blur and uneven contrast and tones. In order to perfect, qualify and emote through an image, one must spend a good amount of time in the darkroom. I am used to experimenting with different filters, dodging and burning and other techniques which help to improve the final product. I continue to learn faster, better ways of being precise with my work. Sometimes plans do not always work out, and I have learned that the best way to handle this is to remain collected and take advantage of the situation by learning from my mistakes. As a dancer, I have had many trial and error processes just through working with others and collaborating to perfect the choreography. Darkroom experience has helped me to quickly fix errors and make judgments without hesitation.
My critical eye sees flaws others overlook. Too much dodge here. Not quite enough burn. Next time, I tell myself. Next time I’ll capture that perfect shot. Being able to recognize and acknowledge flaws in my work has helped me to gain skill and respect in the classroom. Reflecting on past mistakes and owning up to my responsibilities holds a big part in shaping who I am today. I am no longer afraid to err. I learn from my mistakes, and hope that others may do so as well. Photography has taught me to view the world from different perspectives. It has taught me to take a closer look at things that may once have been ignored. It has created an additional world for me to occupy. I am not afraid to take risks with my work. My curiosity has grown with my love for the art. Investigating undiscovered locations and evoking alternate emotions are what I strive to do in order to leave my mark.
Being assigned certain genres has helped me to narrow down my choice of subject matter and to learn to appreciate different aspects of the history of photography. When my teacher assigns us our weekly projects, I approach the subject matter with an open mind. One of my favorite assignments was to take pictures of “high art”. I chose to document my sister and father. While on our weekly trip to the shopping mall we discovered a small, dirty cove that we had never noticed before. A simple three walls and two people transformed before my eyes into multiple compositions which devoured my film. Although one roll of film may only allow for two or three good pictures, the darkroom process can expand those three into many more. Endless hours of cropping and zooming, filtering and cleaning; these skills are what it takes to create an image of value. Time and dedication are what I have to thank for my work.
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