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A pair of tiny Mary-Janes and ruffled socks stirred anxiously in anticipation. Ms. Bush’s kindergarten classroom leered ominously over our small heads, making my friend Corinne’s knuckles whiten and eyes instinctively shoot downwards. My navy blue Chuck-Taylors, however, scampered towards the doors eagerly. Seeing this opportunity to embark upon the unknown awakened a part of me that hadn’t fully formed yet; but this relentless thirst for the new and unexplored started early and only heightened as I grew older.
I crossed the national border for the first time when I was in first grade. I began to photograph the places I visited when I was in fourth grade. Ever since I purchased my first Nikon point-and-shoot, I have not been able to get my eye out of the viewfinder. My fascination with preserving moments began early – my mother used to ask me why I didn’t capture the Facebook-esque portraits of people standing and smiling. I, offended, would explain that I captured subjects, not people, and moments, not stagnation. These “moments,” of course, included several dozen photos of rain gutters and pigeons – but I nevertheless prided myself on the glimpse into an idea, a person, a place as I snapped photos by the second.
Interestingly enough, this concept stretches across a lot of different terrain. For example, when I am at school, there are a lot of factors that might dissuade me from going out and shooting. Maybe there is a raging blizzard outside, maybe it’s six in the morning, or maybe it’s my free period on Friday and I really, really want to take a nap. Nevertheless, my biting thirst for uncharted territory overrides any hesitation or minor inconvenience I might be experiencing. So what if I’ve walked this overgrown path in the little forest behind my school a hundred times before? Every time it feels like a different place. The colors of the leaves, the sunlight bouncing along the wood, and the way the trails intertwine are changing every second. Wanderlust can stretch across oceans or, sometimes, just 20 feet out your back door.
I can recall several instances where my thought process has been somewhere along the lines of “If I die, at least I got the shot.” Standing 10 feet from a grizzly bear, Alaska, 2007. Getting on a different train than my family, Bruges, 2012. Sleeping in the nomad’s tents at -7° celsius with only a light long sleeve, India, 2015. All very discombobulating, but oddly, I have yet to be deterred by my possibly lacking “flight” instincts that Darwin preached. To me it was all about getting the shot. To the shock of my parents and many of my peers, even my most frightening of experiences cannot dissuade me from my constant pilgrimage into the unknown. Maybe it’s because I always have the known -my camera- as a familiar face to guide me along the way.
Traversing the world can definitely make you see the beauty of your surroundings, near and far. This is, of course, good for taking pictures. On another hand, this stir-crazy and occasionally dangerous gift can benefit all aspects of life because it awakens the curiosity that is second nature to me. It shows up in my academic classes, in my extracurricular activities and in how I choose to spend my summers. And this has carried me far. In my short eighteen years, I have come to see the world around me from many different perspectives. All I have to do is frame the reality I want to capture in the lens of my camera.
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