I was asked earlier this week to elaborate more on what I shared in my presentation last week, so I thought I’d go ahead and do that today. When I was asked to speak at Click Away I knew exactly what I’d pick as my topic. I’ve been teaching photography for 6 years now. Over those six years I’ve watched as several students have gone on to build thriving businesses. Many of my past students could be teaching me now. I’ve also seen many develop a love for photography only to allow various thieves to come in and rob them of that love. We all have different things in our lives that rob of us of joy. Some are obvious to us, some take a little longer to recognize. In my session at Click Away, we worked to discover our personal thieves and reminded ourselves what captivated us about photography in the first place.
I’ve watched from afar as many students get so excited to learn how to use their camera and then go on to take more advanced classes only to get discouraged. As social media, namely blogs and instagram, grows it is so much easier to see what other people are doing…what other photographers are capturing. With all that access comes endless opportunities for inspiration and growth, there also comes more opportunities for joy to be stolen. Thieves look different for every photographer: comparison, the quest to always have a ‘perfect’ photo, camera gear, editing skills, etc. For me, I can easily look around at the talent of other photographers and get discouraged about my own skills. If I’m not mindful and careful that discouragement can cause me not to want to pick up my camera. I have to watch out for thieves as a photographer – and in life in general.
I began my session, by sharing the following photo and asking the women to share everything ‘wrong’ with the shot.
Total chaos. Every year we do an Easter egg hunt at my grandparents house. Lesley and I hunted in that yard up until we started having kids. This photo was taken on Easter 2013. I wanted so badly to get one shot of my grandpa with all of my kids and Lesley’s kids. My grandpa had given my oldest several bags of books to borrow and I asked my son to move them out of the picture. He wasn’t listening. He was too busy trying to push over my aunt. I tried every trick to get the kids to look my direction. None worked. I think my dad is trying to hide behind the girls so they don’t run off. My grandpa is yelling at me because he can’t hear me. I shot for several minutes and that was the best shot I got.
At first I was disappointed. I mean not a single person is actually looking at the camera. It didn’t take long before I realized how much I cherished this shot. If everyone had been looking at the camera and smiling, that would not reflect those that I love. So many of the stories would be lost. This photo is a treasure to me. Six months later my grandpa unexpectedly passed away. This is the last shot I have of him with all of my kids and Lesley’s. If he was smiling in this shot, I might like the shot. The fact that he has that expression with his hand held to his ear and chaos surrounding him – makes me LOVE this shot. It reminds me of WHO he was, not just what he looked like.
There are numerous things ‘wrong’ with that photo. You will never see it displayed at photography competition. It won’t grace the cover of a magazine. And I don’t care. It is one of the most vivid reminders of why I pick up my camera. At the end of the day, I want to capture the WHO and the stories of those I love, not win a photography award or accolade.
I also shared this next photo:
The photo above was taken with my phone during what felt like a very mundane season. It is grainy. It is messy. It is a bit chaotic too. During that season of life I often felt like my youngest daughter would never transition from smoothies in a bottle to eating with a spoon. It was a moment repeated over and over again every day. In the background, laundry is piled on a chair and my other kids are pulling each other across the wood floor with a blanket. It felt like a hard phase. It was a hard, mundane phase.
The phase is over now. She eats at the table with a spoon and a bowl. We enclosed part of our front porch to make a laundry room so that chair is now usable all the time. The kids still sweep the floor with each other though. When I look back at that photo, I am immediately reminded of the difficulty and beauty of that phase of life. It is another reminder why I pick up my camera everyday.
I shared several other examples at Click Away and we talked about some other stuff too. My session was 90 minutes long, no one wants to read this blog for 90 minutes! I ended my time with this final photo of my grandpa and oldest daughter.
Whenever Grandpa saw her, he would always ask, “How’d you get to be so pretty?” She would smile and reply, “from my Nana.” On this particular Saturday night, she picked out a special dress because she thought her Great Grandpa would like it. We got to his house and started walking down the driveway. He was sitting in his usual chair, working in his garden. It is where we often found him during the growing season. My girl walked a bit and then stopped to wait for him to look up. In that moment, I was captivated by the two of them. By the story they shared. By the simple routine repeated most Saturday nights. I pulled out my phone quickly and was able to snap the photo. It isn’t a perfect shot. It is a grainy photo shot. I’m sure someone judging this photo on technical merit could list a million things wrong with it. And that is fine. To me – it is priceless. It reminds me why I pick up my camera every day. I pick up my camera for me. For my family. For those that I love.
It has been nearly a year since Grandpa last asked her that question. From time to time, my daughter and I look at the photo above and we relive the story. Though with time her memory of him will fade, hopefully that photo will remind her of the special story, the special relationship she shared with her Great Grandpa. She’ll remember the beauty he always saw in her. And I’ll keep picking up my camera.