A paper I wrote a couple years ago about my freshman year in high school reads:
The room was crowded, the people noisy and the environment slightly intimidating. There were people sitting in the chairs, at the desks, on top of the tables and even outside the door due to the lack of personal space. You looked around and almost everyone you saw had a bright smile on their face, or that spark of hope in their eyes. It was a new year, and we’ve all heard so much about this class. A place where you could do your own thing, create, and put together something was a place I wanted to be. I’ll never forget the first time I shyly asked to take out a camera. My teacher greeted me with a warm, supportive and loving smile, as he made sure I knew how to take care of the equipment and use it properly.
“I think you’ll do well with this camera, here.” He handed me a Nikon D50, holding the lens, reflecting the sunlight into my eyes, in one hand and the body in the other. “You press this button here, the settings for manual and everything is here…do you get it?”
“I know, thank you.” I said as I began on my way.
Although he hadn’t given me advice or taught me anything I didn’t already know, his encouragement was enough to push me down my path of photography. After that I spent countless numbers of days outside the classroom just wondering the campus, trying out new techniques and angles along with lighting and settings. After that I soon became one of the major photographers the team had. Throughout my time with them, on the team, my teacher’s constant support and encouragement never died down or ceased to help.
Because of this, I was invited to be apart of the editor’s page in the back of the yearbook where all of the highest contributors got their photo printed along with an original quote. The photo shoot was going to be taken professionally by PSS Imaging. I was going to be the only freshman, and only newcomers presented in the back. It was a real honor to me to be apart of the experience.
When I got to the studio, the senior portraits were hanging beautifully on the walls; the smiles bright and the eyes glittering with excitement. I wondered what it would be like to have graduated and go through everything that comes with the process. The idea of getting there was a rush of hope for the future.
While I looked through the files and past yearbooks the company had contributed in, our team walked into the dressing room one by one. A young lady came out to get us and guided us through the different doors. Everyone was very jumpy, talking about what poses they were planning on doing, or what quote they had sent in to be published. Everyone was smiling and happy. Everyone was looking forward to the experience. Everyone, but me.
I was rather nervous. I would never choose to be in front of the camera rather than be behind it. I would have always been the photographer, not the model. I would have never thought I’d know what to do in such a situation.
But when I got in there, everything happened very quickly. The movements seemed very naturally. The lighting was a bit harsh, reflecting on the white surface surrounding me on the ground below and the wall behind. The rest of the room was internally dark, mysteriously holding vague shapes of other objects I could not make out.
Later when I left, the experience was very appreciated. I was with my friends. We made a very memorable last memory together as the year ended. The page turned out perfectly when the book got published, a few weeks late. The photos were beautifully selected, the quotes incredibly original, the designs stunningly simple yet elegant.
When I look back to this class, I realize my life changed, and my path began starting at this point. When I took my first step down the path, I knew I wasn’t going to change courses. Without my experience there I would not had fallen for the art of photography, I would not had found such a loud voice without saying anything, and I would not had found a passion I always yearned for without traveling that far.
“There’s an event this week, do you need to check out a camera?” My teacher would always ask me this, knowing I would never turn down an opportunity to take pictures.
I went to many events I would have never been to if not for the purpose of being behind the lens. I got to meet so many friends, and make countless numbers of memories as time went by. My experience there was something I’ll never forget.
“This is a very great photo of her. It’s one of the very, very rare pictures you’ll see. She’s always on the other side of the lens.” He teased, eyes glittering with joy, as my friends came across a photo of me in the published yearbook we had all helped put together.
To this day, I still hold photography has a huge portion of my life, as well as who I am. I tend to look at the world as if I am constantly holding a camera to my eye. I tend to look for opportunities for a different angle, lighting, camera setting, or just place in general. As I got more into photography, I noticed myself getting more and more creative as well as open and bold. It’s a huge part of me, what I do.
When photography came into my life, I would always be doing something. Time has gone by a lot and I’m still doing things. I take photos for my school’s programs, I’m in classes, I’m historian, I’m putting together photo shoots with my friends, and so forth. I go through my photos, being able to see a storyline of my own life through the lens I once looked through. There was a period where I had a monochrome phase, or a close-ups phase. These ‘phases’ I went through told a lot about what I was going through at that time. Sometimes it was that I was facing something hard to handle and got depressed, or I was feeling girly and focused on flowers. Most of the time, I wouldn’t go far from home. There would be photos of things around the neighborhood, like flowers and the empty street, or the sunset or sunrise. There were even times that I stayed inside. I would find objects around the house and have a photo shoot with that, practicing backlighting, fill lighting and diffusion lighting. I would play with the settings on my camera, the Photoshop on my computer, or the tripod stand my dad hides secretly in his closet.
I know when you ask someone about me, you’d hear that I have really long hair, and the normal stuff like being ‘nice’, ‘a great friend’ or ‘smart’, or you would hear that I’m really into photography. People know me for having my camera around, doing events, and my photos. I love it. It’s my life, and I never would have guessed it would start from that one simple classroom.
In that classroom, I learned a lot about teamwork, cooperation and timing as well as friendships, guidance and leadership. Working on a project with dozens of dozens of other students was never the easiest task for a lot of us. Especially when you don’t ever see half the people you work with, it becomes extremely important to make sure you get your part done because someone else might be relying on that one portion. I know my peers always thought it was all fun and games working on the yearbook and getting to say you helped put it together. There were always those people who look down on us who work day and night to simply get together one outline of one page. But in reality, you learn a lot in that class. You learn a lot about the other people you work with, about responsibilities and work effort. You learn a lot of things that other classes can’t teach you, because it’s not something that’s taught but has be to be experienced and dealt with.
I’ve taken a lot away from my experience personally. I walked away proudly to have been apart of the team, and the family. And even though I’m not with my old friends or my “co-workers”, I will always have the memories and lessons learned. My life changed, and can never be rewound back.