Light, People, Energy (Photographic History)

by justine

Last Thursday, I took the day off. I’d worked the weekend before so it was much needed. I dragged H to the Annenberg Space for Photography for the “Who Shot Rock and Roll” exhibit.

It was awesome.

Growing up, I was placed into music, the way that babies are placed into pools. I was a strong paddler. Both of my parents grew up playing and pursuing music in small degrees, and so how could I not be the next in line for that fame? But I’m not sure I ever chose it myself. When it comes to music, I’ve always felt like a fraud. I’m not sure that relationship will ever feel natural.

But when prompted to “think back on your childhood – what did you really enjoy…?” music is the correct answer I can give, with a capital “C”. The truth is, photography is my secret lover.

As a kid, I took random rolls of film with disposable cameras, documenting my day, cataloguing stuff, capturing my family and friends. It felt easy and simple. No thinking needed.

In 8th grade, I took a photography class complete with a film camera, contact sheets and dark room processing. At 15, I convinced my parents to buy me a Canon SLR. I took photos of my friends and started to understand framing and color. There was power in stopping a moment in time. (I damaged that Canon when it flew out the window of my friend’s truck the morning after a prom. For someone who is quite organized, I have a tendency to bang up and break my possessions).

Right around the time my Canon got busted up, my life took a sharp turn down the year from hell. By the time I entered college I’d lost most of my ability to express myself creatively and photography disappeared. Yes I took pictures, but many of our photos from those early years H snapped. In fact, we used his digital camera for all of the time we were both in Boston, and usually only for big moments – trips, celebrations, visits.

Somewhere in the past few years, photography snuck back into my life. I’m not sure where it started, but my iPhone became a lifeline. Different blogs pointed me in good directions – Susannah Conway, Andrea Scher and  Dooce. Then it was DreamLab, Unravelling and Photo Meditations classes online.

Spring forward to today and I’m a photo-taking machine. I’ve posted 180+ pics on Instagram in less than 2 months. My feed is a curated list of photographer’s I respect and admire. People who I learn from, because I want to get better. I’ve borrowed my brother’s DSLR and have plans to borrow it again, this time armed with a one-day class. I have a friend teaching me Photoshop. I stalk Tracey ClarkBrooke Schmidt and The Noisy Plume. I bought an Olloclip.

Photography is the only creative pursuit where I do not feel ashamed, dumb, stupid or useless.

I know there is so much to learn and I have yet to execute the visions I have in my head, but that’s the key – I have visions! I have ideas and pictures of how I want my photographs to look. It’s fun, it’s rewarding, and I’m in love.

So attending this exhibit felt more like pushing the needle forward a bit. That I was there to revel in the medium but also to learn, to absorb photography from a new angle, to soak in inspiration. The prints from the 60s were the most inspiring, not because they were of iconic musicians like the Beatles, but because they were so honest and straight-forward with the life they were capturing. There was no unrealistic color, no photoshopping, not much editing. It was all about light, people, energy.

And if the new life that I’ve built for myself in the past few years is anything, it’s all about light, people, and energy. xo