Picture This

Pablo Picasso’s first word was lapiz – “pencil.” Ironic, right? I’d like to say that my first word was “camera” or “photograph” or maybe even “lens,” but it wasn’t. But I can tell you that my camera had the biggest impact on my life – more than any family member, Pulitzer-prize winner, or other normal childhood hero. To some it may seem strange that I can find something that’s not alive so inspiring. But it makes perfect sense to me.

I had hoped and prayed for a camera for years, and finally at Christmas in ninth grade my prayers were answered. I received a Nixon Coolpix s220 – nothing fancy, but I was ecstatic all the same. Instantly I began taking photos of anything that would sit still long enough to have a picture taken. They weren’t anything to brag about, but over time I polished my skills and my photography improved.

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Eight months and thousands of photos later, I felt confident enough to enter my first serious contest. For a month I labored over choosing, and then re-choosing, the perfect photos. I was so surprised to learn that I won Best of Show at the Pennsylvania Farm Show! Having my photos chosen from hundreds made me seriously consider a future in photography. But was I good enough to make this my career? There was only one way to find out.

Filled with euphoria, I got down to business. I scoured popular photography websites like Flickr and Teen Ink looking for inspiration, and recruited my friends to model for me. On a college visit to Susquehanna University, I talked to photography students and instructors. I took a lot away from that experience, realizing that a career in photography didn’t just mean weddings and school portraits; it involved using your creative juices and completely being yourself.

These past few months have been bittersweet. I’ve created somewhat of a business that allows me to get some publicity and more experience. However after a lovely 18 months with my faithful Coolpix, it met an untimely end on a family vacation. In addition, my parents do not support me in my decision to major in photography/photojournalism. We’ve had quite a few arguments, but I think that if they could feel the way I do behind a camera, they would understand why I’m choosing this field.

My past and present cameras helped me understand how to find myself. Photography provides an outlet when I’m angry, happy, sad, or depressed. A photo can be interpreted in so many ways, and that’s why photography appeals to me. Unlike writing or music, no photo can be exactly replicated. It’s literally impossible to plagiarize a deep, soulful photo. Every person has their style and flair, which cannot be copied.

When I stand behind my camera and push down the shutter, I know that it doesn’t matter if my parents don’t believe in me or if I’m not the best photographer in the world. All that matters is whether I’m happy doing what I’m doing. And I am.

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