I’ve had the same eyes for my entire life, most of us have. They’re not something you can replace or change, and if your eyesight goes bad, you can get glasses, and if your eyes are damaged, you can get surgery. But you can never get new eyes and when you’re seeing with the same eyes and you’re seeing the same things everyday, things start to blur. Life becomes monotone, one could argue this claim. One could ramble on about the beauty of nature or the beautiful impossibility of life itself, But you’d be lying if you don’t feel the same boring, blur-like feeling of everyday life too. The repetitive hours at school, the constant stream of conversations you’ve probably already had, the lazy procrastinating of tv and movie watching.
When I was fourteen Life felt dull and I felt numb inside and out, but I was okay with it. I didn’t mind looking through the same lens with the same view everyday. I was okay with monotone. And even though the high school I go to has over a thousand unique people I didn’t really care to notice these differences. I always felt like I was seeing the same people. But this monotone and dull view of mine shifted when my parents bought me a camera for Christmas. It was a Canon Rebel T5. It had a sharp black exterior and the most beautiful glassy lens. I was so excited when I received the camera, I was never an artistic person, but I wanted to be so badly. When I was in middle school I had always resented the fact I wasn’t artistic. I all too often drew outside the lines, my doodles were scribbled on top of math problems and science equations. I drew stick figures jumping from one page to the next and flowers crawling up the edges of my papers. But I never actually created art, my drawings were never coherent. I did draw but I never created anything, my friends drew utopias, they created new species and painted their infinite fantasies. When my friends were creating something, they were aiming for a unique or original image. They created with purpose, but I didn’t have purpose. When I drew I simply drew the strange absurdities in my head, no direction or purpose. Compared to everyone else I knew, that was what I lacked, artistic direction. So even though I didn’t know the first thing about cameras, photography or art, I dived head first into the medium. It was after a month of failed test shots and photoshopping screw ups when I realized I had no talent for photography. I had tried, I forced friends to pose in front of abandoned buildings, and in the midst of flowery fields. I tried to re-created Vogue covers and magazine photos, but nothing seemed to work. My photos were clearly missing something of importance and lacked general interest. They were so boring, so normal. I didn’t know how to be original or unique and I became frustrated with my failures. I began to dig myself deeper into a hole of self despite. After a while I became so enraged with my lack of artistic talent; I quit. I stopped doing photography. I stopped trying to cultivate a talent I thought would never exist.
It was only a month or two after I quit when I suddenly decided to pick the medium back up again. I knew I had no natural talent for art or photography and knew I probably never would. But it was a month in summer, my friends were all off on their vacations, my parents were working and my sister wanted nothing to do with me. So being bored and alone, I went for a walk on the railroad track behind my house. It’s a beautiful railroad, especially in summer. The tracks are abandoned and are a rusted warm red color, the tracks are filled with tall grass and blooming wildflowers It’s a gorgeous sight to see. The tracks often look like they could stretch on forever, so I thought, “maybe I should bring my camera”, which at the time, hadn’t been touched for weeks on end. Surprisingly enough, this walk on the tracks, just me and my camera, was what began my love for photography. When I was walking on the train tracks without a model to photograph and only nature around, which I couldn’t bend to my own will. I realized how important it was to look at the details already about me. I didn’t worry about trying to create something beautiful, so instead of trying to create something unique and new, I just captured photos of the pre-existing beauty around me. I quickly became obsessed with texture, color, lighting, shape, shading and everything in between. After the walk on the railroad tracks, I’d often go on dog walks and would ruthlessly stop my dog every two minutes to photograph the most ordinary looking things, moss growing on a brick walls, a slightly eaten petal, a blade of grass standing slightly taller than all the others. Then after summer, my interests grew to people’s faces. In class I’d examine the edges of a person’s face, the lively twitch of a person’s eye, the way a person would breathe when they gave a speech, the way a person would hold themselves, their posture their heads every little detail became important to me. After months of already capturing the pre-existing beauty around me, and months of obsessively watching shadows and staring at people’s eyes. I finally started to create beauty. I took it slowly, I’d look for different angles, I’d try to create images that would flash in my head. Slowly my photos were becoming something I was proud of. My photoshopping skills also starting taking off, and eventually I started creating my own worlds, and imagined utopias.
So far I’ve been published by two different indie magazines (Teenink and ALM Magazine) and featured in two different art galleries (Susquehanna Photography Exhibit and Penn State Hub Gallery). They’re pretty small achievements, pretty insignificant, but they’re important to me. And they’re road markers for how far my artistic abilities have gotten me. I went from zero artistic talent to being published. Though it may sound like a total exaggeration, my camera literally changed the way I viewed life. My camera gave me a new set of eyes with three different lens. And today I’m doing more than forcing a pretty picture, today, I’m creating art.