From Humble Beginnings | Teen Ink

From Humble Beginnings MAG

March 8, 2019
By Halcyonday PLATINUM, Johnson City, Tennessee
Halcyonday PLATINUM, Johnson City, Tennessee
21 articles 24 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and cry at a funeral? It is because we are not the ones involved."
-Mark Twain, "Pudd'nHead Wilson"

Sitting hunched for hours, knees and back cricked and cracked to the point of pain, mosquitoes munching away and the sun’s radioactive rays beating into my back: that’s my idea of a good time. With every click I want to jump for joy, although of course I would never do such a reckless thing – I endeavor to keep self-destructive tendencies off my list of character traits. Any jostle of the camera on the tripod would spell a subtle, barely perceptible shift in the frame, or in another word – disaster. I fiddle with the aperture and let the mosquitoes feast, cursing my breath’s ruinous vibrations.

When I first became enamored with the spider-web sweetness of stop-motion animation, it had to vie for my time with the incumbent champion – my fifth-grade infatuation with all things doll. I soon realized that my posable dollies made unmatchable models for my masterpieces; I had faced enough struggles with the models that told me to go make my bed or split firewood before dinner, not to mention those that hissed, scratched, and chased birds instead of freezing in time. That’s how my dolls became the summer’s breakout stars, with every tea party chronicled on my gravel-scraped, Sharpied, hand-me-down camera. My several videos a day were choppy, underexposed, pixelated, and silent. My top-heavy actresses toppled between shots, triggering a catastrophic domino effect, and were propped upright with encyclopedias as I shifted each scene millimeter by millimeter. Heads and hands were cut out of the frame. Passing feet and my own blurry fingers flickered for just a seventh of a second (the duration of each frame on screen), and disappeared the next. My editing was an inexcusable hack job, usually featuring a magenta Comic Sans title and sparkly transitions. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I had become the next Spielberg.

I posted my videos online as the editing evolved, sound was added, and plotlines began to glacially emerge. Within several years, I had collected an online following of hundreds. We shared supportive comments and suggestions by the dozen, and became a tightly knit community of those who were familiar with the indents left in knees after a long summer day of sidewalk kneeling, camera in hand. For the sake of embarrassing transparency, I must admit that my “doll phase” lasted longer than those of most of my peers, and although I’m no longer in touch with people I met through those early animations, I firmly believe that they were the basis of everything I know about film. Without them, the world of stop-motion would have been relegated to the wayside along with my Barbies, Styrofoam spaceships, and dream career of professional whistling.

Six years after my dollies documented their first thrilling excursion to The Backyard, I employ the tips and tricks from their world as I polish portfolio work and make petty cash creating senior pictures. When I saw my first published photograph between the inky-smelling pages of Teen Ink magazine, I fondly remembered the day I first curled up with my camera manual. When I won a scholarship to Governor’s School for filmmaking, I wished I still had my childhood toys to hug as I jumped for joy, the already-bare box springs of my bed less than an afterthought. When I got the email saying I was the newest staff photographer for the youth-run activism magazine Lune, I almost went back to rewatch the earliest videos and photo shoots that brought me there. Almost. The thought of my tinny voice reading staticky lines for stuffed animals chilled enough to draw me back from the nostalgic precipice. Oh, who was I kidding? Of course I rewatched them, grimacing all the way. The gravel-kneed steps I took in learning to see life through a lens weren’t pretty, but they’re as much a part of me as the marrow in my bones, tying everything in my world together.

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