Dear Photography, Sorry I Left You

Photograph taken while driving from Lancaster, Pa to Bucksport, Me.

In 2010 I started my photography degree at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. I had no idea what I was doing but was beyond excited to learn. I went above and beyond what I needed to do to learn the ins and outs of my new camera. I did my best to understand aperture and shutter settings despite being unable to comprehend that the bigger the number the smaller the aperture and the less light that will be let in. (Trust me, when its written on paper in graph style it makes absolutely no sense. ) I breezed through my first 11 weeks learning as much as I could and aware that I still had a lot to learn.

Then as the 11 week quarters began to pass me by I realized that I was less and less interested in all the technical stuff I was learning. I still loved photography but I was starting to resent my camera. The only time I picked it up was to complete a last minute assignment that I forgot about. I held it with contempt instead of excitement. I did enough to fulfill the assignments technically but there was no creativity. Somewhere in the very beginning I put creativity on the shelf and made technicality and success the main focus of my photography. The less excited I was about what I was shooting the less excited people were to look at my photographs. I stopped growing.

In June of this year I finished my last class at the Art Institute. For the first time in a year I didn’t have any assignments. I didn’t have anything forcing me to pick up that ugly black thing and make pictures with it. So I didn’t.

I packed up my apartment in Philly and would have packed the camera too if it wasn’t for my husband convincing me that during the summer I would want it. The only time I used it was when he would say something along the lines of, “What kind of photographer never takes pictures?” So I would take a few pictures to prove him wrong and then put the camera back in its corner on the very top shelf of the closet. If I could justify throwing away such an expensive item, I probably would have put it in the trash.

I thought things would change when I started attending my new fancy fine art school at the end of August. I was only taking one photography class instead of the 4 or 5 I was taking each quarter in Philly. I thought that since I would be focused on learning other art mediums I would enjoy picking up my camera outside of school. Nothing really changed. I was consistent with taking photographs at my husbands football games, but that was more out of a desire to capture the games for family in PA then any sort of creative motivation.

And here is where I could offer a big promise about how I am going to pick up my camera and never put it down. That I’m going to photograph every moment of my life and fall in love with photography again. In reality that is not going to happen. It is going to take time. I still love photography, I just need to remember why. I need to remember what motivated me to turn down an opportunity to live in Italy and receive a steady pay check from the US Navy. I need to remember why I took the hard road of pursuing a photography degree to struggle as an artist.

Hopefully when I am old someone will decide that my photography has affected enough of the world to invite me to talk at their school. Then I can show them one of the photographs I took in the first few weeks of studying at the Art Institute of Philadelphia and tell them about the time I wanted to throw my camera off the George Washington bridge.

-r.n.a.

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