5.15.2009

Personal statement

It's entirely too long and the paragraphs had to be scrunched together, but it's honest and it's me. This is my personal statement that I just submitted with my Eddie Adams application. And yes, this is seriously the self-portrait that I also submitted.



Everybody wants the same things. We just want those things in different ways. We want to find love, life and beauty in the world around us. We want to overcome that sense of incredible loneliness that we feel despite sharing this world with nearly 7 billion other people searching for that same thing. I want these things, too.

After pouring over various edits for this application, I realized that so many of my photographs were captured moments of only one person or a person solitary in the crowd. I meet dozens of people every day, maybe a hundred during the week when I’m out on assignment. Of course, I’m seeing and capturing those moments of interaction and reaction, but without realizing it, my favorites are the images of people looking rather lonely. Maybe it’s not a habit, maybe it’s just engrained in all of us, but maybe many of us are photographing someone or some emotion that we connect with. We just don’t realize it at the time.

The South Dakota winters are long. Longer than I could have imagined. Short days and months of freezing temperatures weren’t something I was accustomed to. It’s one thing to learn how to layer for the elements and navigate through deep snow drifts on the prairie, but the loneliness you feel – maybe nothing could have prepared me for that. I crawled inside myself. I could feel myself shutting out the people around me. This past winter gave me a lot of time and plenty of days stuck at the house as a blizzard roared outside to think about my work and my purpose on this planet and so many existential things it was exhausting. I thought about my own life more than I ever had before. I finally took time to slow down and ask myself how I was feeling. And in looking at my photos from those weeks in the dead of winter, I can tell you I was feeling shitty. I felt alone.

I wanted nothing more than to snap out of it. And slowly, as the days grew longer and the temperatures went from single to double digits, I woke up. I saw again. I saw things that I hadn’t seen in awhile. I saw light again and captivating faces. I has missed it. All of it. In those seven months of cold weather, I’d forgotten the world around me and why I loved photographing it. I came into spring feeling something that I hadn’t felt in the better part of a decade. I don’t know why, but all of that solitary thinking and reflecting lifted layers of fog away. I could see the world again.

I’ve been a student, an intern and now a staff member at a struggling newspaper in middle America. It’s hard to make rent, I drive way too much, and some of the editors are just plain crotchety old men. But I love it. I love everything about my job. I never had a goal of working at a newspaper when I started journalism classes at San Francisco State. I don’t necessarily see myself retiring at one, either. But for now, it really fits me. The Black Hills community has graciously opened its arms, homes and hearts to a young photographer far from anything that is familiar to her. I find myself continuously surprised by some of the things people will share with a complete stranger – like the woman who chose the moment her husband walked out of the room to whisper to me that she often thinks about how she should have been born a man. I was only there to photograph her for a local community award she had won. It’s shocking sometimes the things that people will say and how relaxed they can be around someone they’ve never met. My photo editor and mentor Ryan Soderlin tells me that I have a gift for getting people to open up. I think it’s really just that I’m honest and give them an open mind to talk to. And when that happens, I find myself sharing stories and feelings that I’ve never shared with anyone close to me. Sometimes it’s something I’ve never even said out loud. And without realizing it, we are no longer subject and photographer. Maybe we’re not even friends. We’re something else. We trust one another. And we share.

I wouldn't change that for anything. I'm one person in this world with a passion for cameras and the stories of people around me. And I want to share that with my fellow photographers and know and understand why they love to do what they do. Because we all want the same thing -- to take captivating photos that share stories with the world. We just each do it in our own way.

1 comment:

deannadentphotography said...

I really enjoyed your essay and good luck (I just submitted my information yesterday too)