Well…if you REALLY wanna know…
I’ve always been a big picture-taker, and back when everyone had point-and-shoots, I took mine everywhere. My Jr. High days are very well documented.
(Why we put hearts in EVERY picture, I’ll never know.)
I didn’t realize photography was a growing passion at the time. It just seemed like something everyone did. But in retrospect, I’ve always been particularly obsessed with capturing life with a camera — stills or video.
A lovely leader from my church, Alanna Moine, used to always come to high school dances & take pictures for us. I used to get really uncomfortable getting photographed; I’d make weird faces constantly so that if I ended up seeing an ugly shot of myself, I could say, “HA! That was on purpose.” SO goofy. But I think that’s kind of common, right?
Anyway, I would always be first to the computer once we got back from the dance, eager to see if she had posted them yet. I started growing more comfortable with seeing myself in pictures, and I started to think, “Aw, I kind of like this one of me!” That was a great feeling. (Thanks Alanna!)
I started realizing how much I liked photographs. I would think, “I would LOVE to do for others what Alanna does for us.” I loved that she gave us something tangible to remember these big moments by. I loved that we could look back on the photographs months, years later and remember that day like it was yesterday.
My senior year of high school, I started recognizing this growing desire in me to learn more about photography. But I always thought, “It’s too late in the game…There are so many other people my age who are WAY better than me and have been doing this for WAY longer…I could never take pictures like that.”
But I figured I’d try.
The summer before I went to Biola, my friend Tom Reagan let me borrow his camera. I think he meant to give it to me for a few days, maybe weeks, but I ended up keeping it all summer. He forgot that I had it, and I was tooootally fine with that. I would go on photo adventures by myself, exploring my neighborhood with a camera-in-hand. I LOVED doing that. I remember taking pictures of this rusty lock and thinking it was the coolest thing ever.
That fall I went to a trial run of Shannon Leith’s “Seeing” class. I had no camera, and it didn’t matter. She opened my eyes to this thing called “seeing.” Yes, seeing. It’s what you think it is. It’s just that until that class, I had never paid much attention to things like the way the light came through the window and danced upon the dishes or the intricacies of the fabric of the couch. So this class changed everything for me.
I wanted to learn to see more, to pay more attention to the world, and to learn how to capture what I saw so I could share it with others.
I started asking people for help. In the fall of 2009, my friend Yazz taught me some basics at a pumpkin patch. I had no idea how to shoot in Manual but she explained some stuff to me. I have this other memory of heading out to shoot something & having no idea what I was doing, so I texted my friends Kourtney (Koko) Jackson & Justin Potesta for quick tips & they told me, in a way I’d understand, to watch the light meter.
Baby steps, people.
I used cameras from my school for a lonnnng time because sweetest Biola lets you check them out FO FREE. Holler.
My freshman year at Biola, I remember my dear friend Jade asking me to take her Winter Formal pictures. I was really, really excited, but nervous. I felt so new at photography, but I went for it and was really happy with how the photos turned out. I remember feeling this sense of satisfaction looking at the images as I edited them. Later in the year, she asked me to take her senior portraits, and when we did the shoot, I was still sort of in disbelief that someone would want me to do that for them.
I continued to go on photo adventures around my neighborhood, and this is one of the pictures I took:(July 2010)
Students from my youth ministry began asking me to take their dance pictures. THIS WAS CRAZY. “Wait…you want ME to take YOUR pictures?” I texted Alanna & told her how excited I was. She was always so encouraging. I started going to Homecoming, Winter Formal, and Prom and taking as many pictures as possible.
During the spring of 2011, I finally decided it was time to get my own camera. I was feeling courageous enough to make that investment.
AND I WAS SO STOKED.
I wanted to have a camera before I went to Chicago that summer for an internship. And while I was there, I took thousands of photos. I took my camera everywhere and felt so, so grateful to have one in my hands.
As I continued shooting throughout the years, people began asking me how much I charged. That was WEIRRRRD, but eventually I felt confident enough in my work to allow people to pay me. That took a while though.
At the end of my junior year of college, Elizabeth Sallie asked me one night to apply for the position of Web Photo Editor of the Chimes. Again, my thoughts were, “ME? What?…” But I applied, got the job, and spent the last year learning TONS about photography, and my relationship to the craft. There were weeks where I shot thousands of photos, and often, I didn’t really care about the event I was shooting or the story the photos were supposed to enhance. I got tired of frantically sorting through thousands of images every week.
Photography started feeling more like work than fun, more exhausting than life-giving, and I’ve had to pray through those and talk with people about my fears, insecurities, and burnout.
Eventually, I decided to ditch my DSLR for months. I only shot film or used disposable cameras. Digital photography was too overwhelming.
By setting my camera down for a while, I began to see the world in fresh ways. I let myself breathe life in without photographing it, and once I picked up my DSLR again, it no longer felt like a burden. I was excited to have it in my hands again, and felt so grateful for that season of slowing down, saying no to shoots, and giving myself space for rest, reflection, and renewal.
I’ve been interning for Lauren Scotti and learning TONS from her. I’ve been in a photo class with Shannon Leith and have learned TONS from her as well.
This whole “getting into photography” adventure has been full of undeserved blessings, and I am so amazed at God’s grace. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without the confidence I have in Christ to take risks, learn from my mistakes, and remember that I am covered in His love.
I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without all the selfless people surrounding me who’ve given their time to teach me, who’ve given me opportunities to photograph them, who’ve extended grace to me time and time again, who’ve asked me to photograph them, and who’ve poured truth, support, and love into my life.