You think I love clicking pictures, I do, I guess. It is a camera that taught me I can manifest joy in others. But the camera is only a wand that wields the love I have to give. I was 23 years old when I discovered its magic. A relatives gift to me of a Nikon FA film camera left me spellbound. This is not a story of a photography prodigy, rather one of wrestling with hope and perseverance. My images were awful, but there was wisdom in the moment - though I was not “good” at photography, I loved it. I was cheerfully intrigued that people paused and smiled when I lifted my lens.
In 1999 that camera went backpacking with me thru Europe. Unbeknown to me, it broke one week into a month long trip and upon my return to the states and developing the film, I discovered that everything I had clicked was unrecoverable. This was a pinnacle moment- Instead of being sad, I celebrated all the people I had met as a result of taking pictures. Nothing was riding on me possessing those photos. Did it really matter that there was not picture proof of that trip? My film camera, working or not, had been a totem of connection. It gave me a reason to chat, engage, smile. This was everything.
My skills grew immensely and so did my addiction to the joy photos brought to humans. My friends began to get married and I brought my camera and a bundle of black and white film to their day. The current term for the kind of pictures I captured is “photojournalistic.” I called the style emotion photography. Before the wedding day I readied an album and scouted out a drugstore with an hour photo developing option. The morning after the wedding, I popped out of bed and arrived at the photo counter the very minute it opened. Then, album in hand, I set up camp in anticipation of receiving the photos and creating the album right there, sprawled out on the drugstore floor. Giddy as could be, I joyfully curated my gift, then leapt into the car, and bound into the room of where ever my friend was sleeping. I presented my album with so much love no one could be upset with my semi-aggressive display of gifting. Together we would look through the album. That joy, the bliss of people seeing themselves happy, that is my drug.
Currently I have found many ways to love on people and promote joy. Sometimes I trade a camera for a microphone and public speak, emcee, or lead funerals. It’s the same love really regardless of how it’s packaged. It is raising the vibration in the room so that everyone feels seen, loved, and valued. I don’t need a camera to do that, but it sure helps because with a camera there is a tangible artifact of you being seen. A picture is a way to show you how I see you. You are amazing and a material image is an easy way to remind you of that.
I see myself in you. Not metaphorically. I ACTUALLY see myself in you. They say the eyes are the windows into the soul. When I click pictures of you I can truly see my reflection in your eyes. And that saying… “Namaste”...it means the light in me honors the light in you. Photography is nothing but light. Creating a picture of you is truthfully nothing more than shining light in you and through you. I raise my camera and your radiance glows and we are connected AND there is proof because we can actually see my soul reflected in your eyes. And then I show you the picture on the screen of my camera and we both smile because deep down we know this truth.
You think I love clicking pictures, I do, I guess. But I love our connection more.