I started my journey in photography what seems like a lifetime ago. I feel like I sound old when I say it was pretty much all film when I started. There was the thrill of wondering did I get the shot? Did it turn out like I envisioned it in my head? Then there was the process of waiting for the film to be developed. Two years of my college experience was spent hand rolling my own film and then smelling like vinegar for days from countless hours spent in the dark room trying to see if I got the shot. I spent time hand painting on my images to touch up dust spots, dodging and burning during processing to get the look I wanted and praying I was careful enough not to scratch my negative while I processed them. There was so much more to the image-there was a story and a long process behind it. Because of all the time pouring into a film image I have always felt like there is a residue that lingers with film images. I can’t pick up old images, even of people I don’t know, and not feel something. There is a story and emotion behind each photograph.
When I moved into digital, I of course, loved it. It meant no more smelling like vinegar and honestly, after the initial investment, it meant I could save money. I could shoot more images and not worry that I was ‘wasting’ film. What more could I ask for? The only difference was I always felt like the residue of the story behind each image was starting to fade. How can you feel the story behind a moment if you don’t touch it, hold it, because lets be honest, so many images are just kept as digital files and never printed.
This was my first year entering the Shoot and Share contest. I was so nervous to put my work out there. It reminded me of how I use to feel before critiques of our photos in school. What would everyone think? I combed through a years worth of images and tried to pick the ones that I thought were some of my best work. When I came across the album from my nephews 3rd birthday session I stopped and just smiled and cried. What a journey last year was from him and our entire family. This was one of my absolute favorite images. I entered it on a whim and thought-you shouldn’t enter that, it only means something to you, what you feel when you look at it is due to the story behind this moment and everything that happened leading to this point. I was convinced, even thought I loved it, that this image wouldn’t do well because people don’t know the story behind it.
Fast forward to the end of the contest. This was my top rated image. It placed in the top 10% of the lifestyle category. It was #661 out of 19,330. I was blown away. When I voted in the shoot and share I realized something-I wasn’t voting for the most technically perfect images, I was picked the images that spoke to me, the ones I connected with. The whole process renewed my hope in the emotion that digital can evoke. I remember voting on a stack of pancakes (they looked amazing!) several times and they ended up being a top ranked image. Why did I vote pancakes over others? It reminded me of mornings and meals spent with my family which are some of my favorite moments. Photography is so powerful. It can convey so much in a glance to people who have never met you. When you take an image it can spark a memory in someone else that they connect with
The people who voted for this image don’t know Liam’s story. They don’t know that just 6 month before this we were in the hospital back and forth for days trying to save his eye after a terrible accident They didn’t see the confidence that started to return when he received his prosthetic eye in April. The joy in this image was felt world wide, connected with people I will never meet, without the back story. Despite the fact that this is a digital file my heart smiles knowing that the residue of Liam and his testimony lives in this image. People felt connected enough to him in this moment to choose this image over others.