I was trying to come up with what I should do for my first post on my new site…and my first blog post ever as the Open Road Photographer! About the only thing I could think of would be to start from the beginning because I remember the exact instant I wanted to become a photographer and all the history that lead me to that moment..
I was 15. My family was getting ready to take a roadtrip from North Carolina to Michigan for my brother’s swim meet. Not super excited by the destination, I found my mom’s old Minolta SR-7 camera. It’s a 35mm old school film camera that was made in 1962. It was originally my great aunt Ida’s camera. Ida was a fantastic photographer. She was responsible for nearly all of the wonderful photos that exist of my mom and her family. It was well known that if pictures needed to be taken, she was the one designated to take them. She always had an eye for capturing a moment, a feel, or, often, a slice of time in history. For the eleven and a half years that we shared together in this world, Ida and I were very close. I like to think that we got along so well because of our mutual love of sharing moments.
My mom spent a good portion of her early 20s backpacking through Europe. In case you are wondering where I get my sense of adventure from…it’s her. She took Ida’s Minolta camera with her. As a kid, I remember flipping through the albums from her trip and gazing in awe at all the world that was out there set on kodak paper and wedged between cardstock and cellophane. It was transcendent. I felt as though I, too, was traveling the world with every glance.
Of course I didn’t know the history of this Minolta camera when I picked it up at the age of 15. And I’m pretty sure that even if I did know, I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate it fully. I was wandering around our campsite in Michigan trying to find something to take a photo of when I came upon a bit of light that was flickering through some leaves. I snapped the photo. It was the first photo I had ever taken with a real camera. The less-than-stellar point-and-shoots of the 90s don’t count. When I came back from the trip I immediately got the photos developed and looked in awe at the wonderful sunburst that I had captured on film. My first photo.
As I look at it now it’s not even that great of a photo. But 15-year-old-me was hooked. I started taking photography classes at a local community art center. When I turned 16, my parents bought me a 1985 Nikon N2000. It was my pride and joy. I always shot in black and white Ilford HP5 plus. And, eventually, I converted my bathroom into a full-blown dark room where I developed and processed film and made prints using an enlarger. I loved everything about that process. But nothing was more fun than when you put the photo paper that you had just burned an image on into the developer solution and watched the image appear, cast with the red tone of the darkroom light. There is a magic that happens with the old process for photography that is completely lost in the digital age. I miss it.
Somewhere along the line, I burnt out on photography. My passion over the next decade would consist of words. But even as a writer, I found ways to incorporate images. There wasn’t a story, article, or poem that I wrote where I wasn’t imagining exactly what it looked like in black and white film, emerging on the paper from the developer solution. Occasionally, I would use a cheap digital camera to dabble in photos here and there. I always loved it, but because of my burn out, I felt like I could never return.
I was wrong. My return to photography came in 2011 when a coworker posted that they had a Nikon D40 camera for sale for $300. It was a steal. And, even if it wasn’t, I would go back and do it all over again I couldn’t even put a price tag on how valuable that camera is to me. I took it with me on my trip to the Shetland Islands a few months later. And that is where I fell in love with photography again. I snapped pictures of everything wanting to remember all the details of this beautiful and distant land.
When I came back from Shetland, I brought back with me a renewed sense of enjoyment that taking photos gave me. There truly is something wonderful that happens when you get a great shot. Soon after I got back, people started asking me if I do family photos. I didn’t…but it sounded like an excellent idea. All it took was one person asking me. I’ve been so fortunate to have so many opportunities come my way. I run my business completely by word of mouth and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Last year was an incredible, mind-opening year for me. I had not expected my tiny little part-time business to boom like it did. But what a wonderful surprise!
Everything has come full-circle since the adolescent version of me picked up that Minolta out of sheer boredom, clicked a button and let the light burn into the film and then watching as that negative emerged as a positive, floating up from the tub of developer solution.
At it’s core, photography is the art of turning a negative into a positive. I don’t know, specifically, what the negative was in my life before I found photography again…but everything seems more wonderful now. Filled with vibrant colors, characters and contrast…and all the memories led me here.