Everyone’s first encounter with photography was defined by the tools that marked the time period in the medium’s history: i.e., polaroid, disposable camera, an iphone camera.
Some specific things I’ve noticed from students first encounter with photography:
- In many encounters, a family member or instructor was the catalyst to the introduction of the medium.
- Most, immediately just took photos of anything and everything. Lots of pictures.
- In a few instances, family (mothers), were disappointed with the images they made–as they were not of conventional beauty and instead of “senseless” things.
There seems to be a pattern here: access to tool, practice and dialogue in the everyday.
Access, Practice, Dialogue.
My own studio practice is not dissimilar. Usually, when I am having a difficult time in my studio practice, or on a particular project, I find that it can be attributed to the above formula. Do I have the correct tools? Do I need a new lens or particular software to render a film? Do I have enough time for practice? Am I able to carve out the appropriate amount of time on a regular basis to continue a thought, a making or a happening? And Dialogue, who or what are my works in dialogue with? Am I surrounding and immersing myself within a community that is integrated into my life’s work?
Going back, more specifically to observation number 1: In many encounters, a family member or instructor was the catalyst to the introduction to the medium. I remember my first camera. Well, I had a few first cameras. But my first real manual camera was in high school from a dear family friend, Alireza Ahmadpour. This was a 1970’s Pentax camera with a strap that made me look like a rock star from Woodstock or a Gonzo journalist. It was the best thing that happened to me EVER. I took my first photography class, a standard black and white Photography 1, which gave me access to a darkroom and some basics. I remember spending my lunch hour in there. I also remember the day that my teacher featured one of my photographs. It was a simple black and white photograph inside of a bus. The lack of color and my cropping highlighted the vertical metal bars inside the bus as sharp and striking, while the rest of daily experience was rendered comparatively dull.
Seeing this photograph makes me think of 2: Most immediately just took photos of anything and everything. Lots of pictures. I was able to view with a new vision the every day around me. The mundane, the overlooked, the daily threads of my experience into a photograph that someone else found to be interesting because it provided a new point of view–a new perspective. See, to me this photograph was quite ordinary. It was the inside of transit on any given day. I actually did not even remember taking the photograph. But as I sat there, from my seat, further in class, viewing the board on which my photograph was presented, I realized it was not a senseless photograph. In fact, from my own position, the photograph suddenly offered me a new point of view: it re-presented me with my own vision. I felt like I was able to suddenly observe my own viewing of the world through a facsimile of my own eyes.
This brings me to 3: In a few instances, family (mothers, the usual suspects), were disappointed with the images they made–as they were not of conventional beauty and instead of “senseless” things. Sometimes I chuckle at this one, as so do my students when they are sharing their experience of showing a family member their first artistic picture of dirt, rather than the roses growing out of it. But, it matters. While our families have specific dynamics that follow specific functions, schools are a place of transition–of opening one up to opportunities not afforded elsewhere.
On a different note, one that I had begun with, what I found incredibly fascinating was that everyone’s first encounter with photography was defined by the tools that marked the time period in the medium’s history: i.e., polaroid, disposable camera, an iphone camera. This was absolutely fascinating. I could almost track the history of photography through the varied first experiences of my students! Their experiences depended on their generation and family history, which directly correlated to the history of technological innovation in photography. To then, be able to examine these technological innovations in the medium’s history in relationship to how the students explained their first encounters with the medium and the feelings, sentiments or experiences they had was a real treat! I think a treat I will continue to take note of every quarter.