The Art of Photography

I can see the sun breaking through the trees, catching my attention, pulling me outside. The ground feels wet, and when I hit the rock path I am suddenly aware of my bare feet stinging, but easy to ignore. I can feel the strong winds, blowing my hair into a tangled mess of knots. I can sense the water poking my toes, and rushing back to the safety of the harbor. I can hear the buoy in the distance, ringing and ringing, reminding me of the vast world beyond my sight. The lighthouse light flashes a bright green, daring to distract me from the sunset before my eyes. I am alone, seeing that no one else bothered to come down to the water’s edge, where the waves are more friendly, saying a quick hello as they introduce you to the chilling temperature of Lake Superior. It feels as if I have traveled back in time within seconds, a rather inexpensive way of time travel. Months later, I am overcome with the same joy and awe from that day, all from a quick peek at my photo album.

Whenever I sort through photos from my vacation this past summer, my pictures tell me countless stories of my days well spent. I see the photos from my day at Horseshoe Harbor, and like every photo before this one, and every photo after, I am instantaneously sent back in time. I am reminded of the crunching sound the backpack made as it found its way down the massive rock. I am reminded of the sheer panic I felt when I heard the pebbles breaking free from the larger rock. The eerie sound of a tennis shoe losing the battle to grip to the surface of the rock will forever ring in my ears as I stare into that photo. I can hear myself yelling for my friend, hoping that she was more fortunate than that backpack, which laid limp in a puddle after it’s long fall. I am sent back to that feeling of hopelessness, knowing that I could not help her if she was falling, knowing that all I could do was scream for her and await a response. I can hear the smile spread across her face as she yells to me, assuring me that she is okay.

A few years back, my friend and I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to paddle out to a small island off of the shores of Copper Harbor, Michigan. The island is not visited by humans regularly, so as we approached the island in our kayaks we were not surprised to see a doe and her fawn running into the small area of woods, threatened by our presence. I decided I wanted something to protect myself, not knowing what other animals could be lurking in the woods in front of us. Because my backpack was filled with nothing more harmful than a polaroid camera and some bug spray, I opted for half of a kayak paddle. Thankfully, as we explored the island, we were not approached by anything. However, as we visited, we would occasionally hear the deer running through the woods when we would unknowingly move closer to them. While the paddle would not protect me from a black bear or an elk, it did serve as a companion in most of the photos taken that day. If someone were to look at the photo of my friend Rebecca, grinning at the camera as she stands on the shore of the island, there would be some confusion towards the paddle secured in her grasp.

That photo draws me back to that day, bringing the sound of her laughter to my ears as I try to explain why I feel the need to bring the paddle along. The strange look on her face when I began to separate one half of my kayak paddle from the other is one I will never forget. The rolling of her eyes as I went on and on about the dangers of the woods, about the unknown. The smirk she would give me as I would complain about that paddle, talking about the difficulties involved with taking a photo while holding it in my hands. Those photos rekindle those memories, reminding me of that moment in my life.

Art should have that ability to speak for itself, like those photos speak to me, sharing the stories from my past. The audience should be able to find a story within any piece of art, and those stories should captivate their attention. The art of photography allows for a narrative to be told without the clutter of text running across a page. The joy I feel for photography grew when I stumbled across a poem during my freshman year of high school. Each student was assigned the task of memorizing a poem for a competition within the school. I spent hours reading through dozens of poems, trying to find the one worth remembering. It was in “Through Dad’s Camera Lens” by Cindy J. Odom when I began to dive into photography, causing my camera roll to overflow with thousands of pictures. “Now as I look through my camera lens/new stories will unfold. Someday my children will remember/stories that were once told.” Whenever I am seconds away from taking a photo, I am reminded of those lines, and I smile, knowing that the moment I am about to capture, will one day be pulled out of a box to be shared with generations to come. Photography provides a connection to my past, reminding me of the lines I have read dozens of times, and will provide a connection to my future, offering a means to share my experiences and emotions.

In today’s society, photography has gained an even larger following, given the ability to easily share photos across a majority of social media websites and apps. The recent developments in technology have allowed for phones to have cameras, making photography more convenient and easier to handle. Cameras have also become smaller and more portable since their release, and continue to do so year after year. The benefit to these recent changes allows for more individuals to take part in photography, creating a broader array of photos to be shared worldwide. However, because of the ease and accessibility that the camera now holds, the perception of photography has changed, taking away the skill and attention photographers previously required in order to take a good photo. These new changes have brought about millions of more pictures, which I perceive to be a positive change. Art becomes more meaningful when you, as an individual, can take part in it’s creation, and by allowing for photography to become almost effortless, more and more people are becoming artists themselves, finding a new way to share their stories and feelings.

Our days are made up of a series of events that are tied together to complete a twenty-four hour time block. Each string of events combines, creating our months, years, and decades as individuals. Photography provides a way of capturing these events, keeping an organized record of our lives. We are able to pause a moment in our hectic schedules and relive it time and time again because of the power of a camera. Looking back on those photos, we do not just remember that specific second that the photo displays, but we remember how we felt at that time in our lives. While we can record our daily activities with a pen and paper, photography seems to offer a faster alternative, in addition to providing us with a photo that will last much longer than our mental images.

Without the words, the sounds, or the moving scenes that accompany so many other forms of art, photography allows for the focus to be drawn to the story behind the photo, and that is the beauty of photography, to recreate moments and feelings that were previously thought to be a distant memory.

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