Photography came into my life at a time of complete and utter turmoil. I was depressed, and lacking the purpose I so desperately craved. My last semester in Mankato, I only took three classes, one of them being black and white film photography. If it weren’t for that class, I’m not sure where I’d be today.
There’s a weird thing about hopelessness, everything feels pointless. The only tangible evidence of being productive came to me the first time I came out of the darkroom with an image I had taken. That slightly wet piece of paper, with a picture I created, brought me a sense of purpose, something I hadn’t felt in months. I became addicted to that feeling. I should have been sleeping, but in between classes and work, I would spend hours in the darkroom. Ten hours, standing in the dark staring at an 8 by 10 piece of paper, was the minimum each week. Occasionally racking up well over 30. Having a hand in creating something from start to finish brought me a kind of joy I wasn’t familiar with. After being numb to life for so long, it was a welcoming feeling.
When I wasn’t developing film and making prints, I was sitting at the coffee shop, binge watching photography classes like people binge watch shows on Netflix. Photography became my only solace in the darkest time of my life. It kept me alive. Nowadays, after being on medication for nearly three years, photography is still one of the few things that makes me feel truly alive, truly happy. If it weren’t for my photography teacher, I would have never gotten the help I so desperately needed, or found the brightest light in my life to this day.
I’ve learned these past few years that it’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to not do whatever you can to improve yourself and find the happiness that we all deserve. Photography illuminated the dark world I was living in, and helped me to find a way out.
Yesterday I took pictures of a friend’s wedding, for free. My friend Tyler, who was getting paid to photograph, told me, “I can’t believe you’re doing this for no money.” The thing is, if money wasn’t an issue, I’d do it for free all the time. Getting paid to photograph is wonderful, because it’s another for of affirmation for my work. But freezing a moment in history, especially on film, is payment enough sometimes. If you’re in a dark place, why not do whatever you can to chase that light?