At the age of 12 I discovered a world unlike my own (yet so interestingly relatable) which completely transformed my pre-adolescent life. This world revolved around photography; more specifically, it was a humble little art community filled with all types of artists. I was browsing galleries in hopes of finding drawing inspiration – I was a great fan of sketching anime characters at the time – when I encountered an abundance of breathtaking portraits. Upon closer inspection, I realized that most of the subjects were the photographers themselves. It astounded me that an artist could both handle the technical aspects of a camera and create something emotionally riveting. Even though my 12-year-old's photography-related knowledge was weak, the little information I did possess allowed me to appreciate the effort that was put into creating self-portraits. This is where my photographic journey began.
I joined the art community with an attitude so positive and contagious that I completely forgot I had no camera. The only photo-taking device I owned was something that, if seen today, wouldn't be considered a camera at all. It had less than 3 megapixels and permanently resided in my antique phone. This obvious hindrance, however, didn't stop me from experimenting and persevering. A love for persistence would help me immensely in the future, especially when my personal life would begin to challenge me in every way.
Though my very first photographs weren't anything noteworthy, I loved the comfort they provided me with. It was during this time that my life began to form into a series of difficult events, ones every person can relate to at one point or another in their life. The opportunity to express myself in a healthy manner using a seemingly useless camera gave me indescribable hope during this period of time. There's something wonderfully soothing about losing yourself in a realm that cares only about who you really are and what your soul consists of. I made the most of this acceptance and, somewhere in the process, I began to accept myself too.
Self-portraits can be associated with unpleasant vanity and arrogance, but they are far more than a photo of a face. Self-portraits can also be known as reflections of ourselves; everything you love carries a part of you, be it your favourite spot outdoors or a comfortable room in your home. Self-reflection in self-portraiture enabled me to be more compassionate toward myself and others. Having to constantly face my own flaws, both inner and outer, compelled me to deal with them immediately. Not doing so would result in inauthentic images and mild regret, something I avoided at all costs.
It’s very likely that nobody even noticed the aforementioned struggles. It didn’t matter that the online community didn’t know who I was. My self-portraits carried a plethora of emotions which may not have stood out to others. What mattered in the beginning was a very personal journey which meant the world to me. Even when I felt like giving up, even when other artists seemed far more talented than me, I persisted.
With time, my mind began to associate comfort with photography. This positive relationship turned into a healthy habit which I continuously ran to whenever dark times emerged. I started a 365 project, a project which encourages artists to take photos every day, which taught me a lot of valuable things about all areas of photography. Being forced to come up with ideas on a daily basis was healthy for my younger self. I learned to fight laziness and embrace perseverance. Whenever a project failed, I wouldn’t stay upset for long. Before I knew it, photography was the most important hobby in my life. It became an immortal friend whose help allowed me to understand myself and add photographs to my portfolio.
I eventually upgraded to a better camera. When I had a solid portfolio, I began to photograph other people. Having a lot of experience with self-portraiture gave me a chance to understand my clients better; knowing that I understood the anxious side of modelling comforted them. Most importantly, portraiture was far from an ordeal thanks to the many hours I had spent alone taking photos of myself, animals, and nature. Years later, I’m sitting here writing about a journey which had initially seemed to be entirely my own, something that nobody else would know about in the future. I’ve acquired great friends and mentors who constantly inspire me. I’ve discovered a love for writing, editing, guitar playing, and more. Though some of these things aren’t related to photos at all, it was my photographic journey that strengthened my patience; this patience, in turn, affected every single part of my life. And it continues to do so in the most wonderful of ways.
So shoot, be persistent, and let photography teach you amazing, amazing things. Hold on to the things you love and you will never truly be lost.