Mrs. Shilcutt came to our 4th grade classroom that day. She brought each of us a throw-away camera. After a small discussion about photography, she gave us our cameras and told us, "Go take a picture of whatever you want. But, you only have one shot." ONE shot? For this pre-disposed Nervous Nelly that was like signing my life away. Ok, it's got to be perfect. THE shot. How do I encapsulate all my being in this ONE shot? What subject do I choose? What angle? As I fumbled through these (what I now recognize as) limitations, I walked aimlessly around the school playground where my class was set loose to discover their inner photog.
I'd always liked taking pictures. What little kid doesn't? But this? This was a task to which I assigned my entire being: my soul, my heart, my belief, my worth, my perfectionism. I had to take the perfect shot so I could create something. Something that embodied Melody. (Cuz I couldn't just take a picture. Everything had to have layers of meaning and attachment. Dramatic? Yes. Would you expect any less from a 4th grade girl?)
So, I bumbled around knowing that it would just come to me, like divine inspiration. Then. I spotted far in the distance the school flag pole with the American flag waving proudly. This was it! My shot! The be-all end-all of shots! So, I raised my one-shot camera to my untrained eye, carefully (and at some length) framed the flag in my view at just the right angle, waiting for the perfect flag waive, and *click*. I was so proud. So fulfilled. So sure.
We all headed back to class and to the long wait for Mrs. Shilcutt to develop all of our one-shots. She returned a few days later. I sat at my desk writhing in anticipatory agony as she laid our prints out on a table. She told us to come find ours. I jumped up and approached the photo-laiden table. Full of joy, excitement, pride, elation...disbelief, horror, shock, embarrassment. My one-shot pic of that perfectly-timed and placed flag pole was a mere speck at the top of a brown, dry landscape of school building and Texas grass. In my mind, I had titled my perfect pic something like "Proud to be an American," but that quickly changed to something like "Who am I?"
I hadn't known that at great distances, if you want to capture one single image, you need a ZOOM. I hadn't known that throw-away cameras don't really focus that well. And I hadn't known that the experience would stick with me for so long. I don't remember picking up another camera for the purpose of inspired photography til the summer before my senior year in high school. (When I had to re-realize the limitations of my camera and self as untrained photographer, a lesson I'm still learning but eager to learn this time. Finally!)
The photog bug has bitten me multiple times, but instead of giving up altogether, I've kept trying. This time I'm motivated. After having my son, Noah, and being introduced to the world of mothers-turned-photogs (which is a vast and uncharted world for most), my vision changed. I got inspired by color palettes (like this from my friend, Lindsey), precious little boy moments and photoblogging (like this from my friend, Rachel), and style ( like this from styleberryPHOTO mom, Shawna). I started seeing my baby through a lens without even having one. I started taking mental pics of buildings and moments in public places and imagining them printed on canvas, grouped in a collage, and edited for color correction (see my first attempts at collaging here and here). And when unsatisfied with my iPhonography and still avoiding making a big purchase of photography equipment I felt (and still feel) unsuited for, I downloaded the Hipstamatic app and went to town. This has only fueled my photog fire. The great thing about this app is its randomness. It's teaching me the best lesson of all, which is to stop putting limitations on myself and just GO! With the shake of my phone I get a random lens and random film, so I never know what the pic will look like. (This has just begun to annoy me, however, cuz I end up taking a million shots shake and shake and shake.) Most of the photos I'm inspired by have been complete accidents. For the perfectionist planner in me, this is terrifying! But, what a joy and relief. I'm still loving this kind of photography, but I'm now eager to train myself a bit more. Still, I feel blessed to have had the chance to get comfortable with the randomness and unpredictability. I hear it's good to not limit yourself as a photographer. I'm not starting a business. I want to do this for me, for fun. So, here's to new adventures, limitless living, and a new vision!
Here are my latest attempts and pics that have inspired me... (please excuse the crude collages, photoshop is also on the list.)