Photography & Words for Cereal Magazine Volume 17”
It’s taken me a while to find my way back to where I started. I began shooting film on a hand-me-down Minolta x-700. I had never heard of, or asked for, such a thing. It was just given to me, and stayed in a closet for years before I noticed it while packing for a trip to Italy. I figured out how to load some film, and turn it on, but not much else, and then threw it in my bag. When I arrived, I walked the Italian streets with the camera on my shoulder, photographing what caught my attention. I didn’t know if I was exposing anything correctly, and the frame counter was broken, so every now and again, without warning, the camera would just stop letting me use it. I learned that meant the roll had ended, and, not without destroying a few rolls, eventually had enough of a handle on things to wind and reload rolls with a satisfactory success rate. My failings eventually got along with those of my camera. I had my films developed at a little camera shop in Torino. I remember the technician’s smile as she asked me if I had accidentally exposed some of the film to sunlight. I replied that there was little doubt that I had. She handed me an envelope, and I took the prints out, spreading them across the counter to reveal a shuffled sequence of the week’s memories. Some helped inform the stories of their neighbours, others held onto a story of their own. The blemished exposures bothered me very little. The stories were still there. When I moved to New York City, I became more self-conscious about how I photographed. I went on to befriend and assist incredible photographers — talented artists who’ve spent their entire lives studying their medium. It had never been so clear to me that there was a chasm between what I was doing, and what a professional photographer did. I worked to bridge that gap, buying equipment I thought would legitimise me, and adapting techniques I observed in others. The deeper I dived into the industry, however, the more I felt like an imposter. And, at least in one way, that’s what I was: I’d spent a lot of time teaching myself to create images I thought other people wanted to see. My portfolio held years of beautiful images that I felt no connection to at all. They lacked the sense of story that those poorly exposed prints from Italy had. They lacked a narrator. I had learned a lot, but what has taken me longest to learn is not only the importance of finding my voice as a narrator, but also allowing myself the audacity to believe that voice is worth listening to.
This series of 35 mm film images were shot in China and Hong Kong on a Canon EOS 3 that I bought, used, online. It has somebody else’s initials etched into it. When living in the commotion of New York City, I found myself constantly drawn to the quiet, timeless moments that exist amid the chaos. It’s a tendency I can’t seem to kick when I travel elsewhere — I always give myself time to wander alone in order to stumble onto these moments. I attribute value to the practice of observation and curiosity. These skills have played a significant role in developing my voice as a narrator.