I often joke that my job is to learn to do the things that need to get done so we don’t have to pay someone else to do them. It might be a joke but it’s not far from the truth at all, I’ve been the Managing Director of Sunflower Creative Arts for just under 10 months now and I’ve spent most of that time learning how to do new things, build websites, write white papers, negotiate with illogical college deans, revamp marketing campaigns, and sound like I know what I’m talking about when I discuss child development and early childhood education.
One of the things that has become part of my job that no one predicted is photography. Over a decade ago I thought I would spend my life behind a camera and in a darkroom, but then I figured out that to make a living as a photographer you pretty much have to do wedding photography, commercial work or become a photojournalist. I saw myself as an artistic photographer, an idea which was confirmed when I showed my portfolio to a newspaper photographer who said that if I wanted to work in journalism I would have to tone the artistry WAY down. I was 19 and not willing to compromise so I put my cameras away and moved on to other pursuits, never having been good at “hobbies” it’s all or nothing for me.
While I’ve missed my cameras for many years the take over of an art form I knew so well by the new process of digital photography put a more practical barrier in place between me and photography then my emotional unwillingness to turn a life’s passion into a hobby. So for more than ten years I took snap shots, documented life events and tried to ignore how empty my hands sometimes felt without a camera in them and how seeing a “picture” when I didn’t have the means to capture it filled me with frustration.
This year working at Sunflower I found the excuse I needed to pick a camera back up and see if I could actually master this new process of taking, developing and manipulating pictures. We needed more pictures of the day-to-day little moments of the programs at Sunflower. We needed to be able to show the world the simple wonder of kids building forts, playing in mud puddles, painting their whole bodies and climbing trees. We had photographers, people who could take wonderful pictures that showed all of those things but they had to make special trips to Sunflower to do it, they had to take time out of their actual jobs to come hang out with the tiny humans. And most importantly if they weren’t around enough to be totally commonplace it’s difficult to capture truly authentic moments. Kids stop playing, they acknowledge your presence and the existence of the camera. We needed someone on site to document, someone to post pictures of what was happening in real-time (or close enough) to Instagram and Facebook, someone who was comfortable behind the camera and was a common sight for the children. So I bought a digital camera and started re-learning how to be something I used to be effortlessly. There is so much to learn about digital photography, and so much to remember about photography in general. I always believed that being a good photographer was like being a good dancer, athlete or musician you have to practice, that time away from it erodes your skills, so now it’s time for me to remember everything I’ve forgotten and find my own photographic voice again. And I’m definitely having learning and finding that voice, years ago I developed all my own film and I only had access to black and white processing so I always shot in B&W and sometimes I hand colored (painting with water colors specifically designed for photo colorization) now I’m learning to alter or remove color from digital photos using the computer… a very different process but the results feel the same.
This blog is my public record of my journey of learning and rediscovery, a place for me to share the more artistic pictures that don’t have a place in marketing Sunflower. Because I have discovered that I still find my greatest pleasure in the manipulation of the image, in the beautiful, thought provoking or unsetting images I can create when I play with a picture.