March 29, 2019
A few weeks ago I took my oldest daughter, Lily Catherine, downtown for a fun dance portrait session and some mother-daughter bonding time, and if you’re hanging out with me on Instagram or Facebook then you’ve probably seen the photo I captured of her in historic Printer’s Alley doing a toe stand in her Nikes. I think it may be my most liked photo of 2019 so far.
When we got home that afternoon, I couldn’t wait to start playing with the photos. Yes I love the editing process so much that I actually think of it as playing rather than editing or work. My daughter wanted to see all the shots too and she was watching as I was starting to look through some of the first photos from that morning that we did at War Memorial Plaza. About four shots in she asked, “Mom! How do you know how to do that with the light?”
I said, “That’s my job.”
As a photographer it’s my job to know how to use and manipulate light to create the images I want. The word photograph derived from the Greek literally means “drawing with light.” And yes I just went there and totally nerded out. Surprised? Well buckle up buttercup because I can go super nerdy and deep about most any topic that brings me joy.
Back to this idea of drawing with light though.
I grew up with art all around me. My grandmother painted as a hobby. My mom is painter. And our home was full of paintings and sculpture and photographs and even clocks created by artists from around the the country and around the world. Even the house was originally designed by a renowned local architect in the 1930’s and then renovated and remodeled by innovative architects in the 1990s. Growing up in a home that could have doubled as an art gallery definitely influenced my eye, but it did not give me the ability to draw or paint or sculpt like my mother and grandmother or the artists whose work filled our home.
And y’all, when I say I can’t draw or paint, like I really cannot draw or paint. I have ALL THE IDEAS swirling in my head but I simply cannot make my hands put them on paper. Just ask my friends about when I try to draw out clothing and costume designs I’m planning to make. Oh yeah, I sew too, but more on that in another post.
So by the time I was in high school I had given up on the idea that I could be an artist any kind until somewhat by accident I ended up in Photography I as a high school senior. I still am not sure how switching from AP Environmental Science to AP Physics shifted my course schedule in such a way that I landed in the photography class, but I’m just going to go with it being a God thing because no other explanation really makes sense. So even though I’m not entirely clear on how I ended up in the class, what I do know is that I fell head over heels in love with it while completing my very first assignment.
I actually completed that first assignment for that high school class while on a college visit trip to Texas to visit SMU. I even took the “stop action” photo for the assignment of the fountain in the center of campus with Dallas Hall in the background capturing each little droplet of water mid-air. I decided during that same trip to apply early to SMU but at that time I had payed little attention to the art school on campus other than its dance program. I had no idea about the fantastic photography program or that I would be able to minor in photography without having to pursue a studio art degree because lets me real that would have been a disaster.
Let’s just call this another God thing.
As I was nearing graduation having spent more time in the darkroom during my 4 years of undergrad than in the library, my photography professor said, “You are an artist, and artists must create. So keep taking photos every day even if it’s just a Polaroid.” And while that just dated me proving that I’m clearly old enough to have graduated before social media and before cellphones had half-decent cameras, it’s been nearly twenty years and I’ve never forgotten him saying it.
I can’t say I’ve been perfect at his challenge of a photo a day, but I can tell you that I never stopped being a photographer. Even while I was teaching elementary school and pursuing a masters degree in education and my hands were full with my babies as a young mom I never stopped photographing and creating. I’ve never stopped being an artist who draws with light.