My photographic journey started out a long time ago. My first impulse to learn photography came when I was in middle school and I was sitting on the front steps of my rural Iowa home, staring off into the distance. That's what I did in my childhood: I was always yearning for something beyond myself. Sometimes it was the fleeting feeling of summertime, or sometimes it was for the stars beyond our own on a perfectly clear winter night in the country, when the milky way is so clear above that it makes you stretch and ache to grasp some sense of its grandeur and meaning. I sat on the front steps that night staring at a bank of clouds in the northeast sky, which was reflecting the perfect, angry colors of a fiery summer sunset. I wanted to capture that on film so I could hold onto the moments forever. My parents bought me a film camera for my birthday that summer, and I began obsessively photographing the sky whenever I saw something beautiful. I have albums full of sunset, sunrise, and sky photographs. I would run outside in my socks through snowbanks in the winter just to capture a moment that I was afraid would pass if I took time to put my shoes on. I spent a lot of my allowance on film developing in those years.
My parents got me my first digital camera when I was a sophomore in high school, and that brought on all kinds of other wonderful photographic experimentation. I learned photoshop and had fun with my best friend trying to create strange and fantastic photos inspired by our love of fantasy and science fiction and nature. It gave me a free pass to photograph all of the sunsets I wanted, because I no longer had to pay for film developing, just the many CDs I used to store all of my images.
I don't know why it never occurred to me to consider photography as a career path. I think it is because I was a painter and artist as well as a singer. I felt like I had lots of other choices. And singing and music were such a huge part of my life when I got into high school. Singing came so easily to me and I enjoyed it so much that by the time I got to the point in my life where I had to decide something to pursue, I chose music. I think I chose music because I felt that music gave me the most insight into that endless space of wonder that lies just beyond this life. I am still a singer and a musician for this reason. But, somewhere in the process of becoming an adult and getting to the part of my journey where I have to become the architect of my life, I realized how much would be missing if I were to give up the many other facets of who I am to become who I thought I was supposed to be. And I felt saddened at the thought of having to compromise so much of who I have been to be who I was going to be. Perhaps this is one of the painful truths of growing up; you have to make sacrifices. Maybe I never want to grow up. Or maybe I've realized I am supposed to sacrifice different things to end up on a different path.
The pressure was really on when I graduated from college and enrolled in the master's program at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. Singing felt so much different during the scary summer before I moved away from my home state and my longtime boyfriend. My parents helped me to buy what I refer to as my first "big girl" camera that summer before I started graduate school. I had discovered the phenomenon of photo blogging about six or seven months prior to this purchase. I saw all of these normal people photographing their lives and the smallest moments that would normally just pass by and be forgotten. I realized how special this was for these people - that they were appreciating the small moments in their lives instead of just worrying about the big moments ahead. They were grounded in the present, and I wanted that feeling. I researched nice DSLRs that winter and spring until I decided to buy a Nikon and start documenting my life.
I didn't want to forget the way that the field looks in the middle of summer, so achingly beautiful and so perfect and precious to me.
I didn't want to forget the beauty of a garden as it gives birth to itself, and then as it comes to its fullest maturity and then eventually dies--such a beautiful metaphor for our own lives.
I wanted to take the images of my childhood and my life with me, so that I would never forget the deep beauty and simplicity that my parents had surrounded me with and taught me to love.
And then my wonderful brother and sister-in-law blessed our whole family with a new and precious addition, who I wanted to take as many pictures of as possible, so I could have something precious to hold onto to remember her when I was so many miles and hours apart from them.
And then they had another precious little angel...
And that is when I really fell in love with documenting moments. And it slowly occurred to me over that period of time how rewarding and how wonderfully perfect it would be to give other people the gift I had been giving myself. And it has already gone beyond that. It isn't just perfect, it is amazing. It is irreplaceable. It is infectious and it makes me overflow every time I do it.
Most of the work I've been doing has to do with the nature of what I do and where I live. I meet so many new and wonderful musicians everyday. These people are artists who all have their own beautiful story. I have been taking their headshots, but really, I like to think of it as showing the world their beauty. It is something they can't do on their own, mostly because a lot of them don't realize how positively radiant and wonderful they are until they see themselves, captured in a moment and an image forever.
Hello, world! Meet Alyssa. I was in awe of her spirit and her beauty the whole time I photographed her. She is a mezzo with a wonderful spirit. I think you can see it in her pictures. :)
Alyssa, I love the color of your eyes. And your hair. And well, I just love you.
I am so lucky. :)