Opinion: Photography changed my life


Photo illustration by Caleb Wright and Henry Pham

I’ve attempted many forms of art in my lifetime – learning the violin, cooking different recipes and a variety of visual arts activities including drawing, journalism and fashion. However, I do not think any of these activities have contributed to my life as much as photography.

Growing up, I never cared much for taking photos. There was nothing interesting, at the time, to capture, selfies did not suit me and posing for family photos on holidays felt like a chore and time away from eating, unwrapping presents or having fun at events. 

My virtual sophomore year of 2020 was when I first became enlightened in the basics of photography. During that fall semester, I took the Art 2: Photography class. Due to the educational circumstances of COVID-19, the class sufficed with using phone cameras rather than professional ones. I was able to learn composition, how to pose subjects, camera focus and started training my eye to look for photo-worthy subjects or moments in daily life. 

In the fall of my junior year, I took a photojournalism class, which not only allowed me to dip my feet into the basics of journalism, but also gave me the opportunity to shoot with professional cameras. Things began to grow intense once I joined “The Hawk Eye” staff the spring semester of that year. The pressure of writing while simultaneously taking photos under a strict deadline; it was chaotic, to say the least. The publication introduced me to the unknown challenges of photographing real events that require a keen eye for subjects and action, alongside a quick finger on the shutter button. 

After taking photos for a decent amount of time, I began familiarizing myself with the gear and started taking inspiration from outside sources. I introduced photography into my daily and personal life – not only was the knowledge of using a camera important to me, but also the idea and art of capturing each special moment I experienced in real time. I went from taking photos every couple of days or weeks to capturing them daily. Pictures of my milestones, humor, drama, inspiration and fun meant a lot to me to document in my camera roll. 

Today, I always have a camera of sorts on hand, ready for every occasion. I pose for family and group photos with glee and constantly blind people with camera flashes. I do not shy away from asking others to take my photos and capture scenes that would seem mundane to the average eye. My phone’s camera roll contains pictures and videos dating back to 2015, yet 80% of all photos were captured in the past year alone. 

For a period, I made the mistake of taking pictures of absolutely everything I saw in sight that seemed interesting or worthy enough to capture. But, in reality, I was only filling up my storage space and defeating the point of taking a photo. Luckily, I caught on to that bad habit and changed how I approached personal photography. 

Almost every day I capture photos I know I will fondly look back on years from now and won’t regret lugging around a camera everywhere I go to obtain these precious shots. Despite the stigma of people being too attached to technology and constantly putting focus on sharing experiences through social media instead of enjoying life candidly, I beg to differ. I live in the moment so that I can also capture it – It’s not about how many photos we can take of a moment, but instead when in that window of time we choose to immortalize.