Since starting my journey into photography, I’ve been asked numerous times if it was something I went to school for. The short answer is no, I had very little formal training. In fact, I feel there are subtleties in photography that a class would have had difficulty teaching. For example, growing up, I was an observer. Being shooed from the ‘adult’ table after my bedtime, I would sneak back into the room and hide behind the couch to listen in. I would hear pieces of painful stories and I would hear anecdotes from hilarious ones. My adolescent brain couldn’t comprehend the plots so it worked diligently to fill in the blanks and make sense of the emotions. It forever made a mark on my ability to track sentiment. It solidified my passion for observing and making sense of the human condition.
Over time, my observations granted me a small key into sensing people’s emotions, particularly those that they wanted to hide. I would know when a colleague was particularly happy and trying to suppress it. I would know when a classmate was having a difficult day and was doing their best to bottle up their sadness. For those that knew where to look, it was easy to discover. Little cues. It was hard to separate myself from these observations, as I truly wanted to share in their joy or comfort them in their turmoil. Where I was granted access, I got involved. I listened and comforted. I shared advice when solicited.
"Depth of field is not as important as depth of feeling." - Mel DiGiacomo
Now, what does this have to do with photography? Honestly, I wasn’t able to draw the connection until recently. I began to share my photography openly and ask for candid opinions. I was always very critical of my work and I was concerned that my modest formal training would give me away at first glance, but this was not the case. The feedback surprised me. It wasn’t the technique they spoke about. It was the emotion present in the images. It was the ‘how did you see that?!’ which caught me the most. I never noticed it before, but I started to hear that urgent voice in my head when I went out to shoot. I wanted to capture the moment. It wasn’t so much the technique, but the feeling captured. It reminded me of a quote from Mel DiGiacomo, a respected black and white photographer: “Depth of field is not as important as depth of feeling.” That is why I love photography: the emotion. I enjoy meeting new people and capturing those special moments as they always find a way of surprising me and ultimately, you, the viewer.