institute for documentary studies

{Week 7: Photo}

Week 7: Photo

I mentioned to my photo instructor my newly gained peace of mind, which he met with relief: “I was getting a little worried,” he said.

Sometimes, when it comes to self-evaluation, a bit of leniency is called for to appreciate your circumstances — and in cases when you’re the one guilty of applying the pressure, sometimes it takes a few weeks to get the hint.

I’ve been really hard on myself thus far, and more so than most. So in a conciliatory move to myself, I’m going to refrain — in a surprise turn — from carping about my setbacks, and instead wax lyrical on what I’ve learned and what I’m grateful for during my time at Salt. I’m really happy to be here.

It’s an incredible blessing to spend a semester honing your skills. Halfway through the program, I feel competent in programs and with equipment I’ve never used, and have the beginnings of a portfolio I’m proud to call my own. I’ve never been pushed this hard to create something — work so intensive and at a higher caliber than I’ve ever produced, and the effort and heightened expectations show: I feel more likely to tackle stories I would never have attempted before. Mostly, I feel more confident in my ability to get sh*t done.

Twice a week, my subjects embrace me into their lives. Last Friday, we made Easter-themed Twinkie treats. Now that I’ve known and spent time with them for several weeks, they’ve become more relaxed, and cognizant of what it is I’m trying to photograph. The kids, too, sensing what I need from them, often provide it freely: Every once in a while they’ll look at me, unasked, to offer me the photograph I want to take. These images — with their stuffed animals, in their classes — transcend their age, and they’re photos I would never have taken before.

“I didn’t know you could do this,” my friend told me after looking at my recent work. Neither did I.