Behind the lens

I haven't taken pictures in a while; I want to get back into it as a hobby. I don't want to have any expectations to meet, just a chance to play around, possibly with friends, and get comfortable with the camera and my own skills that I don't feel like I'm struggling to juggle the need to think technically and be aware of the right moment to capture the shot. I rush to get through my discomfort and it shows in the pictures. I eventually would like to get some new gear, but before I do that, I want to feel like I've mastered working with the stuff I have.

I don't want to try to make money. I don't want to make a statement. I just want to document what interests me, and I want to improve my ability to do so. Perhaps I need to take a course; I did a photography program in grade 11 but moved halfway across the country the following summer, so I never graduated to color. White balance still throws me off.

Event photography has never really been my thing. I think I need a certain level of control to feel comfortable shooting. I don't like crowds much, and I much prefer slower paced, intimate and relaxed shoots. Photobooths are fine, especially if we've all had a bit to drink, but events are for those who are quicker on their feet and feel less conspicuous with their cameras.

My weakest area is focusing on the eyes. Too many of my pictures have slightly out-of-focus eyes; my subjects become objects instead of people with souls. I want to be able to to capture the way the light brings out a richness and beauty in their color, but more than that, I want to get better at detecting the small shifts in emotion that speak volumes: the inviting spark; the barely-contained sadness. Your mouth may say something, but your eyes give the context. 

I would love to take an informal but well-composed and focused portrait of each friend and acquaintance I've somehow connected with over the years. There are so many people I know that are amazingly photogenic, but I want to catch that essence about them that suggests they would be interesting to know. You can only gather that so much from a picture, but it still seeps in. I would keep track of the passing of time, the shifts and the constants, by revisiting each subject periodically and trying to recreate the shot as closely as possible.  

I'm particularly fascinated by human chameleons, the ones that change their look often, not as a disguise but as a way to show their authentic and evolving self. I want to document both the drastic shifts and the more gradual evolutions. What story does a change in appearance tell?

I want to capture that boost in confidence that comes from people feeling like their truest self is being revealed through their outfits, makeup and hair. That quality of swagger and poise, especially outside of the realm of cishet white males. People should do what they want with their own appearance: my body, my choice is absolute.

I've always been fascinated with the essential impermanence of hair, and its connections to a person's identity. Good hair should always be documented. Fresh cuts and shaves, tight tapers and fades, clean lines. Vivid dye jobs. Thick, long, and healthy. Amazing volume, wild yet tamed curls. Hair grows and loses shape and artificial color so fast, and needs maintenance to look its best; there's also a cleansing and therapeutic aspect to a fresh cut or shave. Stripping off the bad energy. Growing the grey out. The growing normalization of woman-identifying or AFAB people with very short or no hair; baldness isn't always by choice, but so many pull it off with elegance and fierceness. Perhaps the trick is comfort with the look; the sense that you feel like yourself, or that it's just another facet of your appearance that you can work with, accessorize, and coordinate into your personal style.

I want to document queerness. Every time I see a visibly queer person in public, part of me wishes we were friends. I'm interested in how people took control of their life's narrative and stopped having to mute who they are. There are so many stories here. The struggles and victories in finding community as your authentic self. Affirming your existence in a world that is often trying to erase you. The question of what defines and signifies masculinity and femininity. I'm especially drawn to the middle ground and the world outside the binary; both and neither. Androgyny, non-binary, genderqueer identities. Queer folks living their lives, experiencing joy, sorrow, or just being boring.

I love photography that manages to include the mundane aspects of life, the ones that totally slip your mind until you're suddenly reminded of them randomly years later. Those little details that fade into the background but can instantly transport you back in time. Cartons of milk and cereal boxes that have changed design countless times over 30 years. Old cassettes with their labels' hype branding from the 80's about the improvements to sound quality in their duplication processes; Chromium Dioxide, Super Cassette, XDR, QC-10. 

I wish more shots existed of the retail landscapes of the towns and cities I used to live in when growing up. I moved around a fair bit as a kid, and as much as the people, houses and schools were a big part of my memories of a given place, the storefronts root them in a particular timeframe. I moved to Miramichi, NB the summer before grade 12; I've seen pictures and videos of the former towns of Newcastle and Chatham, but a lot of them have a more historical bent than I'm interested in. I want to see what they would have looked like in my lifetime, the world that so many of my friends grew up in, and not just the faces and people within. One idea I always wanted to do was to travel to each of the places I lived in as a child every few years and shoot a mixture of similar and unique town and cityscapes. It's funny how change only seems to come the second you step away. Being able to revisit a place after you've grown and improved your spacial understanding of the world alters your perspective; even a small town like Pictou, NS seems so much bigger when you're younger.

The idea of taking pictures of different places, people and stories around the world holds some appeal to me, but that feels like a pipe dream. I can't really afford to travel right now; hell, I don't even have a car or driver's license so it's hard enough getting out of the city. I tried making some extra money with my photography a few years back, but I doubt my skills warranted the effort it took to keep putting myself out there, and the whole hustle only seemed to decrease my love of photography. If I don't know a person well and they don't have the magic quality that draws me out of my shell, I'm uncomfortable during the shoot. To be honest, the whole experience made me feel like a hack.

All I can really do right now is work on my skills and shoot around the city, trying to get better at observing the world and people around me, and to feel comfortable capturing them with the camera in my hand.