When I first started photography it was because of my love for food. I love cooking, it’s an extremely therepeautic creative getaway fro me. Like photography, it was a way of mixing a bunch of elements together to get something beautiful. I always loved how staging of food worked, and how stylist and photographers worked together to create photographs of amazing culinary creations. I wanted to do that, and only that. As time went on I got obsessed with people. People are interesting and we come with a lot of baggage. I was interested in where people came from, their stories, why they wore a certain fabric, why the felt a certain way, etc. That’s what I stuck with, people.
Photojournalism has allowed me to shine an important spotlight on various individuals, and this type of work always teaches me something deeper about myself. It allows me to not only to tell the story of these amazing individuals, but their stories allow for great self reflection. What am I doing to help the world while I am here? Am I doing right by my friends and family? Am I appreciative? One of my biggest projects today is my ongoing project “My Typical Day”(www.mytypicalday.org). It is a project that is close and dear to my heart. It tackles the horrific disease of dementia and seeing if photography can help with coping. It’s been a hell of a project, mostly happy times, and definitely some sad times. While all the stories have affected me in some way, I wanted to share Alvin’s story because it definitely made me think about my work, and helping through this medium.
“ I was a math high school math teacher. I was brilliant. I taught algebra, geometry, calculus, even the AP classes in those subjects. When I first realized something was wrong with me was when I was teaching and prepping my students for a test. I wrote an equation on the board, it took me a bit longer than expected, but I did it. I stepped back, looked at the equation, but it wasn’t quite right, but the students did not notice. I got through it. The second time I realized something was wrong was when a student had a question about an assignment. I did the same thing. I wrote the equation on the board, stepped back, and the students caught it and told me that it wasn’t right, but I didn’t realize that they have been noticing changes for a while. I broke down and cried, one of my students covered for me while I got myself together. I took early retirement. I’ve tried to do some equations from my previous taught classes, but I can’t remember how to do any of them.”
That changed me. It changed the way that I approach the portrait now. I am more careful to create a beautiful intimate photograph. I am more aware of what I am doing to make my mark in the world and tell the stories of others. While this project doesn’t have to do with the work I am going to be doing with Photographers Without Borders, the work will be just as important as this project. Stories are important, they are a way that we allow the world to see what connects us, and how we can be better. We are all going through something and should never be afraid to have our stories told, help is good and always needed.