I don’t have some awe-inspiring origin story of my relationship with photography. My parents aren’t photographers, it doesn’t run in my family, and I wasn’t some child prodigy who picked up a camera and knew from that moment on that’s what I was meant for. For me, it didn’t happen like that. It wasn’t a love for the arts that drew me to photography – hell, it wasn’t even photography that drew me to photography.
One of my schools offered Photoshop classes, so obviously I signed up. The opportunity to screw around on Photoshop for an hour every day and get credit for it was a no-brainer. What was even better was that we were only tested on our abilities to use the tools in Photoshop – so we were never really graded on how original, artistic, or cohesive our final images were. Just how well we could use the program. It was pretty straightforward – do you know how to use the clone stamp tool? Can you change the colors in this image? Can you put your best friend’s face on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s body? Basic shit.
But then I started to realize that, hey, I was pretty good at this, and at the end of each semester I was looking over a portfolio made up of what I saw as stolen work. The images we used in the class, the pictures we found and manipulated, weren’t ours. We weren’t required to do any kind of photography. It was a Photoshop class, not a Photography class. Every set of instructions began with the word “Google”.
1. Google search “Unicorn.” Download your favorite image.
2. Google search “rainbows.” Download your favorite image.
3. Cut and paste rainbow onto new layer.
4. Place rainbow in a strategic location of your choice.
5. Replace unicorn’s head with friend’s face.
Project complete. A+.
But there was this one kid in the class who always Photoshopped his own photos. While everyone else focused on the hilarity of a stark cut and paste chop-shop job, he worked on creating really beautiful images. He would replace the reflections in sunglasses, add sun flares, composite his images. I always thought it was cool, but I never gave it a second thought until we presented our portfolios. I was proud of how far my editing skills had come and the work I was presenting, but when I saw his portfolio I knew the type of pride he felt was different. You could see it in his face and in his images; the meticulous attention to detail, the care and thought that went into it, the planning. It was as if everyone else in the class was creating an image out of found puzzle pieces belonging to different puzzles; we just sort of mashed them together and forced them to fit. But this kid planned it. He knew what the bigger picture would look like before he even started. These were his own puzzle pieces and they all fit together seamlessly.
I wanted a piece of that. I wanted to feel that ownership. I wanted to create something big, something that required the planning, the expertise, the vision.
So I took a digital photography class as my way in. What seemed like a step backward was actually one huge leap forward. I was forced to start at the root; planning images, thinking of concepts, taking responsibility for the full package. Completing the prompts no longer felt like tarnishing someone else’s hard work – I was embellishing my own. I got the same adrenaline rush I knew my classmate experienced. What started out as a joke class funneled me right to photography.
I don’t remember what that kid’s name was. I never told him how much I admired his work and how it impacted my life. I guess he’ll never know. But I’ll always remember him and those pictures he made. The image of those gold glittering sunglasses on a smiling face – two perfect renditions of a clear blue Colorado sky.
These are some photos I took for Hosty Totsy Vintage:
Thanks for reading,
Model: Biz Dingivan
Hair and makeup: Taylor Stender