By the Pictures
Annie Chen, Division 2, 8th grade #ws17e-s1d2

There’s something magical about it. The way the moment feels when it’s within my grasp, a story overlooked but yet to be recovered in a frame. That sense of revelation I get when the world comes to a standstill and hovers there just long enough for me to spare it a take. It’s the long-awaited moment of the shutter clicking away by the seconds, that prompts a sigh of relief to escape from my part, that an instance in the grand scheme of things hasn’t been overlooked, that a story has been recorded and stowed away to be remembered for future times. All by the pictures.

In the first ever photo I took, a view of my family took center stage. My original impression on photography was nothing more that what made the good fit of any ten-year-old mind; to me, it was a means for recording every instance of my life. Thus, I found joy in assuming the role of a griot in recording a particular instance in our lives that we could all turn to for future times. It became a tradition, later on, for the children of our family to have a turn at it when it was due time for a pose next to, say, the Golden Gate Bridge. With outings like this tending to the need for camera films, it wasn’t long before I became the amateur photographer I am, always making for the slim strap of my camera, eagerly clicking away at everything I see, and once even going so far as to stand by the edge of a cliff to establish an ideal vantage point for a take on an especially scenic view. The opportunity of finding true purpose to these quirks presented itself one day when I sought to find ease that could fare well to entertainment. The aftereffects, though, was what truly stayed, long after the program ended, long after the moment spent itself on the intimacy of such an experience.

With the arrival of summers, conjure the notion of exploits away from home. My days spent in summers have never been marked with each new adventure at a tourist attraction with my family, however, but rather through books I delve in with each passing hour, hence my love for the library, the epitome of a bookworm’s paradise. In the summer, however, it is also the teens’ haven to regain their bearings as kids, still, who have just made the shaky transition to a new grade level. And of many outlets for overcoming such sentiments, one is through the taking up of summer programs that align to each summer’s theme–and of this event, namely, “Pause to Read.” Photography celebrated this theme, at least to the end that the librarians deemed it apt for that year’s array of programs. And so it is, when I found myself seated in a flat chair at the back, gazing at the dim overhead lights in the somewhat air-conditioned room, waiting for the week’s program to commence in its session. The better part of the day had been spent on running errands with my family, so it was with relief and anticipation when I finally spied the guest speaker, a young woman of medium stature, rounding the bend, headed for the doorway. Any signs of fatigue that had been present moments before drained themselves into oblivion, as I brought my attention to the front in high expectations of what was to come, an action that proved later to be extraneous to the likes of me. Because for the rest of the program, she had me on the edge of my seat, clinging to every pointer she acquired out of knowledge and experience. I was an amateur photographer, no doubt, so never could I have imagined that there was art involved in every frame taken, that the center of focus didn’t have to live up to what it’s addressed name may suggest, “smack in the center,” rather the contrary, that vying for the right or left side of the frame could grant much more form, or that the freedom of composition could leave such a legacy on the artwork. As she shared each of the photos she had ever took, the sharp city lights to the stark contrast of the midnight sky in one or the bird’s eye view of an assembly of elders in another, it dawned on me that “lasting” memories and the lofty are not the only ones casted in the limelight, rather the minute and the commonplace are more often saved for the attention.

From then on, I took to the camera as a medium for seeing the world through new eyes. And in time, I began an extricating of sorts from the norms of customs, away from the credo fallen in line with the statement, “it is what it is.” Instead, I began to look beyond the surface for what the world truly adheres to, a realm lavish with the stories of seemingly small moments, subjects that commonly take the center stage to the eyes of any professional photographer. With camera in hand and an open mind in tow, I began taking pictures of the “minute,” paying tribute to the world through a different standpoint from the instinctual one I had originally taken to follow. Each unclarity, each play of the light instilled within a processed photo, took on an originally indiscernible leverage, a means to transcend a story to the viewers–and me. I see the anticipation of it, now, when my eyes fall on on an otherwise ordinary scene, rub shoulders with the common sights each new day promises. This new regard, I can say, has shaped me into who I am today, a photo enthusiast, and from it, someone who sees the world differently from others, someone who sees it for the “smaller pictures” not just for the bigger picture, a passerby who sees the world for the beauty in everything.
Shared publiclyView activity