So How Long Have You Been a Photographer?

When I was a kid, I stole my parents' camera, took it out into the backyard after a snowstorm, and tried to photograph the snow stacked on mom's statue of the Virgin Mary and the icicles hanging off the eaves.  When I was doing this, I remember thinking, "These are going to be SO AWESOME!!!  I bet if they were in black and white they would look JUST LIKE photos in Life magazine".  They did not.  Not even a little bit.  But I kept trying to get awesome photos, taking my friends into the backyard to do photoshoots in our dress-up clothes, trying to get a really good face out of one of my baby cousins, and if you think that mirror selfies were invented recently, then you are greatly misinformed.  Inevitably my dad would take the film in to get it developed, and I would get a speech about how it was expensive (three dollars a roll OMG!!!) to develop it, and I should not be wasting it taking photos of nothing, so I wouldn't do it again...for like two weeks.    

By the time I was in college, I was the nerdy girl in the theatre department who always had a point-and-shoot camera with her at parties.  I would get double prints from Walgreens and try to make my friends love me by giving them what I thought were awesome photos from their latest play, or the latest party we had all attended.  I figured the drunk eyes would make for good memories someday (I was right) and since I was still willing to shell out the three dollars to develop the film, I became the unofficial-and-sometimes-avoided historian of my friend group.  I have boxes and boxes of the good times at KU's University Theatre, and if any of those friends ever end up famous, I can write my ticket, if you know what I mean...

Then, in 2004, something amazing happened, and on a trip to Greece for summer study abroad, two whole people had these amazing things called digital cameras...ooooooooo.  We could take AS MANY PICTURES AS WE WANTED, and it didn't cost ANY MONEY as long as we uploaded them to the 25 lb laptop we had brought with us.  I kicked myself for stupidly going out and buying my first film SLR camera and 18 rolls of film before the trip!  How could I be so stupid?!? For that kind of money, I could have gotten a Sony Powershot with 4 whole pixels per photo!!!  Luckily my best friend had the digital camera, and I had my SLR, and over the 9 weeks we spent in Greece, I found a way to love the beauty of taking only one photo of things with my SLR and then stealing her camera to take like twenty more.  She really likes me, and didn't want to take photos of everything from every possible angle and totally was not bugged by this at all (I just called and asked her, and she told me so, but she might be lying because I brought her tacos the other day and I think she's hoping I'll do it again).  I knew on this trip that travel photography would continue to be a huge part of my life and I NEEDED one of these digital camera things.

Then came college graduation, and the onslaught of congratulations cards with checks included.  I totally used all of that money to buy my digital point and shoot, and now I was taking photos of EVERYTHING.  I documented my whole life of living with my parents for a year (I'm technically a millennial, so I think it is in the rulebook that you have to).  Then I documented my time touring the northern midwest as a professional actor and theatre teacher.  Then I documented my move out to LA to become a professional movie star.  Then I documented my time in LA working in a real estate office and having a super fun time being not a movie star.  Then I documented my move to Phoenix to work in a real job because I was definitely never going to be a movie star.  

By the time I moved to Phoenix, I had thousands of photographs of my life, and any of the photography skills I had learned on my SLR were long gone.  I realized that while I loved the snapshots of every day, I was missing the experience I had of taking beautiful, well thought out photos like I had with my SLR in Greece all those years before.  I ordered my first digital SLR on ebay, a Canon entry level Rebel with a kit lense, and I set out on groupon photography workshops and classes at the local center for the arts to learn the art of REAL photography.  That was five years ago.  

My friends still put up with me taking their photos everywhere, except now I'm using a professional level Canon digital SLR and lenses that cost the same amount as my first car.  Now I have the knowledge to tell them to move into the light before I snap a fun photo of us at a party (we still party, we are not dead, they just end a lot earlier and quite often a lot soberer).  Now I can go out with a family, and direct them to have so much fun with each other that I can push a shutter and they will always have that moment of joy that they can frame in their home and pass on to their children when they are grown.  Now I get to see the sweet moments between a couple in love and build a guest book full of these moments that they will use at their wedding and keep forever.  Now I know what the hell I'm doing, and you know what?  I love it so much!!!!  I get to do this for a living, and I am amazed by that every day.  

It took me my whole lifetime to gain the knowledge of how to do it the way I always wanted to, but from the first time I stole my parents' point and shoot out of the drawer and went in to the back yard to capture the snow, I have always been a photographer.   --EEB