Today I was reminded of my roots. My eyes wide open, stand your ground, equality seeking, human rights activist roots.
Today was the first day of my Nelson Mandela class as well as the last time I will have a first day of class as a college student. I arrived to class and sat in the corner of the humid room well knowing what feelings could be brought to surface. I, for the first time, in a long time, am excited about what I can make of my life. And it was right in front of me all along.
My journey to becoming a photographer seems more and more to be one of destiny. As a child I always had a passion and drive to create and know everything about art. Drawing, collaging, painting, sculpting, and writing my way through the struggle of adolescence until I landed on something that stuck, photography. I immediately began taking community darkroom classes at age 13 and even sneaking into a summer darkroom and photography camp at a different high school when I was still in middle school myself.
This fervor for photography stemmed from my grandfather, Mike Zerby, a fellow photographer and at the time photojournalist for the Star Tribune. His sometimes encouraging, other times intimidating or critical words about my work and what I was getting myself into had me vowing to never become a photojournalist, and that I should stick to creating my own visions from the bottom up. For the longest time my passions ran parallel, my “most likely to join the peace corps” activist leader and my dream like photographs depicting ghostly or other fashionable dimensions. Going into Columbia College, this is what I pursued. How I am leaving it is different story.
The inevitable happened when I applied for my first official photography internship at Time Out Chicago, a magazine about the happenings in the Chicagoland area, and loved it. Remaining on their freelance list I recently began also shooting for Redeye, a daily free newspaper that is part of the Tribune family. It is clear to me now these are becoming my jumping off points for something bigger.
Like all 20-somethings, now is the time where we find ourselves. I had a reality check my second year into school that left me grasping for a path to follow. I am now confident in saying I am making my own path and am no longer scared of the long sweaty days and hard work alone that comes with being the kind of photojournalist that my grandfather was. I want to make a difference and I am ready to get down and dirty to shoot at least one frame, that can stop someone to feel something new and pay attention to something other than Miley Cyrus twerking on a married man. In this generation of smart phones and DIY, I know this won’t be easy. But I think I can do it. I am not the best photographer, but I am not afraid to get on the floor or in the mud to shoot a new perspective. I am writing this for myself to remind myself of what I am feeling in this moment and where I am headed after the semester ends.
This is my affirmation to myself.
I am a photographer.
I am going to take important and relevant photos.
I am going to share those photos with the world.
I am going to take these photos in my spare time.
I am going to carry my camera more, even though it is heavy sometimes.
I am going to let myself make technical mistakes and not let it discourage my ability to shoot interesting work.