Why I Became a Photographer
Pre digital age, when film was the only photography format available, my dad was always that one person who had a camera around his neck and took photos. With 2 other siblings in the house, it perhaps became his responsibility rather than his passion, but nevertheless I attribute my joy in photography to my Papa. And a majority of what I do is to continue his memory and to make him proud.
He was the quiet type, which allowed him to use the camera as a shield at family gatherings, but also use it as a way to break the ice when needed. Around high school age, my brother initially took it up when my dad gave him a camera to play with. Since he had several cameras laying around, he introduced it to me as well and I said, “Sure, why not give it a shot?” I really believe that if my brother didn’t first take an interest in it I would not have cared for it. 2 years his junior, I was just as an impressionable teenager as any, but also a very competitive sibling as well 🙂
Our family summer trips eventually became my yearly responsibility, taking over for my dad as the family photographer, since my brother quickly lost interest in it.
But as most starting photographers begin, I did not really enjoy taking photos of people, so my early days of photography started in a very different field.
Growing up by Golden Gate Park, I had an endless array of subjects and would take photos as often as I could.
Couple that with me being a quiet teenager, photographing nature became my main interest and way for me to practice photography.
My interest in nature photography led me to photography almost daily at the Park, shooting whatever caught my eye. Flowers, sunsets, and wildlife all became the subjects of my overexposed photos. Eventually, I grew to appreciate and study birds, which became my main subject of choice for a while, because I started noticing them a little more after all my walks in the park. Befriending other birders / bird photographers at the park, I was introduced to long lenses that I never knew existed, and made the whole world of photography even more addicting! The world of zoomed in photos even opened up an entirely new (and temporary) fascination in my life – birding. And because of this, I am probably one of the few wedding photographers in the world that can name two dozen birds as well 🙂
After a few years of taking a lot of bad photos and a few decent ones, I thought I would try my hand at sports photography, since it seemed the most related subject to wildlife photography than anything else.
Whether it was my lack of business skills, my lack of photo skills, or all of the above… Sports photography did not pan out back in my early days. Of course, as a enthusiastic hobbyist photographer, I happily tried to shoot any and everything, including Night club event photography – my first real consistent gig.
As a mid 20s single guy, night club photography was awesome! I got to go to all the clubs, get free entrance for myself and friends, and flirt with girls! I mean…network! 🙂
In an era without smart phones, virtually all of the most popular clubs wanted a club photographer to show how awesome their venue is and how much fun people had the night before! The pay was garbage, but it allowed me to practice my flash photography, and allowed me to get out of my comfort zone of shooting in only natural light and having to talk to my subjects.
Though this specific genre for me was short lived (how many 26 year olds nowadays do you know go to the clubs three nights a week?), night club photography taught me one of the most important lessons that I use today – how to talk to strangers And become a pseudo-Richard Simmons type behind a camera
When shooting, I like to think I’m one of the more approachable and talkative photographers because I genuinely enjoy what I do. The camera in my hands allows me to be what Sasha fierce is to Beyoncé. Other people who have seen me work have told me I smile and dance a lot, but of course , I never notice myself doing them. I suppose I am so happy when taking photos and I just move my body uncontrollably 🙂
Eventually that exposure with taking photos of people lead me to focusing on people. One day I sort of said that I have taken enough photos, learned enough technique, and I should just toss myself out there. Within my first week of posting a random ad on craigslist, I booked my first gig to photograph a school teachers session where the kids were creating artwork for a book she was going to publish. Fast forward a year later, and my first published photos were created! 🙂
I still have those children’s books and they are arguably one of my more valued possessions because it relates to my very first gig and how far I have come.
I have since developed as a photographer from those early days, (taking several workshops from photographers I deeply admire for starters), but I definitely plan on continuing my education as the years carry on. And through it all, I still hope I carry the same enthusiasm for taking photos as I did my very first gig, because I have no reservations in saying that photography is my true calling. I am so blessed to have found the one thing I absolutely adore. If my Clients see the result of my passion in their photographs, I’d like to think I made the right decision and can make Papa proud. I may not be able to physically hug him, but at least I can utilize photography as a way of keeping in touch with him and keeping his memory alive.