I’ve been cleaning out my parents’ house in Ohio. In the process of trying to minimize my stuff, I’ve come across all sorts of treasures. Here’s one gem, an essay from high school. I’m not sure what I wrote it for, but I quite like checking in on my own stories and seeing how they have evolved.
I must have been an amusing sight to all the campers around me– a ten-year-old girl walking around with a manual camera bigger than her head. The lens itself was massive enough to eclipse my face, but with the addition of the flash, the camera successfully acted as my barrier from the strangers around me. All I had to do was hide behind it, and my anxieties about meeting new people disappeared. It was not that I did not meet any new people; I simply refused to initiate any of the interactions myself. Of course, I was rather conspicuous as the girl with the camera, and numerous people asked me whether I really knew how to use the focus and the flash. Someone told me half jokingly that I was sure to be on slideshow when I got to the youth (high school) program.
The next year when I brought my photos back with me, I discovered that people actually liked them. The complements gave me a bit more faith in my photography, and also a bit more faith in myself. I continued to bring cameras to camp; I brought everything from a cheap camera with a useless flash to a digital camcorder with a built-in printer. But the cameras were losing their place as mechanisms to hide behind, because my self-assurance was growing, and I had become comfortable after being at the camp so many times. I gathered the strength to speak up in small group sessions, and I was becoming more confident overall.
It was rather fitting that when I was old enough for the youth program, I applied for and received a position on the slideshow staff. My role on slideshow put a whole new twist on taking pictures at camp. Equipped with my digital camera, I had to work with two other people to create a slideshow for the variety show on the last night of the week. We sorted through hundreds of digital images every single night. I saw it as an opportunity to present everyone with a show that would reflect the spirit of the entire week. What I also discovered was that while taking so many pictures, the camera became an icebreaker. I was still known as the girl with the camera, but I often would walk up to people with camera in hand and introduce myself as I asked to take their picture.
By the end of that week on slideshow, I had interacted with virtually every one of the two hundred campers. While all of them sat facing forward watching our finished product, I faced the opposite way and was completely content with watching their faces– their expressions of delight as the silly memories and sorrow knowing the week was over. The camera had begun as my barrier to the world around me, and it evolved with my confidence into a path toward my involvement with the world.