I’ve been going through old files in an attempt to do a comprehensive update of my CV. In doing so, I’ve been looking through various publications, but none caught my eye so much as this one…that has nothing to do with photography, but instead about a short film I made. Seeing it unlocked so many memories of how I used to create. Sometimes it feels as though photography is my only passion and the only one I had ever pursued. But the fact is that before I ever picked up a still camera I wielded a motion picture camera. And before that, I wrote.
What was most interesting about this writeup was the drastic similarity between the film I made in 2008 and the images I create now. The headline reads: “Shaden Creates Three Worlds…” while my quote inside reads, “We wanted to blur the lines between fantasy and reality.”
I worked on that film for one full year of my life. I put my heart and soul into it. And you know what? It really wasn’t very good. I had little concept of how to create characters and how to write a script. But at the end of the day, good or bad, it was so unbelievably me.
We can get so caught up in our craft that we forget to look at the bigger picture. For an artist who has a recognizable mark, it shouldn’t matter if they are working within their comfort zone, medium, or space. It is likely that an artist with a strong voice will be able to create their art in different genres. It might not be immediately similar, but it will have the same life, the same soul.
I can’t claim to be one of those artists; I haven’t tried hard enough to test myself. But what I am reminded of today is the amazing talent we all possess to find the voice inside that wants to be let out. When I was in my early teens I used to write morbid stories of blood and supernatural happenings…think of a Radiohead song turned into a short story. When I was in high school I took a filmmaking class on a bet, and fell in love with visual storytelling. The first film I created was about a girl hanging herself in a basement. The next one was about a girl who went crazy, broke out of an insane asylum, and drowned herself in a pool.
No one can say my heart wasn’t in it.
I know what I want to say. I know that my artistic voice makes people uncomfortable. It always has, ever since I can remember. From teachers telling me to cheer things up to my family wondering why I concentrated on death so much. But along the way there have been certain markers that have given me the confidence to keep going. A certain teacher telling me I wrote well. My short film of that girl drowning herself winning a local film festival. This article of my college film in Kodak magazine. And in photography…it is you. It is community. It is having a space to share what I love and being able to do so with people who do not judge me for it, but support me.
Milestones come in many ways. Sometimes they are concrete, and we can point to a product and date. But sometimes, and I believe them to be the most important times, are when they are substantial yet intangible; when you look around and have nothing to hold or write down on your resume, but instead have a full heart and a community of people who spread the love.
Thank you for being my milestone in photography, and for giving me the confidence to keep creating, expanding, and sharing.