I think it is important to fail sometimes. Absolutely. I’m constantly afraid of being wrong, but I think it’s important to go through those steps and be like, “OK, what’s not working?” Take a step back and just kind of go from there because that’s how you grow and that’s how you change.
That’s why I love darkroom photo developing. I’m graduating in May 2018 with a BFA in photography, and it’s a lesson in the value of making mistakes.
Darkrooms shed light on solutions
Film is a different approach to photography than digital. You can’t get that instant feedback of if you’re actually doing it right, so you can mess it up terribly.
But going through film and going through your money is a good way to realize really quickly what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong.
That approach makes it a lot more deliberate. You don’t have the ability to take hundreds of photos out of whack and just hope that one turns out. It really trains you on knowing every single detail, like your best prediction of how the picture is going to turn out. I also like the developing process. It’s just fun.
There’s always something magical about having the image slowly come to life in the water or in the Dektol. It’s just a surreal experience. It never loses its magic.
I had some darkrooms in high school that we never really used because the year that I moved into high school, they got rid of all the photo classes for actual darkroom-based work. Everything was digital which was the way most programs are. A lot of people have never stepped foot in a darkroom. Really seen one in person. So it’s always fun to take people in there and show them why it’s important.
Photography: Imperfect storytelling
Storytelling with photography is always a big challenge. People always had this idea of truth to it. We mistake it for being absolutely true. But with storytelling, you have to realize that the photographer leaves out certain things or distorts certain things, even if they’re not intentionally doing it. It’s that way with all mediums, but people just assume truth is in photo form.
It’s a common misconception. One way I look at it is people always say a photo is worth a thousand words, but not all of those words are going to be truthful. They’re not the actual story.
The boxing gym project
The boxing gym is probably the one that people would know for me most of the time. It was great. I was really stuck in a rut, didn’t know what to photograph and had all these different ideas. I was like, I just need to step back and decide what subject I want to explore.
There’s something about a boxing gym. It has its own atmosphere with posters on the walls.
It feels like you’re in like a “Rocky” movie. It’s like a time gone by.
Most people don’t go to them to train. Training as a boxer isn’t something that people still assume goes on. It’s an active sport and people compete and travel the world for it.
So I looked up different fighting places just because I thought the physical aspect of it would be interesting to explore. I looked at different places, and eventually I found Lewis Boxing Gym on Commercial Street in Springfield. As soon as I walked in there, it just had a completely different feel than the other places, where mats with white walls were just extremely sterile.
This place had its own atmosphere entirely with all the posters on it and the people there day in, day out. They’re training for boxing every day of the week.
Being able to explore that place through the camera gave me access to this event and this sport that I never really explored at all. That’s something I love about photography: Getting access to places that you wouldn’t use otherwise.
The people at the gym were extremely receptive. The owner said just walk in any day, you’re welcome. And I was like, this is perfect. So I built a relationship with them. I knew some of the regulars there, so that was great, getting to know them and building that connection.
And then one of the greatest payoffs is when you have all this work and you start getting prints and showing them what you’re actually doing. They’re spending hours at a time on their craft. They were extremely grateful and love the photos. They hung some up inside the gym too. So that’s always a good feeling.
I’m ready for the next adventure
Graduating feels exciting and terrifying all at the same time. I loved my experience at Missouri State, but at the same time I feel like I’m ready to move on and take a step out into the world. I’ve had this small little box of Springfield where I’ve met people.
That’s something that I realized too: Going into college, you don’t really know anyone, so you have to reinvent yourself. So going to a new place, you’re starting over from scratch every single time. I’m excited to go back home, see some friends and really just kind of step out of my patterns and start exploring again.