Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a camera in hand. My father, a Realtor, was constantly taking photographs of houses for sale and my mother was always taking photos of our family running around the yard or lounging at the pool. When I was older they would buy me disposable cameras and I would spend hours picking things to carefully photograph: flowers, friends, family, and pets. When I got to high school I bought my first camera, a gorgeous Sony that was powerful enough to take detailed shots, but small enough to fit in my purse to take to school. I used it constantly, taking photos for the school yearbook and for my own artistic pleasure.

From a young age, I realized that something about my brain was different than others’ around me; I realized that I couldn’t close my eyes and visualize things like my friends and family could. I believe that this is part of what drew me to photography: it was a way for me to keep a visual record of my own memories and events and also showcase the world around me in a manner that I alone chose. I had complete artistic control and I loved it. I have always been very in-tune to my emotions, and so art as a form of emotional expression and release has been crucial in my life.

Photography, along with being this artistic release, has been the only art form to ever bring me pleasure with the end result. I dabbled in painting and drawing in high school, and while it gave me something to do and work at, I was never pleased with the end product, which always just ended up further frustrating me. Photography, however, has always brought me joy. It has also always been a challenge for me since I can’t necessarily visualize how the end result might turn out. Thus, I have worked for years learning the in’s and out’s of the technical aspects of photography, what makes up a good photographic composition, how the camera works, and so on. Then I learned how to break these rules in order to create art that makes me happy.

By the time I was in college and ready to study abroad at an art school in Greece, I was fully competent and confident in my digital photography skills, thus I chose to take a manual photography class in order to challenge myself and further develop my artistic repertoire. I knew a bit about manual photography prior to departing due to my Sony’s limited manual settings. I understood the basics about aperture and shutter speed and how each could affect a photo, but I had never had to rely solely on my knowledge and these two settings. Even using these manual settings on my camera, there was always another setting that I could switch to if a shot didn’t turn out quite to my liking. I knew that this was not the case with my dad’s old Pentax camera: whatever I took a picture of, even if the aperture was terrible and the shutter speed too sluggish, that was what I was going to get. With film there was so much more to take into account before taking a photograph, and it simultaneously thrilled and terrified me. I had no idea that my experiences with both manual and digital photography while studying abroad would forever alter my experiences there and ultimately affect my life philosophy upon returning to the United States.