I think I've said this a few times about my recent life, but this last month has been overwhelming in the most beautiful of ways. I arrived in Italy two days ago, moving here at long last to join my favorite, Tyler, in our new lives together. But the week before I left for Italy, I was humbled to attend the Eddie Adams Workshop in upstate New York. I echo others' sentiments when I say that I wasn't sure I belonged there until I officially arrived and was handed by pink name tag — I thought perhaps my name was on the master list by some grand mistake or joke. But no one questioned me, and I spent the sleepless weekend talking photography and journalism, a topic I've missed discussing so fervently, and meeting so many amazing people — photographers or otherwise.
I don't know if I can stress to you enough how confused I was before attending Eddie. I felt (and still feel) such a lack of direction in my career — like I was just flailing, trying to grab onto things that I think I liked or wanted to do or thought I should do because it would be a good career move. After leaving my job in May, I really didn't know my place in photojournalism — could I cut it with a freelance career? Was that something I even wanted to do?
EAW definitely raised more questions than answers for me, but pushed me forward to give me more direction. I saw so much passion from so many people there, that I knew that I couldn't just keep doing something just because it's what others expected of me. Erika Larsen spent three years living with the Sami reindeer people in Norway with no expectations for publication or anything other than personal growth. Phillip Toledano photographed his dying father and documented the incredibly personal story on a website with no intentions of getting the response that he did. And I think it takes that kind of personal journey and that kind of love and dedication to do work that really resonates. I think that sort of work actually comes from sort of a selfish place — a place where it's just something you know you have to do it because you need it for yourself. And I don't know what that means for me, or where it will lead me as a photographer but more importantly as a person, but it's the kind of work that really lit my hair on fire, as my old photo professor, Rita Reed would say.
Honestly, I don't really know what the future holds for me. I don't know what projects I'm going to be doing — what sort of work I will be producing. But for the first time in my life, I'm embracing the unknown and only doing what I want to do, because that's truly all I have energy for anymore. I might be doing lifestyle work, or long project work (the two types I've always gravitated toward), or a combination of the two, or perhaps even personal work, but I know that I will only be doing what I have passion for. And I have passion for photography, but I think the end results may take a little less conventional turn than the path I've taken thus far.
I'm excited to blaze trails that result in only doing what I want to do. It's exactly what I did when I started photography in the first place. At my small, rural high school, they didn't offer a photography class, despite the presence of a dark room in our art classroom. When I was 17, I had been dabbling in photography for about four years, but knew nothing about shutter speed or aperture or anything, and knew that needed to change. So, my senior year, I marched to my guidance counselor's office and demanded that he allow me to take an independent study with my art teacher, Mrs. Moore, who I knew had an open class period that would fit perfectly with my plans. After some hemming and hawing, I convinced him and her, and I've never looked back.
That's exactly what I do with this next direction — take a little side path that hasn't been quite blazed yet, that isn't quite traditional, and that perhaps hasn't been laid with sound ground. I've got three years in Italy with no other obligations other than to love my partner, which is the easiest job on the planet because he's such an amazing man. And I'm going to stop just doing what I think is expected of me, or even what I'm "good" at, just because I have a photojournalism degree, because having a degree is a pretty bullshit reason to do anything.
I didn't quite know what I was getting myself into when I went to EAW, but I knew I desperately needed it at this stage in my life. I'm so thankful for the experience — I'm glad I met Lee Karasik, the poster man for "perseverance," as far as I'm concerned, which was our team's theme, whose pictures you see here. I'm glad I got to study under Marco Grob and Jonathan Woods and Victoria Will, who honestly kind of kicked my ass and gave me feedback I didn't want to hear the first day, but told me exactly what I needed to hear and was ignoring. I'm so thankful to have been able to meet so many fantastic young photographers, especially those from my Sky Blue team, that were such an inspiration and whose careers I can't wait to see take off. And I'm so glad I got to dance my pants off, for what I think was about six hours straight, even though my body was super mad at me the next day.