The first time I can remember being interested in photography, I was very young, probably around 8 or 9. I vividly remember my parents' Kodak Instamatic camera and being fascinated by the flash cubes. I wasn't allowed to play with it if there was film in it - film cost money and you couldn't waste a shot - but when it was empty I would walk around the house and take photos that never existed. It didn't matter though, there was just something about pressing that shutter.
When I got a little older, I got a camera of my own for Christmas - a Kodak Slimline - and it was quite the upgrade. This one even had a built in flash! I remember taking it with me on a family vacation to Niagara Falls that summer because I recall using tree branches to frame my subject, a tip I had read in the owner's manual that came with my camera. If I can ever find that photo, it's definitely getting framed and hung on my wall because even though I didn't realize it at the time, it was very significant. It was one of the first photos I took with purpose.
When I got a little older I got an Ansel Adams calendar as a gift. It had a different landscape photo for each month, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. That's when I fell in love with black & white photography and I am still obsessed with it to this day. As I got older my interest grew, and I even took a few classes as a teenager. People told me I had an eye for photography. But growing up in a blue collar household, I was encouraged to pursue something more "practical". I graduated high school, got an office job, met my husband and raised a family. I always worked part-time to help out with finances, but I never had a career. I sold my 35mm Minolta Maxxum camera that he'd bought me when we were dating. It was hard for me to part with, even though I hadn't used it in years. But we needed the money, I don't remember what for. Probably diapers.
Fast forward a lifetime or two: the kids grew up. I changed jobs a few times. And though I was grateful to have a job, I just could not imagine staying where I was for the next phase of my life. I wanted to find something I actually enjoyed doing, but what? How could I possibly start something new at my age? I didn't want to trade one unfulfilling job for another, and I was too dependent on the extra income to just quit. Then a friend who'd gone through something similar convinced me to take a leap of faith, because ultimately being happy is far more important than having more material things in my life. I quit my job and tried going back to school, but my heart just wasn't in it. I felt a bit lost. My kids didn't need me as much anymore and now I had no job and no clue what to do with the rest of my life.
Then one day during a trip to my parents' cabin in the mountains, my sister suggested that I borrow her fancy new DSLR and go for a drive. At first I was reluctant, I hadn't picked up a real camera in many years. Cameras had gone digital and I had no clue how to use it. But I was bored and it was a beautiful morning, so I went on a drive, alone. I saw some beautiful rock formations along the river just down the road, so I pulled over and took out my sister's camera. I barely knew how to turn it on and I could only use Auto mode, and suddenly I felt like an 8 year old girl again. I didn't know what I was doing, but I was fascinated. There was just something about pressing that shutter. I started to look around for things to photograph, and I came across some tiny rock sculptures that someone had made and left behind for others to enjoy. One particular sculpture was in the shape of a rectangle with a hole in the middle, and another smaller sculpture was just behind it, If I got down to ground level, I could make a picture of the smaller sculpture framed by the larger one. I made that photo with purpose, just like I had a lifetime ago in Niagara Falls.
I went home and ordered a DSLR the very next week. And the rest, as they say, is history.