Why Focus on Photography
A Side Quest in Storytelling
I recently realized why my love for photography has exponentially grown in the past years, and why I’ve focused to sharpen the skill. As a storyteller, I truly appreciate what one can see in a single photograph, the little nuances that help tell a novel through a single frame, and of course, even more with what one can tell through albums, collections, or sets of photographs.
With this pursuit, I can take advantage of using visuals in stories, creating them piece-by-piece through the images, and at times, include words for a complete expression. I know this sounds elementary, but when you find a new outlet, and you create something you believe to be interesting, it helps reenergize the creative mind. I’ve written stories and editorials for years, I studied film and still work towards a screenwriting future, but photography, focusing on this new skill has given me vigor.
Through almost-three-years of photographing, I’ve studied the masters, experimented with different formats, thoroughly enjoyed the process of constantly failing with film photography. But more importantly, in the end, I didn’t have to try to love every minute of what I have been doing, because the process has been a joy from the start. I’ve roamed the streets of New York City looking for the right light, and in the journey, found new favorite spots in my city. I’ve brought to life images that I am incredibly attached to, images that I spent hundreds of dollars to print and frame, images that I hope will last forever. And because I started to appreciate photography in a new way so long ago, half-way through the journey, I even took a job which luckily includes photography as a daily task—the added perk of doing something creative and being paid for it.
THE (year-to-year) GRIND
Late into 2014 I began shooting on a 35mm film camera and taking photography to this new level. Before, I was like the masses, snapping photos at personal events, trips, etc., but I was just lucky to boast a good eye for composition. But just the eye was never enough, it took learning how a camera works, how to create with different lenses, and how to manipulate within my surroundings—all skills that were made mandatory when working with film photography—to fully appreciate what it took to make an image come to life. My study focused on the trifecta: the shutter speed, the aperture, and the ISO, and once those three are understood, you move on to the next level of learning. I began roaming New York City and taking my time with each shot, slowly but surely enhancing my ability.
It should go without saying that in my first six months of shooting with a 35mm film camera I went through many rolls of film and a lot of dollars. The result being an uncountable amount of terribly overexposed or unnaturally underexposed photographs. The art was hard, but as my new favorite saying goes: “hard things are hard.” Just when it started defeating me, I began to see three or five shots that I was proud of in each developed roll. I began to see glimpses of photography is my shooting around NYC, and these slivers of light kept the spark alive.
In the Summer of 2015 I even had the luck of using photography to help my career growth. My position as Communications Manager is not unlike previous work I’ve done in marketing, but it was my capability with a camera—which I worked on for months leading up to this point—the factor that I believe put me above others. No, I was no professional, but proficiency, willingness to grow in a field, and continuing to educate myself helped me move into this new job. My drive towards life-long learning got me here, and gave me this opportunity that led to the next.
My first time sharing was in R Culture, in a piece called “Monsters in New York City.” The piece was featured in the first issue of the quarterly magazine. The art and culture magazine was produced by Anthony Gaskins of PCP Media and myself, and it aimed to open the possibilities for artists, writers, and other creative people to feature their work, all while supporting students in their own journey in taking part in their culture, art, and social movements. I was lucky to have contributed for, designed, and edited the magazine along with Anthony, and I was blessed to have a space to share what I’ve been working on, the art I’ve grown to love. Sharing is caring, so I shared what I cared about.
Through 2016 I bought a few new cameras and started to put myself out in the world of photographers. Instagram is a huge distraction if you let it be, but also it is really a great tool to get yourself seen and connected with others that have similar interests. Through this tool, I made a connection with the Traveling Film Camera Project, which was my second chance at sharing what I’ve practiced to perfect.
This project was not only showcasing some great shots from exotic locations around the world—up to this point, the camera had been to South Africa, Japan, Mexico, Greece, and Israel, before I took it to Puerto Rico—but it was also promoting the great art of film photography. The Olympus—the camera used by every photographer in the project—was a capable little camera, with great automatic features, allowing the photographer to focus on the composition of the shot itself. The end result is a great documentation of location based photography through the eyes of some very interesting people, all with their own stories to tell.
In 2017 I took the next step. I took a monthly slot at Dweebs—my favorite local coffee shop in Bushwick—to share my art with the shop’s customers. The March show helped me keep growing in confidence—to show my photographs in a public place was a goal of mine this year, and it paid off. Bushwick residents loved the photos, with some interest in buying some prints. The experience was so rewarding that I asked to take up the same walls come December, where I hope I can pull off the same excitement from the crowds that visit this coffee shop every day.
So what’s next? I’ve studies, learned, continuously grown, and shared my work. Yet, I’m ready for more. I’m currently working on combining my storytelling techniques. With the soon-to-come short story, Sad Seat, I will be furnishing the story with candid shots from New York subways. This, plus some paid shoots, and my 2017 in the world of photography is continuing its upward trend. Let’s never slow down.
I’ve been using a lot of different cameras in these past few years, but there are three I’ve stayed loyal to for most the journey: Canonet QL17, Contax TVSIII, FujiFilm X100T. Simple, yet effective, these rangefinders keep me as the eye—the real tool, with no zoom lens. I am in the thick of it, in the middle of the streets, not hidden. I make myself part of the scene and shoot what I see from where I am standing. I think this is more the storyteller in me than anything, but it’s worked up till now, and I’ve loved it. Each camera has its fine distinction, but for my next camera I want to take a step up.
I work with a Nikon D90 for work, and I think my next personal purchase will be a bigger, more robust camera, with some lens options to further my experiments with photography. So, if anyone has suggestions on what I should buy, let me know!
THE DREAM IS MORE THAN PROCESS
There are many ways to see my work and see my process, from my featured shots here on Nahui-Day, to Instagram, to my Priime Collections, but for now I’d like to point you towards the coffee shop I mentioned earlier in this piece: Dweebs. My new collection will be shown all throughout December on the Dweebs walls, with a section of photos for sale which were taken in Puerto Rico, with all proceeds being donated to PR Disaster Relief. If anyone is in the area, I’d love to see you all there.
So on the end, this retrospective may sound trite, but I honestly don’t mind. I’m elated with this journey so far, and I’ve grown through it—both in talent and in self. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am, the same way that I worked hard to get my writing skills to where they are. If only I had picked up this skill a decade ago, I would be even happier today, but that is impossible to do, so if I can do anything I can try to persuade anyone out there to pick up a hobby like this as soon as possible and fully and truly immerse yourself in it. I notice in today’s world we tend to judge true happiness (I understand it is a luxury most don’t get to savor), but I worked hard to find it and I will revel in it, and I hope you have/find your thing as well. I will keep growing, and anyone that wants to join me, you know where to find me (in the streets with a camera in hand).
— Nahuel F.A.