I’m going to apologize right this second for my nerdy photographic reference in my choice for a title for this particular blog post. For the layperson, it means exactly what you think it does – Hindsight is 20/20. I’m going to tie this all together for you – just hang in there, if you will. This is my first blog post on this website and I’m trying not to go off on my typical tangents.
Ahem. Let me start again. Hello and welcome to my new blog feature on my website! I’m excited to have a forum to connect with you and for you to have the opportunity to leave comments, feedback, and questions, should you have any. Of course, you can always message me privately through the contact form on this site or via facebook, but I use facebook more as a forum for sharing upcoming exhibits, news, etc. I feel this is a place I can get a little more in-depth on any one particular subject – and today’s subject, for me, happens to be hindsight, and it’s infamous clarity.
I’ll start by explaining the image I’ve chosen to attach to this post. Now, granted, it’s a photo of a photo, and not a very good one at that. The original photo, I do believe, is the only one in existence, and I may have the negative socked away somewhere, but I couldn’t possibly begin to to tell you where. The original photo was shot on a second hand cheap film point and shoot. I bought it for twenty bucks from a friend, and if you held a gun to my head and demanded to know the make and model, I might toss out the name Kodak? Maybe? And heaven only knows what film I was loading that thing with. I was just scooping up whatever I could find between remote locations in South East Asia and hoping for the best.
That was ten years ago. I was travelling solo through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia for an extended hiatus from my super promising career as a bartender. My Dad had, for my birthday the previous year, bought me a good quality film camera (I’ve always been a tad snap-happy, I suppose) that I was looking forward to bringing along with me on my backpacking adventure and capturing all these amazing images – with my extremely limited knowledge of photography, film, and what it takes to capture a great image. That plan was promptly foiled when I brought said camera to a Tragically Hip concert and some arsehole stole my camera from my seat while I was up dancing. (No doubt they’re currently raking in a fortune selling off the spectacular images I’d captured of Gordie and the boys. Or not.)
I came home from that extended hiatus with a newfound peace of mind, a bit of a different outlook on the world, and on myself, 36 rolls of undeveloped film, and no money to develop that film. My first order of business was to find myself a job and start getting that film developed. I couldn’t wait to see what I’d captured. So, in the small town of Ogema, Saskatchewan, where I’d found myself briefly settling upon my return from abroad (don’t ask – it’s a long story – but that is a lovely little town!), I got a job at the local diner and cadged a ride from one of the local farm boys (I’ll say it again, lovely town) to Regina, the nearest city, which was about an hour and a half away, every payday. I’d take in two or three rolls to the local Walmart for developing – depending on what tips had been like that pay period.
What I returned to Ogema with most times with was a stack of disappointments. Soft focus, terrible light, horrible exposure, and on and on and on. Usually I just returned with fond memories of fellow travelers I’d met along the way, arms slung about each other companionably and grinning into the camera as we sipped on our ice cold Beer Changs. Every now and then I’d come across some gem that actually made me say “Wow” upon seeing it. I actually remember one of these times the local farmer I’d gotten a ride from that particular day leaned across the diner table we were having coffee at and echoed my “Wow” and then asked if he could buy an enlarged copy of the print. I of course scoffed at the idea, and told him he could have it for free, but I don’t think either of us actually got around to ordering an enlarged copy of it.
I was unable to finish developing all of my film before pulling up stakes and heading back to Vancouver – before the frigid Saskatchewan winter could set in – but I brought the remaining rolls with me to slowly develop over time. I also returned with a strong desire to learn as much as I could about photography, as soon as I could. After, you know, finding a job and a place to live and all that…
I reconnected with an old photographer friend of mine and mentioned the rolls and rolls of film I had carted back with me and my disappointment with my photographic abilities. She offered to develop some of the film for me in her makeshift darkroom, which also doubled as her bathroom in her tiny apartment. I gladly took her up on her offer and handed several rolls over and let her go to town. What she came back at me with was her own creative take on what I’d given her to work with. I’d shot entirely on colour film throughout the whole trip, but she presented me with the image you see above. An 8X10 black and white print, with the colours painstakingly handpainted in afterwards. I was blown away. And this is the hindsight part. The one to which my title refers. Looking back, and seeing what was possible with a cheap little point and shoot Kodak (still just guessing there), I was instantly hooked. Granted, it’s not the best image you or I have ever seen. It’s not even the best image I’ve ever captured. But it’s my favorite. For me, it encapsulates the entire time I spent away in South East Asia. And isn’t that what photography is about? Capturing a single moment in time and forever holding it there? For you to revisit whenever you feel a certain nostalgia creeping over you?
It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to pinpoint the exact moment in time where I found the one thing in my life that I had been looking for all along – I just hadn’t known it. Sure, it took me awhile to get the ball rolling – I did after all have to find that job, and that place to live. And then I met my now husband. And we traveled. And then I decided a career in the veterinary field was my calling (nope, turns out it wasn’t) – so I went to school for that, and worked in that industry for 5 years. But while life was happening around me (marriage, pregnancy, the absolutely overwhelming love of being a new mother), I was still shooting. I borrowed my Mom’s SLR camera and took a course. I started a 365 project, which I cannot recommend enough to anyone that wants to tap into the vast store of online knowledge available by professional photographers out there. Not to mention the fact that it will put you in touch with a community of people who love exactly the same things you do. Your tribe, so to speak.
And then, before I knew it, I was hosting my first gallery show. And then another, and another. And I was selling prints! Only enough to cover the cost of my gear, but who cares?! What a rush! And the ultimate compliment, as well. Someone liked an image that I had captured. Enough to purchase it and hang it in their own home. Best feeling ever. Now, photography is taking me in all sorts of new directions that I never ever ever would have anticipated, one of them being back to Cambodia, of all things, ten years later – but in a volunteer capacity this time. How funny life is. And how amazing, too.