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Words & Images by Laura Schmalstieg
Camera in hand, I watched the light shift on the buildings at the intersection of Prince and Greene. I quickly raised my new DSLR camera to take a photo and then, just as quickly, lowered it to my side. I felt the stares of the shuffling crowd behind and before me...or so I imagined. Though likely non-existent, I couldn't help but think I should tuck away my camera and trade it out for my iPhone. After all, this was New York – the city that made greats of Richard Avedon, Mary Ellen Mark, and on and on. But me? I was just playing tourist in a city I once called home. And this fancy new camera? We were just getting to know each other.
You see, I have been the "designated photo-taker" since as far back as the 6th grade. I was the one always looking for the next shot, the one my friends relied upon to take photos of our adventures because, well, they could always ask for them later. Back then it was the disposable camera with the loud click, then on to the Canon Power Shot that got me through high school graduation, and then the camera right at my fingertips – the iPhone. I have thousands of photos to my name. I have collected limitless micro-moments through my lens. Yet, I would never consider myself a 'photographer.'
That word 'photographer' is one I had reserved only for masters of their craft... for those who, you know, call it a profession; for those who had been formally trained. Sound familiar? Maybe you are like I am – always capturing the world around you yet still uncertain if you have what it takes to own a "real camera." Maybe you feel as though you are still learning, always learning.
Photography is my way to recollect & sharpen what was.
I, too, am still learning this "real camera" thing. I have clicked my way through weeks of over-exposed photos and out-of-focus images, slowly but surely catching my cadence. Through both the mistakes and the masterpieces, I have continued to click the shutter and navigate passing time with stills that, simply put, mean something. To me.
If meaningful is my intent, why then let passerbys on a crowded street corner hinder me? Or, better yet, why let a specific camera define the worth of what I am creating? Photography is my quiet place – a way to process, document and understand. It is my practice in gratitude – a place to grow, a way to recollect & sharpen what was.
The New York City light shifted once more, ever-so-slightly, on the buildings that towered above. And it hit me: If the photos you take move you, you are a photographer. I raised my camera up again to snap the photograph – taking the one I wanted. Just for me.
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Laura Schmalstieg's work lives at the intersection of creativity and human connection. She spends her days playing connect-the-dots with photos, words, and interesting folks she meets. She is currently the Creative Marketing Manager here at Artifact Uprising. Follow along with her daily musings at @lauraschmalstieg.