If I had a million dollars for every time I struggled with words I would be a millionaire. Sometimes in life, the right words just choose not to come to you, as annoying as that may be, that’s just how it works. However, in college, I’ve found that some assignments, don’t require words. These assignments are a blessing and a curse depending on the specifics.
For our Assignment 2, which is a photo essay, I didn’t need words. That being said, it meant I didn’t have to struggle with finding them. Instead, however, I had to struggle with ideas. For this assignment, we had to take twelve photos, with at least four of them being impactful. Our photos had to capture and show the emotions of fear and being afraid, turning into hopefulness and excitement. You can see the final cut of my project here.
I was really excited to get out and start using my camera again to take some awesome pictures, so when I read in the assignment sheet that we were doing a photo-essay, I was really excited. I love to write, but photography is one of the paths of journalism I am really interested in, because I love to photograph the real world. Words are great, but a picture of the subject is quite literally “worth a thousand words” (or more, for me.)
For this assignment, I struggled at first with the concept of how I was going to show the emotions required. I didn’t know how to find these emotions in the real world. I thought and I thought for as long as I could before I knew the deadline was approaching, so over the weekend, I took a leap of faith.
I walked from my house on the corner of 3rd and Daniel and into downtown Champaign-Urbana. It’s not an area I know very well, and it’s also not an area (from what I’ve heard) that you want to be caught in the wrong part of. It took me out of my comfort zone, but the more I walked the more certain I became that I was going to find my subject. I walked under an old train tunnel that my cousin showed me. (He used to co-own the bar “Mike ‘N’ Molly’s) It was there that I found my inspiration for this project, and probably the most impactful photograph that I took. It’s the thumbnail at the top of the page.
I’m someone that has struggled over the years to find a sense of direction and purpose, so the graffiti that said “Alt + F4 + Life” referring to the popular method of closing an unwanted window on a computer, struck me pretty hard. That’s how my idea came to me, however. All of the people I know who have struggled with things like depression, have found an outlet in some sort of art. I’ve seen people express themselves through music, writing, and drawing, amongst many other outlets.
So my theme came to me in the inside of a creepy, quiet, old train tunnel, where I probably shouldn’t have been in the first place. My theme was going to be urban art, and how it should the emotions of Champaign-Urbana.
I continued my walk for a few hours, stopping at a coffee shop downtown to see an old friend. I took pictures of graffiti, sculptures, drawings, and any other type of art I could find. Champaign-Urbana has always been a pretty art-filled place, and I found some very nice sculptures and murals amongst other things that you can see in the video.
Doing this assignment, I was able to take a break from school and friends, and just walk around and admire how awesome the human spirit is. No matter the knocks that people take in life, for the most part we do our best to pick one another up, dust off ourselves, and press forward harder than ever before.
I really enjoyed doing this assignment, and I feel that I also learned a lot more about using my camera. I took way more pictures than I needed, and even played around with the manual-focus to see how different shots looked. I’m from Danville, which is only about 30 minutes away, so I enjoyed walking around Champaign-Urbana, and learning a little bit more about the culture of a town so near to my own. I also feel that a few of the pictures I took may have been some of the best pictures I’ve ever personally taken, and it’s rewarding to see myself grow in that regard.
One of my favorite quotes was said by a guy named Desmond Tutu, and I think it fits my Assignment 2 Project well.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
I think my main goal in this assignment was to, in some way, show that even in the fear of darkness, hope can be found.