You may have clicked on this story to hear about how photography led me to the love of my life. Let me tell you now, that is not the case.

The story that follows is about my first encounters with photography and what led me to fall in love with the art form.

I think many of us have moments as a child where we wanted to have our picture taken or we wanted to take pictures of other people. My childhood included an obscene amount of posing other people until I believed they were in the perfect position for the photo. But honestly, thats not where I consider the beginning.

High school. I sang in the choir my during my freshman and half of my sophomore year, but I was looking for a more unique way to express myself. Thats when I found photography. I started taking an introduction to film photography class. I had never operated a film camera in my life, but the second I realized that we would be developing our own film and prints, I was hooked. I loved the way you could control light and speed to make a photo look just the way you wanted it. I loved exploring new places and making a photo appear different based on the angle. Film photography taught me things that I would have never learned with a digital camera.

The next step in photography at my school was a digital photography class, so I took it. When we enrolled in the class, we were required to bring our own camera. That was by far the best excuse to beg my parents for one. Sure, I owned a few small cameras, but nothing that would be deemed professional. With my new camera and a brain full of ideas, I was able to increase my knowledge of photography and develop my own personal style.

Now dont get me wrong, there were bad days too. There were many days when I would come home angry because my teachers didnt like the same things I did. My dad, who is artistic as well, would always encourage me and tell me that they were my teachers, so I should listen to them. Those conversations would always progress into an argument about the objectivity of art.

Then AP Art came into the picture. This was one of the first times I felt like my creativity was good enough, a time where I felt validated by my teachers that my style was, in fact, unique and strong enough. For my senior portfolio, I chose to focus on architecture and emotions that could be conveyed through it.

I took the photo above in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania while visiting family in 2014. This photo not only helped contribute to my portfolio, but also taught me that you cannot be concerned what others think of you. Sometimes you need to stand in the middle of the road or scale the side of a building to get the perfect shot. Sure, people will stare, but as I grew as a photographer I learned to care less about the attention and more about my intention.

Photography has gifted me with the joy or traveling and ability to express myself in a way that I will be forever grateful for.

Photo Credit: Michaela Schirra (all artwork shown)