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  • Sara J

Beginnings

Updated: Jul 11, 2019

When I began my journey into photography, I was eleven years old. I still have the very moment captured in a photo: my cousin and I standing awkwardly as pre-teens do, holding the small black Olympus film cameras. My grandparents were so excited to see us kids so enthralled with their gifts. I don't know what my grandfather's motivation was when they purchased the cameras. I wish now that I had asked him when he was around. Were they just fun gifts? Or did he have this slight hope that we would take on photography as he had?

My grandfather was that camera guy at all the family functions, putting his big lens right up to your face, demanding wide smiles and attempting to blind us with the bright flash. While he mainly captured his and my grandmother's international travels and family portraits, I took a different route.


One of the first subjects that I photographed was of utmost importance in my eleven-year old life : my Barbie dolls. I sat on the floor of my living room considering each shot and pose. Barbie had a red convertible, and so I placed her and two friends inside the vehicle. Snap. Then I moved Ken and his younger version, Kevin, onto the tan clothed couch, arranging their limbs into a handstand position. Back then I had no idea what Acro-yoga was, but I am fairly certain that the positions I placed them in must have been of the same style.


For what seemed like quite some time, I mostly paid attention to photography as a secondary medium, a way to capture the other hobbies that I was interested in. Back then, my mainstays included writing and drawing. It wasn't until the summer of 2001, at fifteen, that I grew more serious about the medium.

There are two defining instances when it comes to my photographic history. The first is the summer of 2001. For some reason that summer, up at sleep-away camp, I began to spend more time with my camera. I spent that summer documenting everything from clouds to grass to people. I began to consider then, what photography meant, and I concluded that it was a medium in which to capture memories that would stand the test of time.


Therefore, and very naturally, I ended up taking my camera with me more often than not. On one such evening after the school year had began in tenth grade, I brought along my camera to the local baseball stadium. I remember I had my long brown hair in pigtails and that I was wearing an oversized navy t-shirt. I was pretty bored with the game around sunset time, and so I made my way out of the stadium to an area that overlooked New York City. It happened to be, on that evening, one of the most breathtaking orange-pink sunsets. I pressed down on the shutter and captured the city skyline under the fire-like skies. Five days later was September 11, 2001.


By the time that I dropped off the film, it was a post 9-11 world. My mother arranged to pick up the prints a couple of days thereafter, and when she arrived, they had used my image of the towers in the sunset to fill all of the screens in the store. I think that was the first time that I felt like a photographer.

That was also the first time that I truly understood the power of photography.


I'll never be able to describe what it was like to have begun my photographic journey in such an intense way. I do not take it lightly and I do not take it for granted, and I feel very blessed that I am able to capture moments that are special, whether it be families and couples, parents and places, animals etc.

It is also not lost on me that this powerful tool connected me and my grandfather in a way that I like to think transcends time and space. I like to imagine that he is proud of me and happy that I am making use of the many gifts in which he gave to me, and most importantly the ones that remain in the heart. I cherish those, every single day.


It has been many moons since then, but photography has remained, the way an arm does on a body, attached and integral. I superbly love what I do, and I love working with people and capturing their special memories. While my view has changed regarding what photography is and can be, I still believe it to be a preserver of the past, and as I tell my clients, "You will never be younger than you are today!"

Photography teaches me to be in the moment and gives me the ability to look into moments bygone.

Five days prior to 9/11 (Smartphone capture of the film print)

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@2019 Sara J Dsign