I took a total of 1271 photos last week, most of which were snapped in New York City, one of the most photogenic places on earth. One of my favorite parts of traveling has always been the process of documenting everything. I kept journals for ten years, thousands of tiny pages hand-written about my experiences, and photographs in the hundreds, many of which I printed in the dark room myself.
The first time I traveled on my own, I was nineteen and I had just taken my first photography class at Otis where I was turned on to Nan Goldin. I fell instantly in love with her work, the realness of what she portrayed and her ability to pull me into her subjects' stories -- the loudness of silent stills. Through her work, I fell in love with photography as a storytelling device, raw and real and often out of focus. Like every moment of every day of every life.
After that, I carried a camera with me at all times and for the last twelve years, have continued to do so. Pre-digital cameras, I carried my Canon EOS Rebel with me everywhere I went - trying to replicate the grit of what I saw abroad and in my own city, street, apartment. In those days I was flying solo, so a small purse and a camera was all I needed. I was able to justify the space in my purse - a wallet, some lip gloss, cigs and a camera.
These days my purse is full of snacks, diapers, changes of clothes, and about a thousand other things... no room for an SLR even if I owned one to carry with me. Not that I want one. I'm perfectly happy with my point-and-shoot (Canon Powershot SD 1400). It challenges me to use my eye, instead of its lens, to tell a story. A great camera does that, I think. Because good photographs (like words) rely on the stories they capture, more than the crispness of their quality.
There was a time I'd carry my camera in and off subways, searching for the sad and lonely, the slumped over and half-naked... the libertines. I'd chase Mr. Bojangles down the rabbit hole to snap his portrait, ask his name. Now, I stay above ground. I study the smiles of my permanent muses, live inside their moments - watch. And watch. And watch.
I no longer print in the dark room. All my pictures are digital now, but I am able to up the contrast in iphoto, bring out the brilliance of color, mute the tones to black and white when I feel like I should, crop, burn, edit, print, frame...
I used to carry a camera with me everywhere I went in hopes I'd someday understand the darkness. Now, I carry one with me as reminder, a daily affirmation that everywhere I look, there is light.