A Photographer's Start

This was me at 9 years old. I remember practicing my smile in front of the mirror before school because my mom was purchasing the pictures and I wanted it to be perfection. Perfection, this was not. For years, this picture would make me cringe, my teeth were crooked, the smile I practiced did present itself and I did not like how my head was drastically tilted. Looking at this photo, I question school photographers' motives but as an adult, I look at this picture and see joy, creativity and happiness and I fall in love with this little girl who has her life ahead of her, the great, the bad and the indifferent.

This was the same year when I got my first camera. My Uncle James and My Aunt Midge always gave the best Christmas presents. Their approach was led in thoughtfulness and probably budget (they had a lot of nieces and nephews) and I looked forward to their presents (One year I got a gang of coloring books and a set of, what felt like, a million markers... I colored until my heart was content). I unwrapped the colorful wrapping paper that they handed me and inside was a black Kodak Extralite camera. I still remember the slim design, the bright flash and the way it sounded as I took a photo. I carried it everywhere and I snapped pictures whenever the mood struck me. As the years passed, a camera was an essential part of my experience. I took pictures of the little ones in my family and at school, I took pictures of my friends and our shenanigans. I knew that behind the camera was where I felt at home and I felt at ease. I knew I loved capturing humans and seeing their souls through my lens. There was and is nothing more fascinating than capturing someone's spirit and seeing them radiate on film. I am fortunate that I can back at the friendships that are no longer but sustained me during certain times in my life; the family members that are no longer here and the adventures traveled and I am grateful that I had the foresight to capture those people and those times.

These days, life is complex and busy. I am a wife, a mother, I have a full time position at work, plus a few part time roles so the opportunity to be behind the camera is my place of happiness. The camera is comforting and it provides me with respite from the world. When I am behind the camera, I am able to connect with an individual or a family, learn about them, what is going on in their lives, collaborate with them and I find it to be a beautiful and humbling experience. I am trusted to capture them in a way they find endearing and beautiful and there is not much sweeter than that, for me.

Thank you Uncle James and Aunt Midge for providing something that has forever changed my life; a gift that has developed me into a person that has the opportunity to share my creativity with the world around me and has allowed me the space for a critical release. Photography has been the source of my self-care and the source of happiness for others.

xoxo, Chioko

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