Personal Statement on the common app
I walked up to the half-open garage and peered uncertainly into the cluttered space. At this point, I was alone in London, navigating purely by gut and intuition. My voice shook as I rasped out an indication of my presence. As I waited for an answer, I noticed some paint splattered carelessly to my left and tangled up barbed wire to my right. I swallowed nervously and ducked my head beneath the doors. Gasoline and turpentine overwhelmed the room as I fought a growing discomfort settling at the pit of my stomach. Before now, this idea had seemed adventurous, creative even. But as I stood alone in a stranger’s garage my only weapon a camera, I reconsidered my expedition.
My eyes circled the room cautiously. I jerked back defensively as another voice aside from my own doubts interrupted the silence. A man stood before me. Tiny shreds of paper and paint residue clung to his beard as he spoke. He extended his arm and I flinched, then quickly recovered to hide my embarrassment as I shook his hand. His grip was confident, but his smile sincere. He examined me uneasily before I remembered I was really the stranger here. I chuckled nervously and cleared my throat before explaining that I needed help with a photography project. I wanted to capture people doing things that they are passionate about. Assuming the paint, wires, and tools were used for art, I asked him if he would continue his work as I observed.
Here I was, in a room with a bizarre, older artist that I have never met, in a city with which I was unfamiliar, thousands of miles away from home, and I was thrilled. Not because I loved the sense of danger, and not because he had an unspoken, particularly impressive brilliance, but because I had the privilege of capturing his story through images.
The artist slowly grew more comfortable as I asked him questions about his art and background. I found that it was easier for people to relax if they forget that the camera even existed. He shared his mix tape with me and showed me the first cut of a film he was working on. It turned out we had a lot to talk about and valued the same ideals of creativity and expression. Here we were, different people, with different backgrounds, sharing stories.
My experience in London revealed a few things about the art of storytelling that I love. In order to capture an intimate image, I had to experience an intimate moment and build a relationship. It wasn’t simply about my camera, but the connection between two people. The more I shot, the more I learned about him and who he was. This connection translated through the image. It transforms from a photo to a story. Now, this photo, video, or journal all of the sudden has the potential to impact someone else’s life. That’s why I love storytelling. Nothing is as powerful as a story that leaves an impression. The purpose of the photos weren’t to simply look good, but to convey his passion, and expose his character as an artist.
This brings me a sense of fulfillment. I move silenced voices to be heard, and stories to be exposed. Contentment to me means finding a story in an average circumstance, drawing beauty from mundane things. It includes the feeling of awe that accompanies a powerful message that reshapes your opinions, keeps you up an extra few minutes before bed considering. I want to spark thoughts and ideas, instill inspiration and hope through my writing, and change someone’s perspective through stories. I’ve always loved sharing stories, but London ignited a passion for people, learning, and creating.
Even halfway across the World, in an older artist’s garage, there is always a story to be told.