Photography

An Eye for an Eye

sanjanaelina

Not hiding who you are matters the most being a creative. What you do and why you do it defines who you are. I am a disabled artist whose primary focus is photography. I don't hide my disability, it just is something that never really comes up in conversation.  A lot of people question the word disabled when they see me because when you look at me, you can’t see my disability.
 

I have Retinopathy of prematurity in my left eye. ROP is a blinding eye disorder that affects premature babies. I was diagnosed with this when I was 2 years old. Being blind in one eye is all that I know. Growing up I had to adapt to this and 24 years later I still am adapting to life with one eye. I often walk into things and usually scream “hey!! Who put that there?” to save myself from embarrassment but also to make myself laugh cause if I can’t laugh at myself I’m truly not being myself. I also find myself working twice as hard to experience my surroundings.   

lookimblind

Being blind in one eye is an interesting and completely underrated statement. When people ask me what it’s like to be blind in one eye I usually have them cover their left eye with their hand and walk around for a minute (I hope you try this, just to get a gist of what my life is like everyday).

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"I NEVER SEE A FULL PICTURE"

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I never see a full picture. I only see half of what is around me or I see what is directly in front of me. This can be frustrating but I found an outlet that has allowed me to live life like I have two eyes; Photography. Photography gives me a full picture. When I take a photo I capture the environment and details that I can’t usually see. Photography for me is my second eye that I don’t have. I photograph everyone and everything that surrounds me and I've gotten my career as an artist to places I didn't think were ever possible for me.

 A lot of times people with disabilities are mislabeled by society. We usually become the disability we have, they tell a story for someone who doesn't actually know what it is like living life in our shoes. Those of us living life with a disability should be able to create our own narratives and this is what photography has given me the ability to do.   "Artist who has a disability" isn't something I want to be known for not because it doesn't matter, It 100% does. But I won't let this ever define who I am. Being half blind has given me mad amounts of courage and passion to continue seeing the world and people that I photograph in a different way. 

I should of hit publish on May 12

 Me in Denver snapped by Maya Coleman 

Me in Denver snapped by Maya Coleman 

I created this post on May 12. The day that I quit my job of 4 years. I decided to move my entire life from Denver which has been home to me for 24 years to Chicago, Illinois. I just let this post sit here in the draft box for 2 months because I was unsure if I should share blog posts about my life and experiences with everyone- you can choose to follow if you'd like. Here I am though back at it because this is something that I have been wanting to pursue for sometime. I consider it a form of journalism mainly using photos - if I feel like writing something I will.  I personally want to catalog digitally this new adventure I've got going for myself. 

New update:

I have been in Chicago for 2 months and 6 days- yes I'm counting and yes Fiji is with me (my Cat)! Recently I have been feeling so incredibly thankful for all the support I have had with this move. This has been the best change that I have been able to control for myself! For once I did something for me. I just wanted to thank; my mom who has taught me to continue to go for the things I want in life and has encouraged me to chase them, my Dad who has been helping me settle in & has been with me through this all, my siblings who continue to send me memes and check in on me, my Denver friends who told me to take the opportunity to work on my photography in a place that has more opportunity, my Chicago friends who have made me feel at home from day one. Really to everyone who has said to me "you can do this", you were right and I thank you for being my rocks and reason for success. 

 Fujifilm disposable camera photo of Chicago from the L

Fujifilm disposable camera photo of Chicago from the L

I miss Denver like crazy. But Chicago has given me some amazing experiences so far that I should of blogged about but I didn't cause real life had me busy. I'm glad I am here. I've been pursuing photography working with Fashion and Music. I'm looking forward to my new life here and what I can accomplish in the next several days, weeks, months, years!  


 

Seen & Heard: 004 Sam Keller

It is always so intoxicating to come across a profile on Instagram that leaves you speechless. Sam Keller's profile and work does just that! Sam is a photographer, she loves capturing images in the form of 35mm, 120mm, & Polaroid film! Her work is made up of dreamy colors and the feelings of nostalgia. After following Sam for several months, we met up over Chai and a walk through downtown to get familiar with one another face to face. Get to know a bit about Sam below.

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1. Where are you from?
Pennsylvania

2. How old are you?
A quarter of a dollar old.

 3. Following you on Instagram I see mostly film uploads. Do you only shoot film? What is your favorite film camera to work with recently?
It fluctuates. I’m mostly film but I have a digital camera and I usually take photos on my phone during the shoots so my Instagram is a melting pot of different mediums and ways I take photos. I have a ton of old school cameras and I fall in love with each of them for different reasons but I always come back to my Contax T2 and Canon AE-1 for 35mm. I never go to a shoot with out a medium format camera so I also rely my Mamiya RZ67 and Mamiya 7ii.

4. Who are two photographers that heavily influence your work? What about them inspires you?I’m inspired by film photographers in general but can I say three?

Petra Collins, Hana Haley and Wiissa (photography duo) have all had a heavy impact on my work. I was really into Tumblr at the time that I started taking photography seriously and seeing their work and their progress made me realize I was capable of that same progress too. I stuck with and even though I don’t love every photo I take, I’m at a point where I’m my own favorite photographer (IN A NON-COCKY WAY). I never thought I would see my photos in the light that I do and I’m proud of where I’ve come. I’m self-taught for the most part and I consider my inspirations part of my learning lessons. They helped me craft my style and fall in love with film photography.

 Los Angeles, 2016 by Sam Keller 

Los Angeles, 2016 by Sam Keller 

5. What is your favorite part of taking film photos?
It’s the entire process. When I’m out shooting and I hear the shutter click and I know it’s going to be a beautiful photo, I get chills. After the roll is shot and I get my negatives back, it is such an out of body experience for me looking at the photos. I can stare at them all I want but sometimes they don’t feel like mine and that’s a cool and freaky feeling. I’m a nerd but I love sitting down and cleaning my cameras and making sure they are working properly. As frustrating as the hiccups can be, the reward of getting it right is worth every fail.

 6. For anyone who wants to get into film photography, what's the best advice you have learned or are learning that you'd be willing to share with someone else? What got you into film?
I could say so many things. The first being, forgive yourself and allow yourself to make mistakes. But learning from mistakes is important too so take your time, know your cameras and know your settings. Film is really fucking cool but don’t forget it’s how you use your equipment and not the physical equipment itself. You need to train your eye to see things that you like that to others might find mundane. Train yourself to look for beauty everywhere you go and try taking photos on your phone first. Then you can execute it on film once you have harvested your style.

The reason I got into film is deep and has a multitude of elements and stories and people. Mostly though, it was because of my parents. My mom used film even after digital was changing the playing field of photography. I always loved the look of it and was fortunate enough to have her cameras to help me out. My dad passed when I was 14 and I think the experience of loosing him at a young age forced me to find myself and my passions a little earlier to help express myself and make sense of it all. I tried acting and singing before eventually finding myself drawn to photography. It’s a beautiful way for me to cope and manage my running mind.

7. What is your dream meal?
omggggggggg. My dream meal would have to be my mama’s fried chicken, mashed potatoes and Mexican-style street corn served on a silver platter with Drake pouring wine (or coca cola) into my glass while he raps softly to me. There’s an ocean view and I’m wearing slippers.

 Summer Things by Sam Keller 

Summer Things by Sam Keller 

8. What's your favorite song?
I’M SO BAD AT PICKING FAVORITES AND YOU ARE KILLING ME WITH THESE FAVORITE QUESTIONS BUT CURRENTLY…..
I’m dying over Lil Uzi’s new album. 50% of the reason I love him is because he is from Philly but the other 50% is because I love his music and vibe. I also love “Prom” by SZA.

 9. What is your favorite color to photograph?
Blue blue blue. I need blue skies in my photos. My work relies so heavily on the sun and the saturated tones she provides. I do like a good overcast though but then the outfits/settings need to be bold. I also love yellow and pinks.

 Waiting on Film by Sam Keller 

Waiting on Film by Sam Keller 

10. What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
My mom was shit talking someone and accidentally sent that person the screenshot instead of sending it to me. TWICE. I was rolling on the floor at my desk laughing. It’s funny because my mom is a really nice lady and it’s rare that she gets that annoyed she needs to “shit talk”. We both thought it was hilarious.

VARIOUS WORKS BY SAM ^ 
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Follow Sam on socials below
@JVMPTHEGUN
@Twitter
@Instagram