My Mother has always played both parents throughout all of my childhood and adolescence. She passed down her love of music, reading and photography to me. It always bothered me as a child why she would force me and my sister to take photos every outing we had. She told me one day, “it’s important to make memories and look back.” It wasn’t until I graduated from college that I truly appreciated what she has done.
The second person that pushed my interest in photography is my Kuya Rommel. Going back to my first day in America, all the new experiences would stay subconsciously in me from the present and future. A camera immediately greeted us when we got out of the terminal in JFK. Not only did I experience my first sports car ride and NYC, but I saw this black Minolta camera that Rommel was lugging. He was also our handy man that fixed a lot of our apartment problems. From plumbing to any electrical work with lighting, troubles with our doorbell, he could fix it. There was also a creative side to him when he would draw portraits of friends and family members. It was eye opening to see someone at an early age have a multitude of skills and interest.
There have been certain moments in my life that I can vividly recollect a camera was around. It was June 1996. The final week of school a small group of us boys, had met at our club house, which was under the slides that were located at one of the park entrances across the front entrance of Elmhurst Hospital. We had a game plan and we all recently just started to develop feelings for the girls at school. At the time there were no handheld electronics that can let you capture pictures instantly. It was up to one of us to figure out how we can get a camera. I remember begging my mom the same week to buy me a basketball so that I can hoop with the older kids and to buy me a toy camera that can take pictures. I was not trusted with an actual camera, since It will cost additional money to develop, and my mother would not let me take her camera to the park. A trip to KayBee toys changed that. I stumbled upon a Tiffany green colored camera set that came with binoculars and a point and shoot camera that was very flat and rectangular. Once the camera was purchased, I ran to the park to immediately let my friends know I got the camera and we can begin to start taking pictures. We cruised the handball courts and swings to see our crushes and snapped away. I still get the same thrill before you even press the shutter, you visualize the composition of the precious moment that will never be replicated ever again. Unfortunately, I opened the camera and did not properly rewind the film, which ruined the roll and I gave up after that. If I told my mother I ruined that roll I would have gotten a whopping. I just left the camera in my toy chest. It would be another 10 plus years till I picked up another camera.
II. Education Outside Of Formal Institutions
I suffered with this melancholy feeling of nothing being ever good enough or finding my purpose. I’m only coming out about this issue, since I feel more courageous about talking about issues and the truth. It will be about two years this coming December that I would rid of this gloom that plagued me throughout most of my life. There have been multiple low points in my life. I should have not been dating, but working on myself. At the same time if I did not have a relationship with these amazing women, I would have never learned about all the invaluable things they taught me. Education does not stop when you finish that last day of school, but it’s until our own minds go black. I can’t speak for these amazing women and I have no ill feelings about how anything ended and I wish them the most success.
We broke up on Valentines Day. This was devastating to me since I drove 10,000 miles in 8 months on my mother’s second generation Nissan Altima and drove her everywhere and among other things such as champagne and Hershey’s kisses.
I remember with the breakup; I was just at a dark place. I almost got kicked out of college and put into academic probation and almost became someone’s papi. I was naïve and reckless. I can laugh at it now, since it is funny to be that sad over a person that does not value you. That was when I first picked up this hand me down Sony camera from Sam, Rhea’s husband. The Sony camera he bought was a recommendation from Rommel. This was around the time that I also started my first venture into photography. I called my work “Raemon Photography.” I basically started to shoot photos on feeling and just needing to get out of the house and occupy my mind from the heartbreak.
The second time I picked up a camera was when my girlfriend of almost two years broke up with me because I wanted to work and teach English in South Korea. It was Christmas Eve and devastating. To try to forget the pain, I reverted back to photography.
The third time I picked up a camera was when my relationship with my girlfriend and her parents did not work out. Everything came to an end the week before Thanksgiving. I honestly did not see the work ethic it took to be your own man, till I saw her father, Mr. Han.
I want to personally thank you for showing me what is a grind. Lot of days I was frustrated, cried, got violent within myself. Even though we had our differences I hold you to a high level of respect, because I will take your lessons with me for the rest of my life.
The business venture did not work out and I really hit rock bottom. I had no job, no girlfriend, no future. While I was at Syracuse I started to take these one day drives to New York City weekly on my off days on Sunday sometimes, to just clear my head and get away. I was seeking so many answers to my own failures and short comings. Why was I not happy? Life is about choices we make whether they are negative or positive. It was around this time I started to consume any piece of information that inspired, or changed my perception in a positive way. I knew I had to reset everything starting with my mindset. I needed to reprogram myself to the goals I envision and what I am setting out to accomplish.
III. Turning Point
eBay is my favorite online store. I can thank my childhood friend Lim for putting me on. I spend a lot of time looking for great deals on everything. When I broke up with Min-Jung, I reverted back to photography, but needed something more compact than my previous Sony camera. After some research, I stumbled upon the Ricoh GR series. It checked off all the right boxes I wanted in a camera. Lightweight, compact, manual, and it had a great niche community. What I did not know when I bought my GR is that it was not a GR II, but a digital III. I was excited due to the price I paid, but the specs and size of the digital III is a smaller product with a smaller censor.
Around the same week I purchased the camera, I was able to buy a bunch of photography books from an estate find. The total came out to $40. It was a bargain to me and I bought it without knowing anything about the discipline. Little did I know how much of an impact this would permanently have on me. As I began to see the photos page by page, I felt an emotional connection to the photographs and being brought back to that point and time.
I originally started to take pictures because of car culture, but what got me deeper into photography was when I discovered photographers were documenting their everyday surroundings. I was shocked to find out while I was in undergraduate that it is possible to make a living by being a journalist that captures everyday life.
IV. What Photography Means To Me
My heart desired photography when I was at my lowest points. I personally feel a tremendous gratitude to those living and those that have left their legacy behind for the rest of us to study, understand, and appreciate. People will never be out of style. The world revolves around our interactions with each other and how we go about conducting everyday life. It is always an honor and privilege to capture a meaningful picture. There is a great responsibility when one decides to pick up a camera and get into the art form. What the artist chooses to capture and publish will give the public an insight on their character and beliefs.
This journey and experience has been humbling and rewarding each and every step of the way. The failures, lessons, research, and the people I’ve met have been all part of it.
Peace & Love,