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A Happy Medium: Introduction

A Happy Medium with Emma West

“Art is the space we go when language fails us.” - Alok Vaid Menon

I have always appreciated art for its potential to create a tangible, visually engaging representation of an artist’s thoughts. I was never good at writing, so I found art’s expressive capacity especially appealing. However, whenever I picked up a brush, molded some clay, or glued things together, my “art” just looked silly and was, frankly, a mess. I was disappointed because I always thought I had an eye for aesthetics, but the evidence suggested otherwise.

Almost exactly two years ago, one of my good friends, Abby, asked if I wanted to hang out and test her new camera with her. Abby was known as the ‘artsy photographer’ amongst our friends, so needless to say, I was a little intimidated but went along with it. She started taking photos of me, wherein I awkwardly pretended to ‘model.’ Uncomfortable with posing, I offered to take photos of her… and I was hooked. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, and of the hundreds of images I captured, most were complete rubbish, I loved every minute of it. The following pictures were the few I was happy with.

Emma's first photoshoot

At that moment, I realized it wasn’t that I lacked creativity or artistic ability; I just hadn’t found my medium yet. Photography was something I instantaneously became passionate about, obsessed even. I watched photography-related YouTube videos, analyzed different photographers’ works, and invested in an entry-level DSLR camera. I took photos for anyone who would let me.

Six months later, I asked to photograph Abby again. Here were the results.

Abby smiling vs. serious
Abby walking across the street
Abby standing on the road
Abby by the truck vs. on a chair

Our first “photo-shoot” was full of shots in the dark, hoping for at least one good picture. Since then, I learned a lot about what goes into making a good photo, and so my second photo-shoot was a result of conscious decisions. I still have so much to learn, but that’s what so great about art, especially photography. I am constantly inspired by everything around me.

Since starting photography, I noticed that my approach to capturing beautiful images has influenced the way I approach problems in life and work. For anyone familiar with my photography, I get my inspiration from eclectic sources to ensure that every single photo-shoot is unique. If I ever find myself in a rut, I often feel uneasy and restless. These moments are, ironically, when I am the most motivated. I’ll go to museums, decrypt song lyrics, practice my violin, learn a new recipe, obsess over photographers I admire… anything to momentarily “distract” myself from my own photography. What some people misinterpret as photographic inactivity on my part is actually the way I filter and consider new concepts for my photography. I like to call it “deliberate chaos.”

Most people follow a predetermined plan when tackling a project. Instead, I approach work like I approach photography: by considering the issue from multiple angles before determining the best course of action. I wouldn’t say photography forced me to entertain multiple perspectives; rather, I think that’s the way I always preferred to absorb information. However, in our education system, I am taught to follow the “tried and true” way in order to maximize efficiency. My creative outlet empowered me to undermine established methods because art necessitates open-mindedness. My rediscovered outlook ensures that my work is never contrived and adheres to a very high standard: my own.

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