Memories are what make a place. For my two day self directed challenge I set out to capture the experiences, stories, and memories attached to important places around our very own High Desert Center. I asked people to share their stories of our five weeks here together, and took pictures of locations that have held space for us in our time here.
I originally imagined I would take pictures first, ask for stories later, as my main interest in this project was the photography aspect. But as quickly as hour 2 I realized that the stories would be my focus here. For both myself as the collector and the people who would view this in the future, the stories are what held interest and significance. So I changed my tactic from “taking pictures, then asking for stories of those specific places” to “asking for any type of story, see what comes up, go take pictures of where their memory took place.”
In the beginning, many people struggled with the daunting general request to share any type of story, any at all. I carried around a list of possible places, such as the trampoline, dish line, the irrigation ditch, to name a few. I myself didn’t plan on sharing a story (doubting my own storytelling skills, just like I told other U.A. participants not to worry about) and completely understand the struggle of having no good stories to tell on the spot. I found that the little moments of joy made for the best stories, like Poppy with catching fish, and Tabbi’s early morning trampolining. Better yet, long rambles about intense love for stars, or the bench on the short path.
My biggest personal struggle was taking photos of things that were not people. Over the past year I’ve become very comfortable and happy with portraits, and strayed away from taking landscapes and still life. I wanted to capture places around the Desert Center void of people, to show what we take away from this place even after we’ve left. I realized I was weak when it came to composition and finding interesting angles, though I feel improved with just one day of intensive shooting.
This challenge also gave me a meaningful last look the place I’ve had the opportunity to call home this last month. Wandering around taking pictures gave me the perfect way to say my goodbyes, alone and with a camera. The thought that this might be my last time here was by far the most difficult part of this challenge. I’ve really cherished my time here and will miss it even more than the collected stories and photos can convey.
It’s still a work in progress without the audio files, I expect to have those up soon.