Dear Room 620,
I can remember sitting in Mr. Baltz’s photography class when professional photographers would visit and I can’t recall asking any questions. I thought that photographers or artists were rare people and that kids from working class families had to make more stable and sensible career choices. I knew I loved looking at Mary Ellen Mark’s photographs in the books that Mr. Baltz kept on the bookshelves because she photographed people and places in the world that I longed to meet. Nothing up to that point had ever made me feel more creative and curious about life than shooting a roll of film and working in the dark to make something from the negatives but I never thought that I could earn a living making photographs. It seemed out of reach for me.
I was humbled and overwhelmed with your thoughtful questions during class and I was inspired by your emails. Instead of responding to each one individually I thought that I would answer some of your questions here for everyone. Many of you asked about college, and wanted to know where to go and what to study. I feel very ill-equipped to answer this question because I don’t know the “right answer” for you. I had my first panic attack in the JTHS office when my home economics teacher asked us to write a paper on what we wanted to be when we left high school. I felt an immense pressure to live up to all the possibilities and I started letting that question bully my self-esteem. I wrote my paper in that class about wanting to be a rockstar that lived in Russia and I started having nose bleeds when It was time to start applying to colleges. I went to JJC because financially it made more sense for me to pay a fraction of the costs for general education classes and to transfer to a university later. I chose Columbia College when I transferred because they didn’t have sports teams, school songs or fraternities/sororities and I could commute while still living at home and saving money. Also I knew I wanted to get my degree in photography and I thought it was important to have access to a darkroom and alternative processes because that was my first love. I thought buying things like lenses and equipment were more important than living in the dorm or going to parties so the sacrifice of not living on campus and lots of nights on the train were worth it to me.
I can tell you that I wanted to drop out of college a million times for a million different reasons but I loved my photography classes and I loved the perspective shift I got in classes like women and gender studies, comparative religion, philosophy and world governments. College is shamefully expensive and many of you said that you wanted to visit countries solely because you heard the education was free so an arguement I have for going to college instead of just the library is that a college education is an investment in you, in your world view and your ability to be empowered by knowledge and critical thinking. I think if that sounds like something you desire you are worth it and student loans are worth the risk.
Many of you asked about owning your own business and whether that was worth it or not. I am sure you have heard the quote “If you don’t build your dream someone will hire you to help build theirs.” I think now more than ever economic independence is power and I tell my sister "you vote with your dollar." I encourage all of you to imagine the kind of life that will make you the happiest, work hard and chase it. I never wanted to own a business, I wanted to make photographs and I had to learn and continue to learn everything else about being a business owner along the way. I am my own marketing & PR person, I am the receptionist, the bookkeeper, the photo-editor, the web designer, blogger (and unfortunately grammar and spelling editor), client contact and finally photographer. It’s overwhelming but I do it because I can keep making photographs. If this still hasn’t deterred you from wanting to start your own business know that most business don’t make a profit their first year and maybe by the second year they make a small profit, so start now, learn as much as you can and keep going. If you’re still curious about entrepreneurship local glass artist, Sue Regis did an interview about being an artist and owning a business last year for Rabbit Hearted Girls.
Finally, many of you asked for advice on how to become a professional photographer and to that my answer is simple. Make pictures. We talked in class about how the total number of photographs present on Facebook is 10,000 times greater than the total number of photographs that can be found in the US Library of Congress. Photographs in US Library of Congress are a documentation of US history since its very beginning. While that can be disheartening be encouraged that there is plenty of room in the industry for how you see the world. We are at an unprecedented age for image makers and storytellers because never in the history of the world has it been easier to take a photo; the equipment is often in our pocket, our photos can reach the entire world in seconds and technology has made image capture easy. However never before has it been harder to be a photographer because the world is saturated with images and is desperately in need of intention and originality. Keep making photographs if you really love it and ask yourself what you love to see. Passionately pursue that love like an obsession and keep trying to make photographs that say something new. Add to the conversation what you want to say. You become a photographer in the process.
Thank you for your time, attention and presence. It was an honor to make photos with you all for two days and answer your questions.
'Till hell freezes over,
My mom inspires me because she's so strong and tells me every day she wants the best for me.
My heart breaks for a lot of things even for the oddest reasons.
What is the one thing in the world you are most afraid of?
Not living everyday like it’s the last
If I had the chance to spend a million dollars I would invest it in people who don’t have much or for people who can’t afford an education
What is a song lyric, poem or quote that describes your world view best?
“we're just hanging around and burning it down”
What is one thing you hope the world knows about you?
I wasn’t extraordinary but I'm exceptional
- Matana Glunz