This is where it started. That moment in time when you are confronted with the reality that your life, the one that you lived and breathed, day to day, is something more then what you thought it was. It is the focal point of what you will become and all that follows, all jelled down to a single discussion around a solitary image.
I remember vividly all that was said that day. I remember the room and the wall where our photos were neatly tacked up on the board. I remember feeling that this environment, this world was alien and new to me. The class was filled with white students, mostly from middle-class suburbia and, that I, and one other student were the only people of color in the class. That school, that classroom was the make or break point for me as a young man seeking a way through life, maybe through photography.
The interview process to enter the school was brutal at best. The woman looking over my portfolio thought that I had no talent and didn’t believe that I had any ability as a photographer or an artist and went on to say that it was something that you were born with. Maybe like the money that the mostly affluent students had who attended the school were born with, I thought. But I had a full ride from the government, and, I can’t prove it, maybe the right last name and physical defect and I was accepted. The school was a strange and bizarre world and completely foreign to me. There were no friends for me and every thing felt like a competition. Students surrounded themselves with ego driven elitism that tinged everything with cynicism. What some would consider to be a creative environment was simply a soul killer for me.
So here I am in this room and the instructor points to my photos and asks people what they think. One woman said “You watch too much violent TV shows” and that it was reflected, she believed in my photo. I think I tuned out, reacting to the implications of what she and other students said afterwards. I remember the instructor looking at me and my seething reaction and got them to back off of me. I didn’t understand their reaction. It was just kids playing cops and robbers. It was only later I came to understand it wasn’t simply the kids, but the environment that they were standing in, the person who took the photo and the alien world that it represented to them.
The instructor saw my pained reaction and knew that her college was not the right place for me and turned me on to another college that would be more supportive of what I was doing.
At the end of the year I was out of there.
So it began, the single question, what was different about who I was and where I came from?