Just a couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to speak to photography students at ‘Iolani School. I was so impressed by their thoughtfulness. I told them that I was an open-book, that they could ask me anything they wanted and I would answer honestly. One student had asked about my feelings and how I managed to “keep it together” while everything was unraveling. And what role the camera played in the process. These questions were like the ones that career reporters were asking me, but it was so different to hear the questions in-person… to see the youthful faces of curiosity shining in front of me. I loved it. And I was more honest with them than I had ever been.
There are still so many parts of this story, my past, my experiences with my father, and everything that happened from when I was born until today… and I know that I’ve held a lot back because it’s difficult to keep things in context. I’ve already learned the challenges of sharing something so intimate at such a “large” scale — and how bits and pieces of my past get blurred. It’s okay, I know that’s how it goes. But it felt really nice to be able to stand in front of these high school students and respond in-person, to have an open dialogue, and to continue sharing my respect and love for the visual medium.
Another student asked whether I thought I could have had the same journey without photography being a part of it. I don’t think that would have been possible. The camera is what brought me to them… it’s what connected all of us in that classroom, our shared passion for what the camera could do. At the core of it all, the camera itself is just a tool that allows us the freedom to capture and express a part of ourselves. And these images that are created can be so powerful, to the point where it moves our hearts and minds. I have always respected and admired the people (both presently and from the past) who continued to document and use this medium as a way to spark social change.
That was part of my message to the students in the class — that we are all part of this life journey, and each of us know what we really want… what we really love and are interested in. And it’s up to us to manifest that into reality. If you’re going to do something, put everything into it so you don’t look back and wonder.
I also wanted them to recognize that they can be creative in bridging various interests together. In my case it has always been photography and the law. Initially they may seem completely different from each other, almost at odds with each other. But I recognized early on that I wanted to do more than just document social issues, I wanted to be able to understand them at a deeper level. I wanted to understand the policy implications, the legal barriers of access to healthcare, and the way in which the law shaped the world I photographed. It has been an ongoing theme in my academic life… and I never imagined how personal it would be with my own biological father becoming homeless.
I truly appreciated this opportunity to have these meaningful conversations with the youth in my community. I look forward to my own sons growing up and developing into such thoughtful and curious teenagers… Deepest gratitude to the teachers who reached out and made this connection possible. Until next time…