"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Monday, January 25, 2010

olivia bee

In the talk I gave about my work last week, I got the ball rolling by showing pictures I had made when I was a young girl. Unbelievably (and luckily), I have a picture of me taking a picture when I was just two and a half years old. I have an assortment of pictures I made in the years following, too. I think it's pretty interesting to look at that stuff. As I said in the lecture, they inspire me to stay open to simplicity, wonder and imagination - elements of childhood AND photography that are all too easy to lose sight of.

A blog reader sent me some information about a young photographer named Olivia Bee. At the tender age of fifteen, Olivia is making some incredible work. In this day and age young people have access to cameras in a different way than we did back in the 50's and 60's. With point and shoot cameras and cell phones, just about anyone and everyone is a photographer now. Given the fact that it has always been one of the most democratic of mediums, this makes sense. This new wave of technology gives a readily available mouthpiece to so many people. But it's those who seem to be finding their own voice that make it exciting for me, a person who loves looking at thoughtfully made pictures.

In Olivia's own words:

Olivia writes, “I was born a small and scared kid. I wouldn’t play at the park when there were other kids there [and] I lined up my toys. I didn’t like going out of my house often and I had really bad OCD. Art was always a part of my life. In 6th grade, I discovered photography and I guess I thought it was pretty cool. I kinda ‘woke up’ to the world when I was like 13, [as I] started realizing that there were wonderful things going on… but there were horrible things going on.

I started really making sense of my time in terms of fun things and memories. I started going to concerts and started having lots of friends and started just doing things other than sitting in my room and drawing. When I was 14, I figured photography was a great way of writing down my feelings, and when I entered high school, I kinda exploded. I wasn’t very happy and I made all these stupid depressing photos. It was around like, March that I decided I was done and wanted to take photos to document the wonderful memories I was going to have.

My life started on April 5th of 2009. From about that point on, everything changed. I had a lot of fun. There were periods of brief sadness, but whatever. My photos now are for documenting my teenage years. A diary of sorts.
I want to be a photographer and I want to make movies. I want to go to college to experience it all. But first, I’m buying a school bus and driving nowhere with a bus full of friends. I don’t know what I want. Well, I want a husky.”

(PS - If you were not able to attend my presentation at the Nelson-Atkins, don't fret! It was videotaped. If you'd like a copy, please let me know.)

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