I believe in my camera.
I’m a homebody. Left to my own devices, I’d stay in my room most of the time, sitting on my bed, surfing the Internet, wasting time.
My first couple of years of college, I didn’t really do anything outside of classes. I would watch people experiencing life — going to football games, being in clubs — and I’d think, “That would be rewarding to do … if I were an extrovert.”
By the end of my sophomore year, I looked back and thought, “Wow, what did I do this year? … Not much.” I was a journalism major and came to the conclusion that, at the very least, I should get some experience doing journalism. So I picked up my camera and tried out to be a photojournalist for Penn State’s student newspaper, The Daily Collegian.
And I got in. The other photographers were really welcoming. I liked the people — and hanging out at the office, there’s always someone to talk to. There’s a shared sense of purpose. Suddenly I realized, “I have friends now.” It was the perfect introduction to a social life.
I’ve been taking pictures since elementary school but I’d never seen my camera as a social tool until I joined the Collegian. I found when I picked up my camera to go on assignment, I had a reason to go out and be in the world.
And it’s not just my social life that opened up. My camera also exposed me to people and circumstances I wouldn’t have otherwise known — or really cared — about.
I’d never gone to a football game as a student, but the work put me on the sidelines, shooting the game. Even though I’ve never been interested in football as a sport, I suddenly got why it’s such a big deal. There’s a palpable sense of excitement in the air. And while I normally wouldn’t enjoy being in the middle of tens of thousands of people, I felt comfortable being there as a photographer, between the crowd and the players on the field.
It’s not just football. For every assignment, I’d have a reason to experience something different and I’d get to learn about something new.
I spent six weeks following Mormon missionaries for a story. I hung out with a family that lives in a tent every year at the Grange Fair. I got a glimpse of what it’s like to raise a child with severe epilepsy.
When I’m behind my camera, I have a license to be part of the action. I’m not Kelly the introvert; I’m Kelly the photojournalist.
Now that I’m graduating, I can look back and see how much of a difference taking pictures made in my life. If my camera hadn’t taken me out in the world, I guarantee I would’ve watched every season of “Dexter,” every episode of “The Wire.” I would’ve seen all of “The West Wing.” And that would’ve been college.
My camera got me out of my dorm room and into a circle of friends. It gave me a reason to close my computer and experience real life. I believe in my camera.