My Kodak Moment

My amazing Grandfather

Otha Laphon. That was my Hispanic, Native American grandfather’s name. (Yes! That makes me a tad Mexican with some Native American!) But, you can’t see that because I’m the only person in my family that acquired all of the European traits from my father. *Sigh* My grandfather was such a genuine man and was the warm, comforting father I would never have. We had an incredibly close relationship. At thirteen, my life took a turn for the worst after a traumatic event. My Grandfather saw right through my rebellious response and he loved me through it. 

Not long after the tragedy, my grandfather gave me a gift – a camera. I don’t remember the exact day and conversation for a number of reasons. But, I remember the hope that tiny, black point-and-shoot Kodak came with. Despite the pain, this moment was my Kodak Moment. Receiving that camera is something that I will never forget. For the next year, I took pictures of nature when I needed to escape. It traveled everywhere with me. School, trips, church, walks. One day as I got on the bus to head home from school, I carelessly threw my bag into the seat. My backpack crashed into the metal wall of the school bus with a loud thunk. Frantically, I opened my bag to find the screen on my camera broken. At that moment, I felt devastated. 

A Photographer was Born

But my Grandfather was wonderful. He laughed at my story a little and cheered me up. We went to the store, and he let me pick out a new camera. I picked a Canon Powershot. That was the day I became a Canon girl. This little camera had so many functions on it! My entire world was opened up to me in a new way. It got me out of the chaos around me and into a world of creativity and beauty. (I did have to replace it again because I broke this one too.) This was my beginning: A tiny Canon Powershot and a need to escape. 

My camera allowed me to express myself and chase after the beauty I so desperately needed in my life at the time. When I was fifteen, I won a photography contest and was published in a book. And for a number of reasons, I am not going to put that picture in here. I felt inspired and knew that I wanted to be a photographer. It was empowering to see my photo in a book. So, portfolio in hand, I met with a local photographer and asked for an internship.

Community Over Competition

I sat across from her in her studio and watched her turn the pages of this silly book I printed, studying each image. Staring at my images, she asked me what I was shooting with. In response, I pulled out my (new model) Canon Powershot and said “this.” After a few moments, she closed my book and lifted her gaze. “You have wonderful composition, but these pictures are terrible quality. Take this Canon 20D and go shoot. Come back in thirty minutes, and we will go from there.” 

Off I went, unsupervised, and took pictures with a DSLR. When I returned to her studio, she looked over the images and raved over the natural talent that I had. Mind you; these were all landscape shots as I wanted to work for National Geographic. She explained that she couldn’t let me continue shooting with my point-and-shoot camera and would sell me that Canon 20D that I worked with for a very low price. My Grandma agreed to make monthly payments and purchase that Canon for me. 

A Natural Business Woman

It was incredible to have this DSLR in my hands. I naturally began trying to do business and would try to sell my pictures to people.I took a picture of some butterflies and bees in my neighbor’s yard, printed it at home and sold it for ten dollars. My first ever sale. At the same time, I began taking courses in film photography, digital photography, and graphic design. I picked up on Photoshop fairly quickly and designed my own watermark. The butterfly was my favorite thing to photograph, and I always found hearts in nature. So, I combined the two and put it on all of my pictures. 

Growing into My Shoes

I continued to grow as a spry, eager shutterbug. Eventually, I got a new DSLR. I gave Nikon a whirl (sorry Nikon, we don’t work well together). I’ve gone through three film cameras and practiced darkroom development. I started college at Forsyth Tech as a Graphic Arts and Imaging Technology student, read books about photography and have taken a lot of classes on my own time. And now, here I am running a business and living out my dream. Despite the rough beginning and why I had a camera in the first place, it has turned into this beautiful passion that I get to practice almost every day. All thanks to the way my Grandfather loved me. 

My business wouldn’t exist without him and the path I’ve taken. My rebrand is a hats-off to my Grandfather for all the ways that he loved me, supported me, and accepted me. He passed away four years ago and I imagine how proud he would be of me if he were still alive.