I have always been creative, but as so many creative stories go, I suddenly found myself sitting at a plastic desk in a sterile office under blinding florescent lights doing what they call “work.” Every day for seven years I went to “work,” and bit by bit lost my identity in that hollow, colorless routine.
I did it for all purposes of practicality, and so when I got laid off, it was one of the best moments of my life. For the next year, I hammered away at building a photography business, and at the very point I was feeling crushed by isolation and self-doubt, The Define School found me.
I took four classes in three months and completely altered my mindset and approach to photography. Each lesson was one epiphany after another. Along with an empathetic ear to my struggles, I found teachers and a community willing to build me up and push me forward. They were there to help refine my technical knowledge, and also to offer a platform from which I’d take a deep dive into my identity as an artist.
I dove, and the deeper I went, the more I recovered myself after all of those years of loss. I never thought I’d find such profound human connections in an online school, but there they were, in the way of DEFINE – in our in-depth conversations, in our mutual self-exploration, in our teachers’ explicit attention to our concerns, in the friendships that surfaced through the stories of our images. This experience absolutely reinforced my creative path and belief that photography is a conduit for human connection.
When I finally applied the knowledge I had gained in the incredible classes of Kellie Hatcher’s Light + Life and Molly Flanagan’s Visual Storytelling, I felt complete. With photographs and text, I presented an abstract story about the relationship of a young woman and her beauty. It fully encompassed my deeply emotional perception of photography, and provided me with a sense of acceptance that I could create impactful art without fitting neatly into any one genre.
Photography truly is the delicate art of capturing emotion, and for me, also a way to reclaim a once quieter, more contemplative world now eclipsed by a tidal wave of glowing faces and incessant dinging devices.
A photograph has the ability to halt time and create a distinct pause in our maddening world – a breath, a stillness that can restore human connections lost to the vacuity of technology and social media. This pause and connection is exactly summed up by the African concept of Ubuntu – I am because you are. It is the fact that human beings cannot exist without affecting one another, and it is in the acknowledgement and telling of our stories that we realize how deeply and inevitably connected we are.
I feel fulfilled in the presence of natural emotions and tangible touch and the innate storytelling that tumbles out between lovers, friends, like-minded people, and all of those whom we stumble across as we navigate life. Photographs cement these stories into place, igniting, restoring, and preserving our connections to remind us that we each have an invaluable place and responsibility in our world.
This is why I take pictures. This is all that photography means to me. I am an extrovert, a lover of people and the earth, and a tenacious communicator. I want to impart my beliefs to others and convince them of their importance in the inevitable web of life. I want to show them what they mean to me and what they mean to the world in the photographs I take.
With the encouragement of the teachers, now my friends, at DEFINE, I am pursuing this conceptual path of photography in hopes that somehow it will be a foundation of the human connection for which I so deeply yearn.
Tricia Ramsay has taken four DEFINE classes: Light + Life, Visual Storytelling, Group Mentoring + Critique with Posy Quarterman, and Building Your Business (now retired). To see more of Tricia’s work, you can find her on Instagram as @clemenciastoriestold or visit her web site.
Our “Student Stories” are just a few of the many testimonials and stories of growth we hear about from students in our community, along with some magnificent work. We hope you’re as inspired by these as we are.