Sunday, July 27, 2008

241. On the Origins of Newspapers and Photography in Victoria's Life

I suppose the theme for Surviving the Systems is that "You Spend your Entire Adulthood Getting Over your Childhood." I first heard this saying from Sarah Simpson, a science journalist and editor for Scientific America. In terms of getting over my childhood, I am upset that my parents literally stifled my intellectual and creative growth from the mere practice of not giving me a camera--let alone not giving me and my sister video games (which I am oppositely thankful for). I asked for a camera for so long and was so jealous that my father had this big old Pentax. Then at the same time, I cannot be to angry at them because unfortunately the predominant camera was still film-based, and it was only until college that digital camera became consumer-available. Otherwise, photography would have been a very expensive hobby... He he.
Since the first purchase of my Olympus camera in early 2001 with my UC LEADS grant funding, my memory and artistic inspiration has drastically improved and expanded. Photography is a recording crutch for my right brain essentially. Before, I could not function in biology labs because of the intense memorization of details in a short amount of time. We were expected to draw the organisms and mangled, discolored stuffed birds we were observing in lab. But with the inclusion of my Olympus camera, my biological experience had drastically altered... from failing grades and dropping classes to getting A+ grades in invertebrate zoology and California vegetation. Photography is now my method of systematic observation and recordings of my surroundings. It goes hand-in-hand with my writing. First I have visions, and then the writing just trails behind trying to keep up with my visions.
I have come to the conclusion that I have a visual, spatial-temporal memory. Duh.
Maybe that's why I was the best Origami Girl within my classes in elementary school. Whatever I was taught to make--a box, a bird, a lily flower, a fish, somehow I had this uncanny memory to reconstruct these objects, even to this day. I remembered spatial reconstruction, but I just couldn't get the endless pages of facts of US History straight. Scary thought.
The image above has two parallel stories. It was the 100th year anniversary of the Riverside Public library. At the time (when I was 7 years old), my mother was volunteering at the library and so it was a big family event to attend the ceremonies and activities. During the afternoon, I was sitting down in the back of a small crowd of similar-sized humans, cross-legged on the floor in the front main lobby, paying halfway attention to some lady up in front reading some book full of pictures. But subliminally in the corner of my eye, I saw some "other" lady dressed in darker colors, leaning against a book shelf, with a giant camera in front of her face. And then in a split moment of complete awareness, I came to realize that she was pointing the camera--as if it were some gun--directly at ME. I am sure I must have experienced some shock in my spine, but I quickly went into posing mode, looking fully alert and engaged and engrossed upon what this lady with the picture book was saying. The lady had the camera pointed at me for quite a while actually, without any faint distant click noise, and I was a bit confused. I still resumed to pose, and then I finally heard a "tsk!" and I partially released myself from my childish statuesque pose.
It ended up retroactively, that the lady photographer was waiting for my "balloon" I was holding to twist-and-turn such that you could see the "Happy Birthday Library" symbol on the balloon while taking the picture.
I do not know whether the lady photographer approached me or I approached her, but I vividly remember tagging along with her for a couple of hours all around the library. I was kind of a shy kid, but that big, juicy, clunky camera toy hanging around that lady's neck just broke all forms of social awareness and barriers. It was the most intrinsic practice for me to just start asking a bunch of questions about the camera--or whatever a 7-year old kid could possibly ask about a camera. Like how to operate it. Finally, the lady allowed me to hold the camera and gave me the license to take one picture. Just one precious picture. Wow, did my brain start cranking. Out of all the things that I knew and experienced in the world, I only had one picture I could take... within the vicinity of the library. I started scouting without being aware that I was "scouting." I started inspecting objects and backgrounds in chaotic intelligence, for I had no coursework and no methodologies. And in a regretful moment I snapped an image of a bland rock by a flight of stairs. I was so sad when I handed the camera back to the very nice lady.... I finally had to bid her goodbye. To this day, I can still feel an emotional tinge of loss from this farewell.
I faintly remember my mother being concerned about me tagging along and "playing" with a complete stranger. But I kept nagging about the camera and my overprotective parent let me loose on a day that was going to forever scar my mind and my life. Scar in a good way though.
Wow, I was the Press Enterprise Poster Child for the Riverside Public Library 100th anniversary. Not a bad modeling resume item. No pay though. Just lots of good PR. Gary Christmas, a manager of the public library and our neighbor, came over to our house the following week and gave us a snipit of a picture of me placed in the newspaper. My first experience with newspapers is to be visually published. People published me, and one day, I will get in a good habit of publishing, rather than to be published. Or maybe both. Whatever.
Since that snapshot moment, the whole sensation, the whole thrill of taking one single photograph with a giant heavy professional camera, though the photo must have been horrible, ultimately changed me, changed the functions of my mind. I knew I wanted to be a "Photographer." More so I NEEDED to be. Due to the structure of my mind. This whole Southpaw genetic deal I inherited from my father. That camera to me was like this glue, this necessary hypersensory appendage I needed to attach to my brain and body. This instant, divine fixation.
And why I cannot seem to forgive my parents about the lack of a professional camera for a shy kid who opened up from her introverted shell like some form of Awakening of life from the deadness of a child rock. Why couldn't my mother see that? See the enthusiasm? Instead I got tennis shoved down my throat. A sport my mind was never adapted to. Tennis was a whole other can of worms we'll just set aside for now.
It's not that I don't forgive my parents. I am just angry that my mother mostly imposed her own agenda on her kids rather than being observant and exploring what her kids really liked and experimented and poked with and worked on fostering intrinsic interests. My father essentially and elusively brainwashed me to become a scientific writer through his editings of my essays over time, but he was gentle and never authoritative... so I intrinsically grativated toward his advice.
I am also pissed off at the American School System because students were penalized with grade point averages for taking art classes and lauded for taking courses like physics. So, I was artistically deprived as a high school student. The only time I really had an opportunity to do art was decorating my posters for science fairs. Poor Victoria. No art = no brain blossom.
To get to the point, I am pissed because the lag time between the original exposure, spark of interest, and fixation to the camera to the actual purchase of my own digital camera summed up to be about 14 years. 14 LONG YEAR OF RELATIVE DORMANCY OF MY RIGHT BRAIN. Dormancy of being locked up in your own head and not having the capacity to become what I intrinsically would have gravitated to become. I think the lag time was a great tragedy. I didn't get that many toys from my parents. I wasn't oversaturated, but I wasn't exactly deprived. If I were "raised twice" and had multiple simulations of my childhood experiments, off hand I would have sacrificed the Barbie Dolls and a couple of family vacations. I would have liked to have been forced to play the guitar and a camera with a small monthly budget. I wished I were raised in a CCS environment that Bruce and Robin Tiffney are probably giving to Theo. My dad was CCS-like and my mother was like traditional rope-strapping university bureaucracy. Creatively stifling. I think it's good to sample both extremes of parenting, which scales out to overall methods of perceiving global governance and human-environmental management. Ha ha. That's a stretcher.
Since I was a partly-deprived child, my college experience was at first psychologically tormentingly overwhelming and a very steep learning curve of self-discovery. Finally having parental governance set aside to truly explore my own internal properties, rights, rules, constraints, values. Like my own brain has its own set of institutions. I should talk to Oran Young, my advisor, about that. I think he might be amused by the concept.

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