When I was 18 and several months away from graduating high school, I somehow contracted mono. My sleepy self was exhausted all the dang time and I found myself regularly falling asleep anywhere and sadly everywhere, caring about almost nothing other than where I could take a quick nap. It was rough.
On May 22nd, 2014, the night of graduation, a friend of mine ran up to me and another classmate and asked if we wanted a polaroid photo together to commemorate graduating. I was still so sleepy and honestly could've cared less, but we said yes and this somehow became a life-altering event for my 18-year-old self.
About two weeks later, I was leaving for Europe for 17 days. I had to pack and sign a few final college documents before catching my flight halfway across the world. After graduating, I was fortunate enough to receive a bit of graduation money and I wanted to purchase a little gift for myself to celebrate the graduation. I decided I should buy a mini polaroid camera to capture all of the memories I was about to make. It ended up being a worthwhile purchase.
Once I returned home, college seemed to begin two seconds later. College was a TIME for me. And not in the wild + crazy sense. I transferred from Northern Arizona University to Paradise Valley Community College (+ Rio Salado) and then once more to Arizona State University where I finally graduated in 2018.
After I made my final transfer to Arizona State University in 2016, I pulled out all cameras again. One of which was my polaroid. I used this camera like it was my JOB. I always carried a purse or bag big enough to hold this little toy. I'm pretty sure I became known as the girl with the polaroid. This camera made its way to music festivals, restaurants, hiking adventures, road trips, got doused in In N Out lemonade, dampened by various rivers, lakes, + boat rides, the few college parties I did attend, onto the Santa Monica Pier roller-coaster, countless airplanes, bars, and a beach condo in Mexico. Naturally knowing me, the lemonade spillage accident required the purchase of a new polaroid, but nonetheless, a polaroid went EVERYWHERE. And it captured everything.
While I was in school, someone had asked me why I loved my polaroid so much when I also had a DSLR and the images would turn out better by using digital technology rather than a point & shoot polaroid. I thought about this for a while. Little background on myself: I worked in a restaurant upon returning home after NAU. This restaurant and all employees inside welcomed my hippy lifestyle of wanting to live in the moment. Before long, I realized I was in love with this idea and felt really good living as carefree as I could. Back to the polaroid. My life revolved around school + working in this restaurant and I began to see the similarities between who I was in and out of the restaurant. I really started to enjoy finding out who I was and what I wanted out of this life. I LOVED (and still love) people. I love it when you can get someone talking about something they are so truly passionate about- the light in people's eyes quite literally changes when they are talking about something/someone they passionately love. I then fell in love with capturing these moments of pure joy. My professional camera gear allows me to capture crystal clear, sharp moments, but you can edit and contour these photos to the exact look and feel you desire. With a polaroid, the moment is captured as it happens and you can't digitally alter the image. That was my response. Why do I like polaroid photos so much if I have professional gear that would give me better quality photos? When you shoot with a polaroid, the moment is caught exactly as it is in that moment and it cannot be digitally altered from exactly what was happening right then. When I was at music festivals dancing my heart out with my friends, the light and love streaming out of my eyes was unparalleled. My smile was contagious and by snapping a quick polaroid, my emotions were captured exactly in the moment as they were being expressed. I continued to fall in love with this tactic. This niche. This feeling.
If you peek at my personal Instagram account, you will notice starting about three years ago, every third photo is a polaroid. I love including these photos on my personal account because it tells the story of who I am, unfiltered, unedited, and in the moment. When I came home from NAU, I felt the need to dramatically and feverishly live in the moment. Whether this included chasing a monsoon for a spontaneous shoot with coworkers after closing the restaurant while knowing I had class at 7am the next morning or shooting a set for a local artist even though I knew I had several hours of homework ahead of me, I wanted to have experiences and truly live to make memories while I could. I got away from this mentality last year while starting my first full-time job. Now, it's my goal to get back to that lifestyle. My boyfriend, Luis, still feels (and never has lost) the emotions of living in the moment. Making more memories alongside him is something I truly want to quickly incorporate back into my life.
And you can BET I'll keep a polaroid in hand to capture every moment along the way. Whenever I have a photo session, I keep a polaroid camera in my bag so after the session concludes, I can snap a quick polaroid photo for the person, couple, or family to take home with them. This way, they have a little memento to remember the session as they were in the moment and remain excited for their digital files to be returned. I never expected a little plastic camera to give me so much inspiration. To be honest, I'm fairly certain a polaroid camera taught me how to be a better photographer in a professional sense. Learning how to capture moments with a polaroid camera taught me how to engage with others and ensure I am capturing their happiest and purest selves.
The next time you aren't feel like yourself, take a moment to reflect on what makes you happiest. What makes you feel like your soul is on fire. Who makes you feel alive. What you enjoy doing to bring a true and wide smile upon your face. Who supports you endlessly and always makes sure you laugh, smile, and dance. These are moments and people who matter the most to you. These are the people or things that allow you to recognize who you are, who you want to be, and what you expect out of this life to make sure you are guided to the truest form of yourself. I found friends I now consider family who love and support me and I am so thankful for finding my tribe of humans who continually raise me up, make me smile, and always remind me there is so much more to life.
What makes you happy? What/who makes you feel passionate? Find those people or those things, events, or ideas and love them hard. I'm thankful I did because they brought me to the moment I am in right now and to be honest, I wouldn't change a thing. Until next time, Kayla