July 23, 2021
I wish I had asked my Dad more questions because to this day, I still don’t have a clear idea as to why he knew so much about photography.
Growing up, we travelled all over the United States. I was an Army brat and we’d lived in 11 states and I’d attended 5 different high schools. A lot of people assume that it would have been really hard to constantly transition and adjust, but that’s the only thing I knew and I wouldn’t change a thing. The best part about living that lifestyle was the memories we made as a family. My parents made it an experience and adventure every time we moved. My Dad would take a month's worth of leave, we’d pack up the car and drive across the country so we could see everything in between.
We were living in Alabama and I was about 11 or 12 years old when my Dad gave me my first 35 mm camera that was sitting on the shelf in our home. My Dad worked as a medic in the hospital emergency room, and there was a medical test that required a 100 foot roll of 35mm film. The test never used the whole roll, but required a new roll for each test. My Dad would bring home the “leftover” film for me and I got a bulk film roller and learned how to roll my own film.
My parents encouraged me to explore and take photos of whatever I found interesting or exciting. Having that film from my Dad was nice because I could choose how many exposures to have in each roll. My Dad explained the science behind photography – use of light, apertures, shutter speed, exposure, etc. and my Mom was a painter so she helped me find the creativity for composition and the using the “eye” for beauty. I was captivated by the process of composing my images and then dipping the film into the chemicals and watching the picture appear so I did everything from start to finish.
I never considered myself a photographer or an artist. The film, the developing, the composition; it was all just fun for me. When my career and family started, I still took tons of pictures but it was more documenting the memories we were making. Balancing work and family didn’t leave much time for making a point to go out and take photos of sunrises or nature. Once our kids became more independent, I knew I wanted to get back into photography for fun again, digitally now, so I started regularly going out to look for and see things the way I used to see them.
The camera in my hands is a form of therapy for me; a way to escape. It feels good to create something and share it with others. I love taking photos of where I live, and it pleases others, but what I take photos of depends on what I’m feeling. I try and find different things to do when I get bored.
I’m really looking forward to getting back out there and exploring new places like the botanical gardens to see the trolls, and a few other places along the coast. To push myself and my skills, I look forward to capturing moonsets.
One of the things that really surprised me and made me proud was handing off some film cameras to my children. I really couldn’t believe their interest because they could use their phones. It was a great feeling to see them explore my passion and share the joy with them.
I may not have had the ability to ask my Dad all the questions I wanted, but my kids wanting to learn from me kind of pays homage to him. It’s thrilling to know the art of manual photography is not all lost.
- CJ Jenkins, Photographer (SeaJaySnaps.Smugmug.com)