I realized the moment I first held a real camera that I’d never be a professional photographer. As I clunkily fumbled with the dials on that relatively simple DSLR, my only thought was the several hundred dollars I’d just spent on a device about which I knew nothing. It took me several days of taking pictures in my apartment in Korea to even feel comfortable enough to bring it with me somewhere, and all the while I kept thinking, “with that money I could have bought several nice meals, a bus pass, and a new hat!” I began to worry I was falling into a pattern of creative impulsiveness, like the time I convinced myself I would be a musician. It was a cute delusion right up until the day I found myself trembling on a stage with several judges listening to me play a solo during juries at univerity. I cranked out a sorry tune and walked out realizing I’d rather sit at home and play video games than become a classical musician. Since that day of buyers remorse, I’ve taken a lot of pictures, some even worth sharing, but I am constantly reminded that like any art form, the dedication and hard work required to master the technical and creative aspects of photography are far from trivial. Realizing one’s mediocrity is a traumatic reckoning that can make the process of trying something new seem like a fool’s errand.

In any case, I’m happy today to share these galleries because they represent a kaleidoscope of experiences that, even when they betray my lack of training and discipline, are the footprints of my life. They also have not been easy to acquire, curate, and display here, and as a result I’m proud of this work. Still, I could never hope to keep up with the pace at which this art form is being elevated. A former student of mine that is scarcely a high school freshman has won National Geographic awards. Meanwhile I’m still working on getting a computer decent enough to run Lightroom.

My hope is that the subjects of my photos are well-served by the way they are depicted here. If I can compose something thoughtfully and with the proper intention, I think that is all that the art requires of me. My work is not ground breaking, avant garde, or at all fashionable, but I think my photos have soul; when I am looking through the lens, I’m happy and living in the present more thoroughly than with almost any other endeavor to which I devote myself. If my photos can provoke the same feeling in others, even briefly, then I’ve accomplished more than I could have ever hoped.

“The image needs to have soul. It needs to make me think and have meaning behind it. I also look at how images work together. It’s not just one perfect photograph that matters. Visual storytelling is different from making a single, “perfect” image. The images must work together to create an understanding of a place and culture.”

-Ami Vitale