My whole life has led to this moment: sitting at my laptop, typing an essay about appreciating the journey. In a way this is similar to another essay I wrote, about finding beauty in a routine, but this is reflecting on my past and acknowledging how it made me who I am today.
As soon as I set my feet on the floor in the morning, I am embarking on a journey to change the rest of my life. A new person from the day before. I am a firm believer in the ripple effect: how any one thing you do in a day changes the outcome of your entire life. I also believe in the theory that everything has already been written (including my stupid, little, precious life).
I look back at my parents’ photographic archive of my childhood and I recognize similar imagery to what I am drawn to photographing now; except for the forced smiles, “Marygrace, you have to smile.” They wanted me to appear happy, when that’s not exactly how I remember the moments. We are human, shouldn’t it be normal to experience all the emotions? But for some reason, we don’t want to capture the raw emotions, right, at least not when it’s teenage angst. Once it switched, and I gained the power, I started taking photos of myself and the emotions felt more genuine. I was taking photos of myself on my own terms.
I’ve been in possession of my own camera for a decade and since then I have been photographing myself and my surroundings. It’s hard to believe how many photos, and versions, of myself I have access to. I should admit, I don’t always love the memories that come crawling back when I revisit an older version of myself. In addition to making me slightly uncomfortable, I am still able to look at them and say, “I am in a better place now.”
Every single thing you have ever experienced led you to where you are today.
My childhood isn’t centered around one specific place. There are so many different spaces, things, and bedrooms I recall. I try to think of the feeling of home, but it’s different every time. In a way, I think that is what I am chasing: the feeling of home. I don’t know if I will ever find it, or feel it in the present tense. When I look at my decade-long archive, I remember the places, and I can see the homes, but the feeling is for someone who I was in the past. The cliche milestones tend to become a fuzzy dream once I revisit them in my head. It’s the insignificant moments that made the biggest impact and tend to resurface more often.
I’m not entirely sure what made me start photographing myself – it’s almost like I needed proof and a genuine portrayal of my feelings, which haven’t always been validated or exposed. I’m glad I started when I did because now, I have an archive of several phases of my life. Once you embrace the notion that change is the only constant, you start to feel a lot less pressure and are able to embrace your own journey.
Marygrace is proud to announce her new website, an attempt at making sense of the journey. All of the highs and lows that molded her into the human being she is today. Check it out at this link: http://marygracegladden.com
Film images in article developed & scanned by Gelatin Labs, or self processed by Marygrace
About the Author
Marygrace Gladden is an internationally exhibited photographic artist devoted to preserving and documenting her human experience.