Rachel Cull – STEP Signature Project


For my STEP Project I decided to learn all about Photography. The focus of my project has rested on unlocking my creative abilities through photography in order to have a creative outlet for stress. Also, the benefits of the Arts on learning and cognition are innumerable. I spent funds on a quality DSLR camera and some accessories in preparation for the Photo I class offered here, at The Ohio State University. I have taken photographs in several stages of learning and various settings and types. I fully expect photography to be a life-long love as well as a useful pastime.


When starting with my camera, the first thing I learned was that I was inept with my camera. I remember thinking at the time that my photographs were so good for a beginner, and some were, but the majority had bad lighting or weird framing. A photographer I know taught me the difference between aperture and shutter-speed priorities and how to use manual mode. My photos got exponentially better after that. Then, my Photo I professor, Jared, taught me about white balance, framing, and all of the different types of photography. He critiqued my work and helped me learn my strengths and weaknesses and I got better again. There is still plenty about my camera I don’t know, but I have the understanding and skill necessary to tweak settings and know what that does to my images. There will always be something new to try!

I learned to see the beauty in the world, even the beauty in destruction. There was a girl in my class who took photographs of garbage on the street and they were lovely! I took photographs for a series on anxiety disorders that I eventually put into a small Art Show that President Drake attended. I got so much positive feedback from my instructor, my peers, and ultimately President Drake (which was pretty cool). It’s like in the movie, Concussion, when Dr. Omalu talks about the grace and beauty in football even though it’s destructive and lethal; so is the world and everything in it.


Taking the class took an emotional toll on me at first. My work was critiqued week after week and some days it felt harsh. I liked all of my work and art is an emotional endeavor. But I learned that Jared’s “harsh” critiques would make me better, and I found that since that realization I have responded more positively to criticism, both constructive and otherwise. He also taught me that being creative can be logical and I have grown in creative skills as a result of taking this class, which was my goal. I’ve grown so much and realized that when I am critiqued, in any way: a grade on an exam, an evaluation of my performance at work, or a comment about my photographs, I am the only one that can fix that. Complaining about it or blaming it on the reviewer’s personal opinion won’t make it any better; it just wastes time. My life has gotten exponentially more satisfying due to this realization and understanding. Sometimes it really isn’t personal.


My main goal in learning photography was to relieve stress in a creative way, a way that inspires me, so that whenever life gets crazy, I can just pick up my camera and see the world through a lens instead of my over analytic brain. I have found so much more relief than I ever hoped to find. And even after the photographs have been taken, the photos themselves bring me joy. I can capture little moments, stopped in time, and remember my life in them, even when my brain no longer can.

I’ve also been able to share my knowledge by taking photos for friends and family. I took head shots for my co-workers for their Linked-In profiles and I will offer to do the same whenever Hall Council or RA’s do professional development events. I took portraits of my friend for her mom. I have taken some family photos and have become the “official photographer” of Baker West. I love being able to share my new-found ability with others.


Stepping out of my own head to see how a person, a landscape, a building, or an event looks through the lens is almost an out of body experience. It feels like it’s own form of meditation. That second when you hold your breath so the camera is still when you take your shot, everything becomes crystal clear. Everything looks so beautiful through a lens and it’s up to me to make it really sing. There is something so powerful about freezing a moment in time.


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