I chose a photography project which fell under the artistic and creative endeavor category for my STEP signature project. The main focus of my project was abandoned buildings/places and their connection to the environment. I wanted to capture the environment “taking back” its territory.
I think there is really two things that my signature project gave me in terms of a transformation.
The first is the newfound creativity bone in my body. Previous to this experience my life had been oriented academically around math and science and my hobbies included sports and the outdoors. I engaged in a photography project to break those limitations that I had set for myself because I thought that I was not a creative person. This project showed me that it doesn’t have to be one or the other and I think it shows a side of me that I did not know I had.
My signature project also strengthened my appreciation for the environment and the world around me that I often take for granted. I got to capture images that to me reflect an environment that is strong and able to reinstate itself after being trampled on by humans. I notice things more than I had before. I will notice the building in the middle of the city that is abandoned and think about how it seemed so necessary at one time, only to be left unoccupied.
The first event that impacted me was a site of abandoned cars that I visited. These cars are located in the woods behind the house that I grew up in. I can remember going on walks with my mom and my sister on the quad trail that used to go past them. My mom would always urge us not to go near because of the broken glass. Returning to the site during my project was a little surreal. My sister came with me and we reminisced on how we would play around them whenever our mom was not there. The cars were much more overgrown with vegetation and were more deteriorated from what I can remember, but they were still there. Comparing my encounters with the site led me to think about the things that go unnoticed. When I was younger I did not think about the environment as beauty that surrounded me, it was simply there and I just took it for granted.
The visual interaction between the environment and an abandoned object impacted my appreciation. Vines that wrapped themselves around steering wheels and up the side of a building reflect the strength and prosperity that the environment is capable of given the option. This is strength because it is able to regrow on an area that was once taken from it by humans.
Finally the activity of photography was not an easy task. I am still improving because it is not a skill that is automatic. The act of engaging in something creative led me to express myself in a new way. Expressing yourself and in my case the environment creatively is something that can be unique to the given situation. I know that my work is always going to be different that someone else’s. This creative outlet gave me something to focus on that was different for me which helps to make me a better-rounded person.
This experience has been significant to my personal life because it has humbled me. Abandoned locations have shown me the strength in the environment and that is a beauty that I would like to see thrive. This has impacted my future because my major is Ecological Engineering. The appreciation I have for the environment has helped me to solidify my passion to make an impact on the way humans interact with the environment. I plan to continue the idea of my project into my future because I would like this hobby to help me preserve my transformed appreciation and give me a creative outlet.