Looking back on the last couple of months, my life has taken an unexpected turn. Not radically. The change has come gradually, with every week that passed and every photo shoot I had.
I used to be an outsider. During secondary school, not a lot of people bothered to be friends with me. It changed during my first year in high school, but I was thrown back into the outsider-role during my exchange year in Uruguay. Try imagining being a 16 years old girl in a foreign country far away from home, surrounded by people who show you that they don’t give a shit about you.
I returned to Switzerland thinking that I’m on my own, that ‘friends’ wouldn’t be there for me when I really needed them. I was emotionally unstable and it took me one year with mental breakdowns every now and then until some of my classmates turned into friends and I hesitantly opened up again. Fast forward another year, I got together with my dearest love and while I was satisfied with who I was and my social life, I still had the subordinating thinking within me. That I’m less worth than the extroverted, popular people, the ‘cool crowd’.
And now I’m meeting those people through my photography. Vanessa is a great example for that. She was one year above me in secondary school and I remember seeing her in the bus with her bold, colourful hair and look that spoke of self-confidence and coolness. I thought that people like her lived in a different world than me, that we’ll never mingle, but now we’ve planned a little project together – and she helped me build some sense of fashion and get the self-confidence that comes with that (thank you so much, my dear!!).
Richie is another example. We met online around nine years ago and texted for a while, but never got to meet in person. We lost touch, but found each other again through my photography. However, when I went to the cinema with my family and saw him (for the first time!) with his buddies sitting in front of us, I didn’t dare to say hi. For some reason, he had this ‘gangster‘ image to me and I was intimidated.
Shortly afterwards I wanted to take photos of young adults that had something special about them for my application and I had to think of Richie – but I didn’t dare to ask him. A friend in common encouraged me so at the end, the three of us met for a shoot and I realised he’s not the tough, unapproachable guy, too cool for me, at all. On the contrary. He’s super kind, interesting, a fellow creative and even a bit shy.
There are more examples of ‘cool, popular’ people I’ve always known by sight, but never thought I’d actually get to meet – until I started photography last autumn. It has changed everything and leaves me confused. My circle of acquaintances has rapidly increased. Have I become a bit more popular? Or are they just meeting me to get the photos and don’t care about me at all? Or is it simply time to jettison my concepts of popularity?
We’re not in school anymore, where everyone had their circle of friends they hardly left. I get the chance to mingle with people from other social circles. It’s not about coolness or popularity anymore. The right kind of people will see me for who I am; they won’t judge me based on my ‘coolness’ and they won’t exploit me, but actually enjoy the work with me. Maybe they like to be a part of the passionate fire that burns bright within me.
It’s scary to walk around firmly believing in the good intentions of people. But I don’t want to continue living with the belief that I’m worth less and that people only hang out with me to get something out of it. Of course, we get in touch through my photography, but I want to believe there is more to it. I’m not the victim from back then anymore, it’s time to see myself as an equal.