I’ve always taken pictures.
My earliest memory holding a camera I was five. I remember the feel of the cold chrome and smooth black leather and the hefty weight of it in my hands. It felt like a fragile brick.
I remember my eye looking through the view finder and the satisfactory “click” I heard made when I pushed the trigger.
I remember how the viewfinder would go black for a quick moment when the shutter opened and closed. When I captured that first frame, something captured me.
By high school I knew my way around a roll of film pretty well – but entering the darkroom was a new freedom. I could spend hours dodging and burning. Hanging film. Finding the perfect contrast. Reprinting the same image until I had it just right.
My story at the time was of the only indigenous student in a predominantly white school. The darkroom was my refuge.
And even though I produced far more work than my classmates, it never once occurred to me to do the assignments. As a result I failed high school photography – consistently and somewhat deliberately for years.
Thankfully my photography teacher seamed silently proud of my rebellion. Regardless of my lack of interest in their class – they gave me keys to the darkroom and taught me to load and process my own film. They encouraged me to develop my skills. They asked me thoughtful questions and they were the first to really hear the stories I was telling with my images.
As a result, the work I produced at that time was, and remains, my clearest voice.
I believe I inherited both the instinct for storytelling and a camera for a reason.
Perhaps it’s to help shift the narrative told about indigenous people, from the third to the first person. Perhaps it’s to make sure the images of our elders have names. Perhaps it’s to capture the history of the February 14th Memorial March and tell that in a way that is centered on resilience, not violence.
I just know that it’s part of how I speak in the world, that it brings me joy and challenge, and that with a camera in my hand – I’m always home.
– Jessica Wood