Cameraperson ★★★★★

As a photographer, I feel that I have developed a relationship with my camera that has surpassed mere creative interest. It may have started as childhood curiosity or a fun little hobby–mostly influenced by my father's example–but over the years, it has evolved and transformed into a personal experience all its own.

My camera has become not only an apparatus, but an extension of me, of who I am; it is a tool that allows me to observe life with a new set of eyes, and in a manner that alters my own perception and understanding of who I know myself to be. Moreover, the emergent images are not merely snapshots, they are the tangible result of using the camera as a purveyor of truth and seeing the act of shooting as a meditation. Even if I'm capturing the most mundane or ordinary of scenes, the process is sacred, even spiritual in nature.

I think this is why Kirsten Johnson's Cameraperson speaks to me so deeply, and why I had been waiting so long to watch it. The title alone was enough to suck me in and leave me in an agonizing wait for the majority of 2016 until I finally had access to watching it. And it probably goes without saying, but my expectations were beyond exceeded. From the opening title where she writes, "if these images–the ones that have marked me and leave me wondering still–can be a memoir, then this is it," the tears were already flowing; and they hardly abated throughout the majority of the film's runtime.

Cameraperson combines footage from Johnson's cinematography work on various documentaries around the world, from a women's rape and enslavement camp in Bosnia, to the bloodied floor of a birthing center in Nigeria, and even to the living room of Johnson's own home, to name just a few of the environments that stood out. The resulting narrative is a poignant montage of human experience that evokes layers upon layers of emotion and resonance–all of which are heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure.

Though I personally have not had the privilege to take photos in such a wide expanse of locations and to document pivotal moments in history as Johnson so beautifully shares in her film, the core sentiment still remains: that of the power and importance of an artist's work, and the impact it can possess for both the creator and her audience. I'm sure this is an idea that many, if not most, artists can relate to, no matter the medium, but to see it displayed through a camera, through this visual imagery, and specifically through a woman's gaze is extremely resonant and moving.

The way we view the world, and the means through which we share that perception, is what (I believe) gives it all meaning–it is what molds life into some ascertainable, definable experience–and ultimately, it is what creates its value. Not only these essential qualities, but in turn, it can inspire others. It can reach women like me, in the depths of our souls, because we, too, understand. We get it.

Cameraperson evinces that very idea and subsequently allows me to feel firmer in the footing of my own creative prowess, more confident in the unflinching pursuit of my art, and more deeply rooted in my understanding of its ability to teach, establish life-shaping memories, and form the legacy that may be shared with others in our finite time on this earth.

Though we may be left "wondering still," in the end, it is that sense of awe, eternally remaining, that gives lasting power and purpose to our creative potential as humans. To me, Cameraperson is the cinematic embodiment of this ethereal knowingness.