Posted by Claudia Loeber, NATHAN Intern Lifer Turned Full-time Employee
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "a picture is worth a thousand words." It couldn't be truer now in our increasingly visual culture. Consider: In just one minute, an estimated 27,800 photographs are uploaded to Instagram. Facebook sees uploads of over 200,000 a minute (That translates to about 6 billion photos per month). In a recent presentation, Yahoo! predicted that as many as 880 BILLION photographs will be taken in 2014 alone.
That's a spectacular amount of words.
Our pictures are instantly accessible, voluntarily shared, and tell an interconnected global story. Photographs are crucial to understanding the dynamic of an era. As a photographer, it's thrilling to access such a huge pool of creativity and inspiration. And yet, as our saturated as our society is by images, I see countless amounts of people balk as soon as they see my camera.
I used to be one of those people. As I'm sure many of you can relate to, I am my own harshest critic. My adolescent years were wrought with constant panic over how people saw me. Having to be in front of a camera was a special torment. Although I was able to hide it pretty well, I was horribly insecure and timid. I constantly second-guessed myself.
Then I went to college, and that's where everything came together. The road to self- discovery looked like this: In my final year of high school, my rowing coach convinced me to continue the sport in college, so I did. I chose Temple University specifically because it had both an amazing art school and a Division 1 rowing program. Narrowing down what medium I wanted to pursue in art school was a little tougher, but once I took a photography class, it all just clicked. (Ha! See what I did there?!)
Being on the other side of the lens was completely eye-opening (ha, again!) because photography became an artistic outlet that led me to fully understand and appreciate why taking pictures is important.
I realized, though writing has never been my strong suit (I say as I sit here writing for a blog), that there was a way to passionately and creatively convey my thoughts, my ideas, and my emotions- and that was through photographs. It is a means of both communication and preservation for me, a way for me to hold onto precious moments. I have the ability to suspend them forever in time, and the importance of that grows in my heart each day.
At the same time as I was making these wonderful artistic discoveries, I was rowing on Temple's highly-competitive women's crew team. Even though I had rowed in high school, the experience did not prepare me for the intensity of collegiate athletics. Rowing challenged me both mentally and physically. It taught me how to time manage, prioritize, set goals, push past limits, and most importantly, how to overcome my fear of failure.
And so for every practice, regatta, training trip, and pasta party, I documented it with the snap of a button. Our wins. Our losses. The pain, the dedication, and the support that only your teammates can give you. These images allowed me to appreciate the journey and the experiences, and provided a vehicle for others to experience it too- even if they'd never been to a practice or a regatta, or ever enjoyed the thrill and joy that can come from being a part of either a team or community working towards a common goal.
So with my college days behind me (by only a few months, as my older experienced colleagues at Nathan like to remind me), and with my beloved rowing program cut due to budget issues at my alma matter (UPDATE: as of Feb. 24, Temple rowing has been reinstated!) I was - admittedly - going through what every recent college graduate goes through. Where is my life going? How am I going to pay off these student loans? How long is it acceptable to live with your parents? How long does the average grad last at their parent's home before losing their sanity?
And then on a recent - and my first - Nathan road trip with our dedicated road warrior / tech rep Kevin Kelly - I found some answers. I was tasked with capturing more intimate photos of the running community. Photos that were more realistic, and provided people with some insight into the countless groups of people who come together to train, educate others, and be just be active.
Photographing these people, I realized that the moments I had originally captured in the bubble of my college rowing community, were, happily, not unique to just that sport. In running clubs, in retail stores, on roads, and on trails, I was able to capture the same kind of emotions that drove me to compete.
Perhaps that's why these running communities welcomed me so openly. I know the power of setting goals and working towards those goals within a community. They were so open and willing to talk about their struggles, their motivations and their triumphs. I like to think that we connected on a fundamental level (hopefully they weren't just nice mid-westerners taking pity on a poor college grad).
I think that together we experienced the passion and joy of being a part of something larger than just ourselves, and that allowed me to capture a more true essence of what running really means to people.
So runners - when you see a photographer (particularly one who's about 5'7, goes by the name Claudia, and is probably wearing something Nathan or Temple related), don't be shy! Don't hide your passion. Be like my two new friends in this blog's accompanying photo (beer optional) and realize that I am capturing a moment in time - your moment in time - that speaks to the larger running community as a whole. Your image could end up motivating someone to sign up for their first 5K, could provide you with a reminder of why you do what you do, or it could even end up in a future Nathan marketing campaign. You just never know!