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  • Writer's pictureashleymaietta

Look at something like it's your favorite thing in the world.

Lately I’ve been buying these black and white disposable cameras for shoots to get alternate shots. I had some extra exposures left so I took the camera with me to Arizona a few weeks back. This was the last shot on the roll, and the last shots on these cameras are ALWAYS my favorites. You never know what you’re going to get when it develops as it usually clips 1/3 of the photo and it messes with the exposure/contrast/all of the elements. At the risk of cliché, perfectly imperfect.

This was taken from the backseat of my Dad’s truck, driving through Prescott National Forest at 5:30am. The sky was colorful and warm from the sunrise, the air was crisp and cold, the road was so windy it felt like my insides were detaching themselves and leaning into the turns; it was light and beautiful. That’s not what you see here.

This is dark, moody, shadowy, mysterious—full of depth and perception and movement, stark contrast and an eerie sensibility. It unsettles me in an comfortable way, and I felt inspired to comment on the duality of this photo, mainly because of what it reminds me of….people.

People have layer on layer stacked up from cell to skin. They have warm, bright crispness and dark, shadowy mystery. They have pages of their book open to the public and secrets locked in boxes, buried under the floorboards of their presentation. They have the ability to love with infinite passion, and the ability to hate with unbridled anger. And at the end of the day, it’s very rare to see the same layer stack on more than one person. It’s what makes us all inherently human and so unbelievably beautiful.

It may just be the curiosity bug in my personal nature, but with that I am constantly asking myself, how can you not want to peel back the layers? How can you not want to discover someone, learn them, experience them? How can anyone be satisfied with a first initial image and preconceived notion? How can you take one look at another person and think you know everything there is to know about them with unwavering certainty...based on the amount of melanin present in the very topmost layer of their body?

Obviously with everything going on there are multiple levels and scores of issues that have accumulated. Things that have been rooted, buried, and covered in hundreds of years of concrete are bursting through the surface, and it’s absurd to me that they were ever rooted in the first place (I have to thank my family for raising me to believe that skin, heritage, country of origin, are by no means measures of a person’s worth). And of course this ramble is just a stream of thoughts from a privileged white woman, so take it for what you will, but the perpetuation of this mindset seems like the result of learned perception.

If all you’re ever exposed to growing up are people that look like you, think like you, act like you, do the same things you do, all you’re ever going to know is…well…you. And then on top of that, throw in any perceptions that have been passed onto you by people you respect and trust—you have just become pigeonholed. You have learned that judgement, subconsciously and perhaps even consciously. And then from there, 20, 30, 40 years down the road, imagine the kind of jolt needed to knock yourself out of that perception. Massive. AKA, the year 2020. **Now just to be clear, I don't defend this mindset, nor do I truly understand it.

It all starts at ground zero, it starts at the beginning. Raising kids to understand that layers are important, colors are important. Colors are beautiful.

Because how lucky are we to live in a world where there are people who have gorgeous shades of brown skin, to live on this melting pot planet that by nature was designed to grow and foster individuals (human, animal, microorganism, etc) so that no one thing is exactly the same? How lucky are we that we are surrounded by different cultures and foods and traditions and celebrations? How lucky are we to have access to dances and songs and clothes created by someone different than ourselves, that help expand our horizons and understanding, and stretch our mental capacities further and further with every new discovery? Imagine being exposed to the same thing over and over again for the rest of your life. How unimaginatively boring that would be…limiting…restricting.

So maybe, if someone who is of the mindset that there are people in this world who are lesser due to the color of their skin, took a moment to peel back the layers of just one of the people they look down on…looked at them like they would a photograph or a painting, or listened to them like they would a song, or wrapped themselves up in their words like a jacket, applied the concept of something familiar to them, looked at someone like they were their favorite thing in the world—call me an idealist, but I’d be willing to bet that something in them, regardless of how deep it’s buried, changes. That would obviously require a massive, global overhaul of thought, but I can't help but wonder what would happen if we created enough exposure to change thought, incept it.

At the end of the day, it’s about taking the time to appreciate the fact that the world, God, whatever you might believe in has given you all of these incredible people to keep you company, so that you are not alone in this big, wide universe. How kind of it.

There's depth, there are layers, there are beautiful people, and eventually we will all live in photographs that remind others to dig deeper, work harder, love better.

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