Bridging the Human Connection Through Photography

Self Portrait on CSUDH Campus. Photo by Gabriel Anthony Gomez. 

By Gabriel Anthony Gomez, Staff Reporter

When people think of photography, they often think of iconic portraits or landscapes. Although those aspects are incorporated within photography, for me this art is something much more personal. It is a way to express myself and communicate with others. Using an instrument as a vehicle to be able to transcend time and offer a reflection to others in a way that all of us are familiar with, a photograph. Memories that we cherish for a lifetime is what drives me to capture and hopefully inspire. 

I remember the first time I became captivated by photography, it was a feeling that after almost 22 years later I could not forget. When I was five years old, I was mesmerized by the album cover of “Promise” by Sade, an English Jazz and Soul artist. It invoked a serene yet mysterious mood and reflected the soundscape of the album. I wondered how a photographer was able to translate an artist’s message or theme through a visual medium.

At seven years old, I began taking pictures of nature, animals and people with a Canon AE-1 film camera and a Sony digital camera. Suddenly, I found myself taking pictures of anything that I found remotely intriguing. I submitted my photos in an elementary school contest and ended up winning. Although art is subjective, it felt nice to be seen. 

As I continued to take photographs, I became more enveloped in the act of being able to hide behind a viewfinder and seeing the world through rectangles or squares. I was able to control my journey one frame at a time. I began to use my camera as a way to hide myself from whom I interacted with as a means of being more comfortable interacting with them. 

Over the years, I began using my equipment as a bridge between myself and being able to communicate with others in a very pure fashion. Taking photos and speaking to those in front of the camera, helped me to create a deeper connection between two humans.. 

My camera allowed me to be myself in real time and in turn, the people that I have captured on film also understand this vulnerability. In a world that is so fast paced, slowing things down allows myself and others to be more present and breathe a little deeper. 

While I have spent many years using a digital camera, I always found it lacking any depth or connection to the human experience for me. The thing with film photography, especially medium format, is that the process does take longer. People may be aware of this, but until they experience it firsthand, it does not compare to digital photography. By slowing things down, we are able to take what might seem as awkward lapses of time and just be present. 

What makes film photography so special to me is the opportunity of random interaction. If a person approaches me on the street while I’m taking photos, I am able to open up, create and share an experience with them. One time while I was out on a photo walk in Palm Springs, a woman walked across the street towards me while she was out for a morning stroll. She quickly came up and asked if what I was holding was a Hasselblad 500C/M, a type of camera that takes pictures in a 6×6 square format. This model offers a unique perspective for taking photographs compared to the typical rectangular format. 

Immediately, I could see her eyes light up as if all her memories came flooding in at once. “My dad used to take pictures of our family and we had such a blast,” she said. As I watched the woman hold it in her hands, I could see her being brought back to those precise moments in time as she smiled fondly at the camera.

To find a spark of joy with friends or complete strangers is the most meaningful thing I could ever ask to experience in my lifetime. Witnessing someone transported through decades of memories because of a film camera truly speaks to my soul. As I continue to pursue my passion and learn, I will always carry the memories created by the people and places I have encountered. In time, I hope to reflect on the past in the same ways as those who have shared their own moments of vulnerability reminiscing with me.