Someone once explained to me there are two deaths: The first comes when we physically leave this earth, and the second comes when we have no one left to carry on the legacy of who we were. Well, while Daniel Mark Regalado is no longer here physically, I believe my uncle has created an ever-lasting ripple effect of kindness that has changed this world for the better.
He is my biggest inspiration to pick up a camera and to teach others how to do the same to document our lives. And while I have many words I could say I will save those for another day and I’ll leave today’s words to him…
… a thousand words
Do you remember the very first time you were in the darkroom? Nervous and crowded amongst the others, finally getting used to the red glow of the safelights breaking the darkness, waiting patiently for a chance to slip the paper you had just exposed at the enlarger into the developer.
Do you remember the feeling that went through you when you saw this image you had captured slowly begin to take shape? Something from the near past of a moment that meant something to you. Right before your eyes: a magic trick. Not slight of hand but actual magic. The fact that it wasn’t perfect didn’t matter - It was just the feeling that went through you… staring wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
Always try and remember that feeling.
In college I used to take all flights of stairs two steps at a time sating to myself, “I-will-be-the-world’s-greatest-photographer.” (What an ego!) I’d repeat the litany as if the very act of saying it would make it happen. Now, with the baby coming, I realize there are more worthwhile wishes.
You set a goal and then spend your life trying to reach it. Take time, every day, to ask yourself how you will define your success in meeting that goal. Your definition, if not your goal, will change over time. Sometimes it will change as quick as the click of a shutter.
It is apparent to me (and I hope you have learned this by now) that my own thoughts on photography cannot be as important as your own. I’ll share what little I can.
Try to connect… with your subject… with your audience…and especially with yourself. You may not know who you are ten years from now but the risks that you undertake will help define you.
One of my college professors, Julianna Newton, impressed on me the fact that it was not the subject but the person in front of the camera. Look at the portraits you like and you will realize that they all have a connection to the photographer. It is a sense of reality even in the surreal. Learn to cultivate that connection.
There will always be someone more talented than you. There will always be someone with better equipment than you. But if you put forth more effort, you will be successful.
Recognize the difference between enthusiasm and talent and realize which is more valuable. As a teacher, I would rather have a class of enthusiastic but talent-starved students than close-minded technical geniuses. As a student I would also much rather be surrounded by these people who are excited about what they are doing. Get yourself excited.
Have your picture taken every year in one of those automatic photo booths. Write how you felt at that particular time on the back of them. Were you anxious? Were you in love? Were you broken? Line them up from time to time and realize that you have been through so much. Be proud of what you have accomplished and of the scars you show.
One of the hardest and most important things to learn as a photographer is when to put your camera down and take in the moment as a person. A picture often helps us remember a feeling or monumental event but have you ever seen a picture of the night sky - blazing with stars and galaxies from one end of the horizon to the other - that could encapsulate the feeling emanating from within your soul as you witness it in person (or with someone close to you)? Go outside and look at the night sky and allow yourself the pleasure of having a feeling you can share with yourself or with only one other person in the entire world… a private moment to which no picture can ever compare in evoking feeling.
Don’t be afraid to learn new things or ask questions. I’ve had good teachers help me, and I still seek out others from whom I can learn. I’ve come to realize that the best teachers are not always the one behind the podium. You can learn so much from doing it yourself or from looking at books. At the university one of my favorite things to do was go to the library every Friday and fill up my backpack with photobooks. I can’t imagine the sight others witnessed of this college kid staggering to the bus stop with his chest thrust out straining under the enormous weight of 15 photo books looking as if at any second his spine would bend back and snap. But when I got back to my apartment and looked through the images I felt nothing of the earlier pain and this only strengthened my resolve to get 16 books the next time.
The pictures that mean the most to you will not be the ones that are perfectly printed of composed.
Take pride in what you do… care about your work. Do it with love. Don’t rush or force things. Allow yourself time and revel in the luxury of having the darkroom all to yourself because it is a rare and special occurrence. Remember to give of yourself in your work and in time when others seek you out for advice.
I am proud of what you have done in this class. Not all of you will be professional photographers but know this: each of you has a gift… recognize it and don’t waste it. Look for this gift in others and help them see it for themselves. Remember that feeling from your first time in the darkroom and make it part of your life.
I still take steps two at at a time and what I say to myself has changed, but the sentiment is still the same. Don’t be afraid to believe that you can accomplish the impossible.
- Daniel M. Regalado
11/6/69 - 6/13/14
“Things are to be used, not loved. People are to be loved, not used.”