In Greek mythology, Hercules was given 12 labors he needed to complete to atone for the murder of his wife and children. These 12 labors involved doing the impossible: defeating hydras, taking an Amazon’s belt, and picking the Hesperides’ golden apples. While we might not have to deal with gods, myths, and monsters in our everyday life-we do have our own herculean tasks to manage. The hardest of them all is maintaining focus.
I have tried mindfulness in my own life and there is something wholly impossible about focusing on something in a world full of distractions. We are always plugged into something whether that be the music in our ears or a movie running in the background. We are not at a loss for stimulus, we are burdened by it. Facing such a burden means we are easily detached from where we are. We don’t stop to think about the beauty of the stars, or the focus on a stranger’s face.
Tola, a photographer, tries to challenge this way of living. Tola, like the rest of us, is busy and struggles to stop and smell the roses. For her, photography is a tool to employ mindfulness in her life. It forces her to pay attention to the moment and capture it. When taking a photograph, she needs to find out how to best capture the truth of her subject matter. This means she needs to consider angle, contrast, and color amongst many other things. It helps that she’s been doing this for such a long time.
Me: So what originally got you interested in photography?
Tola: It was my mom actually, she was a photographer.
Me: So it runs in the blood?
Tola: Kind of, when I was younger she would take me to her photography studio and let me play with her camera. She even let me play with photoshop. Back then, photoshop was like a big deal because you needed to pay a lot of money to license it. I would change people’s hair colors and just mess with them. We traveled a lot too, and she would take thousands of photos everywhere we went, and I just always remember her with a camera. Like her, I just automatically started taking photos everywhere I went.
Me: How were your early photos?
Tola: They were bad, but I mean with anything creative that’s how you develop right? I started doing it more professionally in high school and then pretty soon my friends would ask me to photograph different things for them.
Me: You became the designated friend group photographer.
Tola: *smiles* yeah, basically.
Tola, like most artists, started off taking photos of everything and is still in the process of figuring out her favorite subject matter. However, she does know one thing and that is she loves taking pictures of people in their most organic form. A lot of this stems from her interesting 10th-grade experience when she went to a traveling high school.
Me: Okay, so traveling high school? Please tell me more about it.
Tola: Yeah I get that a lot, people are confused by it. The whole concept is that you live in a country every couple of months and the entire school travels with you. That’s the students, the teachers, and the staff and they arrange accommodation and everything. We went to Peru, San Francisco, and Morocco.
Me: Where was your favorite?
Tola: Probably Peru, the people there were just amazing. *laughs* I mean, to them I was the outsider so they wanted photos with me and they’d let me take photos of them. It was just a very cool experience.
Me: That’s amazing.
Tola: It feels like a dream but then again it changed my life so much, so the experience itself was very real.
Inspired by the people she met while traveling, Tola likes capturing the essence of the human experience. She loves taking candids, looking for the moment when someone is completely caught up in conversation. These moments are rare and impossible to capture without luck and good timing. Moments of authenticity and connection. A smile caught half forming, a conversation between two friends or the brief prelude of autumn offered by early September. Through photography, Tola sees the value in these moments. She grounds herself in the present, in life itself.
Me: So what does it mean to capture a moment?
Tola: Well, it’s hard because if you are telling people you are taking a photo, they’ll just pose for it. You can’t ask someone to pretend to do something, they need to be actually doing it. It has to be the right moment when they are so immersed in what they’re doing that they forget that I’m there. I really like those moments.
It’s about authenticity, it’s about being real in a world that seems so curated. Tola’s photography and the rest of her creative pursuits work to ground her in a busy fast moving world. A reminder that in a life as busy as this one, it’s important to stop and capture the moment- with or without a camera.
You can find more of Tola’s photography here at arts. ink: