Growth (and then some)

When I was 13, I moved to a small town up in the Midlands called Walsall. I wasn't too excited to move from London to somewhere unknown but my experiences in Walsall have shaped me to be the person I am today.

I've always been interested in photography from an early age (sorta cliche but it's true) My first venture into photography was when my dad brought a digital camera to Ghana where I grew up. I didn't really grow up around much technology but believe me when I tell you this was probably the most coolest device I've ever seen. With my mental health problems, it's hard for me to stay focused although the one thing I was sure about was that I'd be a photographer one day. 

Fast forward to me moving to England, we never really had the money to buy luxury items such as cameras so I did the one thing I knew best. Using my imagination and learning.

I decided to start researching photography and was fixated on getting the most expensive camera I'd ever seen as I didn't know better. Then came 2019 where I learnt about film photography through an I-d video documenting the next generation of photographers.

I was fixated on the process as it was alien to me. Relying on a small cannister in a camera which limited you in a sense as I had knowledge that you could easily change your settings on a dslr but with film, everything felt more intentional.

Then came my birthday in November where I started researching various cameras and the EOS 1000F had caught my eye. It looked exactly like a dslr and acted as such although it took film. I was skeptical at first but I didn't have much to lose. I had recently had a brush with suicide and wanted to do something I'd always dream about. Taking photos. Now this is the weird part, a friend asked me what I'd do if I had all the money in the world and without thinking I just said "If I had all the money in the world, I'd pick up a camera and go out taking photos" but the reality is that I didn't have all the money in the world and I knew my dear mum didn't either so I decided ask for £25 to buy the camera. I was estatic, I finally had an excuse to leave the house even though I didn't know that film photography came with downsides such as no development labs in Walsall and being limited to the static iso that your film stock came as. Honestly I didn't really know what that all meant so I just shot. I still have the rolls from me walking around my small town and shooting, even though I knew that I'd most likely never see the pictures, it made me happier than I'd ever been in my 20 years of living.

Fast forward to December 2019, I decided to venture into portraiture as street photography did bring me joy but I wanted to do more. I begged my friends to go out with me and allow me to take pictures of them just being themselves. A process I still follow till this day because seeing others being able to express their emotions freely brings me the hope that one day I'll be able to do the same as PTSD heavily supresses my emotions (spoiler alert, I am!).

I'll let the pictures do the talking for a bit as my God have I written so much... If you think this is a lot, you should see me talk when I'm nervous. 

Okay so the pictures speak for themselves, my friends were happy! And I was too, to tell the truth I didn't develop these till the 28th of July 2020 as mentioned above, I couldn't find a lab in Walsall. With Covid happening, by chance I managed to find a lab in Yorkshire which were doing mail in processing and I was determined to see what I shot. I managed to convince my mum to lend me some money to develop the photos and when I got the scans back, I screamed. I genuinely thought they'd all come blank.

With this newfound happiness, I decided to send the pictures over to Olivia and Jed (my friends, I'm not too sure if I mentioned their names but in case I didn't, here you go). Their reactions were amazing if I do say so myself. And with that a lightbulb appeared over my head (metaphorically of course). I managed to make my two friends smile just by taking photos. This made me feel great, I wanted to continue and with restrictions easing, I messaged models around my area and was met with a lot of rejection which led me to scroll through my Instagram to find out a model had followed me, who had just started photography. I brazenly asked her to shoot and to my surprise she agreed!

This was my first time shooting someone that I've never interacted in person before. I suffer from severe anxiety but for the first time in my life, I didn't seem to care. Me. The kid who'd shake at the thought of speaking to another human being. I went into the shoot BLINDLY, no idea what a moodboard was, no idea what location I wanted to go to and no idea how to pose but in the words of my current 21 year old self, "If I don't got me, Pinterest got me". I decided to create a board of posing references (which I've still never used but is nice to have I guess?) to fall back on incase I froze from anxiety. Throughout the shoot I noticed I was engaging with the model (Sydney - I've really got to start writing names sooner) and was feeling comfortable with myself and for the first time, my reclusive self wasn't shaking from the fear of interaction! The shoot lasted around 2 hours and as soon as I got home, I had a revelation, why don't I keep this up? (Oh btw, the pictures came out pretty well for my first actual shoot if I do say so myself).

I was heading to uni in a few months to try and do better for myself, I'd been home for years letting my mental health get the better of me and I couldn't stand for that anymore. I'd notice photography had greatly improved my mental health. This was a first as I had no healthy way to cope originally so this was a breath of fresh air.

I had decided to touch base with Crumb Agency (an agency with a great ethos I'd grown to admire during my time of scrolling on Instagram to find more inspiration), To my surprise they answered and a test shoot was booked! I could've been pretentious and pretended to know what I was talking about but I just decided to be myself and start speaking to Daze as a normal human being. This is because from all twitter doom scrolling I'd done, I'd notice that there really wasn't a need to put them on a pedastal because at the end of the day they're human and so am I. So I just spoke to them for an hour and took portraits during our little breaks from the walking we were doing around Barbican. This made me realise that I didn't have to pretend to be someone I'm not and my way of shooting wasn't weird at all, I like to think it adds more humanity to the process. Just talking and shooting, simple but effective.

From then on, I decided to take photography a bit more seriously and kept doing as many shoots as I could. (Looking back on it, it wasn't a mad number on anything as I couldn't really afford much film but I can't really complain, I was doing something I loved. Here are a bunch of pics from that year that I'm pretty proud of.

Phew, I've done a lot of talking (well writing but you know what I mean) but here's the story of me (that's not really grammatically correct but I'll allow it just this once).

I love photography. I always have and I'm finally doing something I've always talked about but never really had the money for, and it all started with £25.

I'm currently in my second year of university at a crossroads. On one hand I'm undertaking an advertising degree that doesn't teach me much or anything at all related to the job role, but doing so will give me a degree I'd be proud of and my family would be too so I'll stick to it. But I've come to the realisation that it is possible to make photography my career, it'll take a lot of time and hard work but hey, it's possible. I just have to try and keep trying. I don't want to be here for 3 years and end up a corporate robot. I want to do something I'm passionate about because honestly, I'll be damned if I don't.

My name is Francis Opoku and this is the beginning of my venture into photography, I'll make sure to stick to it because I've never been happier and healthier and I'll for sure make this my career.

Thank you for reading.

Psst, this wouldn't be a project if I didn't shill a picture of me and my fave so here you go.

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