These photos are etched in memories


Jessie Warren

A collection of photos I’ve taken on disposable cameras within the last two years.

As individuals, we inherently encircle ourselves in wreaths of kindred souls, and it’s for this exact reason that I often feel ordinary. 

I order from Starbucks the same iced chai tea latte with oat milk as all my friends.

I take nearly all my fashion inspiration from the girls I see on Pinterest—the ones who pull the clothing off far better than I’ll ever be able to. 

My room and the stained glass lightbulb and green velvet couch are deeply rooted in my father’s side of the family, primarily my Nana Ingrid. She’s the one who taught me how to feed swans by hand and suck the nectar out of honeysuckles, and it’s because of her that I have such an awareness of the world around me. 

I fit into a well-defined mold labeled with my name, even though you could easily cross it out and replace it with any other. And even my writing, the thing I pump so full of personality, I share with a room of strong-willed writers—writers who not only amaze me through their prose but through their profound passion and personality.

At a quandary—a crossroads that keeps convoluting with each breath I take—I have been searching ever so inefficiently for what makes me important.

Why should one college or job specifically want me? When did that opinion become the determining factor of my worth?

Photos, especially those that are cloudy yet so full of life, remind me of my purpose.”

Yet, nearly two summers ago, I began lugging around a disposable camera, and it’s through the minuscule lens that I’ve found what makes me unique: other people. By perusing the nearly 150 photos I’ve amassed, I can tap into the part of myself that loves, unabashedly and without much reason besides it being what I was put on this earth to do. 

The part of myself that is my own and is not open to anyone else but those I want to share it with.

I can sit once more at outdoor lunch tables alongside the women who’ve shaped me, in a world that is crumbling yet trying ever so carefully to build itself back up.

I can relive that time that Meggie and I dipped our toes into the water on the beach where they shot Little Women, the same beach where a seagull swooped down and flew away with my mask. I can see the illustrations she drew in the sand and recollect how we wandered, collecting shells as we went.

I walk through fluorescent Meijer aisles far too late at night with Natalie. I sit on the edge of a sunlit Seattle fountain, taking in the way rainbows dash through the air.

I galavant across playground equipment at the Senior Retreat, go on my first date, and attend my brother’s wedding.

Photos, especially those that are cloudy yet so full of life, remind me of my purpose. I would not be who I am without those who have shaped me, and even though they influence how I present myself, they also remind me that, at the end of the day, I’m the girl behind the camera.