Looking Through the Lens at the Big Picture


By Margelia Perez

I always imagined photography class would be as simple as just standing behind a camera lens and pressing a button. But Mr. John Ohlmann, my photography teacher at Richmond High, proved me wrong.

He taught me that it wasn’t just about the lens or the camera you used but, ironically, how you see the big picture.

Most of the time when taking photos, we’re too focused on the main concept that we’re not aware of the details that create the concept.

For instance, when you go to a quinceñera, you observe how beautiful the quinceañera looks in her dress. Yet you don’t consider how many fittings she had to go to in order for the dress to fit her perfectly, or how she couldn’t make up her mind on the color. Maybe she wanted gold or green aquamarine but ended up with corral.

Similarly, in photography class, you’re given an assignment, let’s say to picture the four elements (earth, water, air, fire). You’re told what to capture, but not how to portray it. This is where the idea of “how you see the big picture” comes in, how you choose how to personify the elements. You want air but you don’t want air itself; you could simply take a picture of a fan and adjust it with your own details. You have to think outside the box, make it unique, make it your own, just like a quince dress. Details, little things like that always matter.

Visualize a wall of pictures, random pictures from roadkill to prom pictures, and a clock in the upper left corner. The lighting makes the pictures on the wall a bit hard to see clearly while the clock screams for your attention. At the time I took this picture, I had no intention of giving it a meaning. But now I realize the wall captivated me because it defined the way I couldn’t put into words the role of time in what pictures meant to me: the pictures of my friends, my family and of all the events that were happening my senior year of high school.

One of my friends once asked me, “Why do you always want to take pictures?”

I said, “For the memories,” because I wasn’t sure how to explain myself further. He just stared at me with a confused look and laughed it off.

Mr. Ohlmann helped me put this feeling into words, and we ended up with this response: “You get to capture beauty and time that many won’t understand or realize. It allows you to relive memories after everything has changed, except for that encapsulated moment.”

Mr. Ohlmann has been influential not only as a teacher, but as a person. He had it rough in his early years but without those times, he explained, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

Besides making me want to be involved in the multimedia industry, he also changed the way I see things — not just artistically, but in life: how you might get lost first before you find your true self.

When I think of how photography relates to real life, I think of the quote, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Not everyone is going to concur with the way you see things through a lens, and most definitely not in real life either. Mr. Ohlmann could find a picture of a shadow very intriguing while someone else might see it as pointless. Not everyone will meet eye to eye, and that’s OK. It gives you the opportunity to not be so narrowminded, to take a chance and try something outside of your comfort zone.

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