When I first saw the announcements, the project proposal sounded ridiculously fun and was something I knew I wanted to be a part of instantly. Being a longtime fan of both Ta-ku and 823 as a whole on top of having a passion for film photography just made me want to do this even more, so I'm really grateful I was one of the lucky few to have nabbed a roll. It was pretty perfect timing as I had JUST bought a new camera and lens and was starting to focus more on taking portraits so it was a good excuse to go out and get uncomfortable (and test my new equipment!) :)
The most challenging part of the project was managing how many exposures I could take in each location and on each subject. I started the roll off with the mindset that I'd take 2-3 shots of each person for the sake of variety, so I began with a few of my close friends and felt good about the pace that I was going at. Then came a shoot that I had planned with my grandparents and I ended up using most of my roll; I was hoping to save at least 24 exposures for my upcoming trip to Tokyo but finished up with 10 left. This, however, ended up being a blessing in disguise because I couldn't for the life of me speak any Japanese so asking strangers if I could take their portraits was inevitably going to be a trainwreck and hilariously awkward.
Retrospectively thinking about my experience shooting the roll makes me realize that this truly was the most I've really ever stepped outside of my boundaries when it comes to photography. I'm glad to say that I did step out of my boundaries because making yourself uncomfortable, reaching out and doing something you're not used and connecting with people is practically the soul of the Neighbo(u)r project. I ended up having dinner with my grandparents for a reason other than a holiday for the first time in ages, speaking to a complete stranger from Thailand and learning about her solo travels at the time, meeting a few of my online friends that I made when I was 11 years old for the first time ever, and made a lifelong friend that lives in Tokyo who is now visiting me in Edmonton in exactly a month from today. I definitely saw a lot of personal growth from the time I took the first exposure of the roll to the time I took my first look at the negatives.
Approaching strangers was definitely difficult as I spent a lot of exposures that I wanted to take in Canada on people I knew already, leaving the remaining exposures up in the air for Tokyo. This made it a lot harder to approach people than I anticipated as I didn't know the language, but because I was specifically shooting for the project, it definitely incentivized me to be more confident in asking to take photos of people. In the future, I'd like to repeat something similar to this and truly challenge myself to take an entire roll of portraits of strangers.
I took photos of people that were important to me— my sister, mom, best friends, online friends, and my grandparents. I owe my entire life in Canada to my grandparents who sponsored my mom from Asia to live a better life here in Canada. Over the last few years, my grandparents have slowly been giving away most of their belongings as they've become aware of their old age, and I wanted to do something to pay tribute to the people whom I owe so much to. Having years and years of memories in the sun room of their house, I decided to use that specific room as the location for most of my shots I took of them. Although many of the shots came out dark and underexposed, I'm extremely happy with how the shots of each of them came out and I'm glad that this project incentivized me to do this because I don't believe I would've done so otherwise.
Through trying to shoot an entire roll of portraits myself, I learned that great portrait photographers are actually some pretty amazing people. I came to a realization that it's really important to be comfortable with the subject you're shooting and to genuinely connect with them to make sure that they're also fully comfortable. It really goes to show how patient and passionate you really have to be when it comes to producing great photos, and over the course of the roll I could tell that I was making an increased effort to genuinely connect with people and not just take a photo for the sake of finishing off the roll faster.
I reconnected with old friends I've never met in person before and met new friends that I could never imagine myself stepping out of boundaries to ever meet. In Tokyo, I met a girl that I had first talked with on Instagram about music and photography a few months prior to my visit. Us both being somewhat introverted miraculously ended up shooting away at our cameras together and finished 3 rolls of film in an extremely eventful day that I don't think I'll ever forget. We've talked practically every day since and watch Terrace House together every week and she's visiting my hometown in exactly a month which I'm super excited for—see you soon Yo!