I mentioned in yesterday’s post that after I moved to New Mexico, documentary photography really helped force me out of my shell, and appreciate the area more.

Clovis is just so completely different from anywhere I had ever lived. But I wanted to take more pictures and keep growing in my photography, so I had to learn to find new fun things to capture.

Insert the many abandoned buildings in and around Clovis. There. Are. So. Many. And as I slowly built up the courage to explore more and more buildings, I quickly became obsessed with them.

To me, they are like little archeological digs, small untold and forgotten pieces of local history. What did this building used to be? Why was it abandoned? Who was the last person to live there, and when? Why not tear down the building?

On weekends when I don’t have concrete plans, I love charging up my camera, lacing up my boots, and seeing what cool things I can find. And here are a few of my favorites from recent explorations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone who is over the age of two years old can attest to the fact that life has a funny little way of not going exactly according to plan. And unfortunately for me, I am a planner. I just work best that way. So when my life inevitably doesn’t exactly mimic my carefully thought out plans, photography is there to help me work through it.

For example, when I first moved to Clovis, NM, I experienced an intense culture shock. I had never lived in the Southwest, a small town, or a remote location. I had never seen so many abandoned buildings before, and most of the stores, restaurants, and things to do that we were used to, were only available two hours away. As fans of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, my family quickly came up with our own version of a quote from the movie:

Well ain’t this place a geographical oddity! Two hours from everywhere!”

Let’s be real, moving is tough, Attempting to make friends as an adult is terrible. Or at least it was painful and awkward for me. Kids can just walk up to other children and declare that they’re friends now, but I feel like that’s generally frowned upon in grown-up society.

Documentary photography gave me a reason to explore more, meet new people, and generally get myself out of my very introverted shell.

I met quite a few talented photographers and other awesome Clovis creatives in my endeavors. Candice and Kristie are some of my favorite Clovis ladies, and I can’t even tell you how much I’ve learned from them, just by being lucky enough to hang out with them.

Through my photo adventures, I also learned to find the beauty and fun in a place I initially hated. I was seriously miserable when I first got here. But the photography carried me through. As a rule, I tend to take a lot more pictures when I’m having a hard time. And with all those pictures, the way I saw Clovis slowly changed. Remember all those abandoned buildings I thought looked so depressing when I first arrived? They definitely transformed into super interesting shooting locations.

In all honesty, documentary photography has kept me sane. It’s fun and I love it. I love having a creative outlet I can take wherever I go. It’s a way to make sure I don’t forget valuable memories and people. But, one of the most important things it’s provided me over the past few years, is that it has forced me out of my comfort zone, forced me to grow and learn, and helped me to see and appreciate the beauty in daily life, no matter where I am.

Documentary Photography saves the day.

Or at least, it has saved my days, over and over and over again.

Once upon a time, my very first DSLR was a Sony a77. And it did it’s job. But it was cumbersome, somewhat counter intuitive (in my opinion), and using it honestly just felt like a chore. I took the camera out when I had homework to do, or knew I should practice, but I didn’t love it, or use it anymore than I felt I should.

Insert the Fujifilm X100, which was released in 2010.

When I was researching good quality cameras that were more portable than my Sony DLSR, I came across the X100. I read the glowing reviews, and after a few months, I decided to purchase a used version and give it a shot.

I. Fell. In. Love.

Monkey Bars. June 2015.

The camera was 4 years old by the time I got it, at least three years older than my Sony A77. But there was no comparison between my Sony pictures and the images I created with my Fuji.

The Fujifilm X100 captured much more detail and produced much better quality images, especially in low light situations.

The fixed 35mm lens was fast and sharp, and it was so compact that I could easily take it everywhere with me! Which I definitely did.

I haven’t gone back since. I wanted to switch from my Sony A77 to the Fujifilm X-T1. However, the college I was attending had a strict ‘no mirror-less cameras’ policy. So what was a girl to do?

My solution was to write up a well-thought out essay on why the X-T1 was just as good as a DSLR, and why I had my heart so set on using it. And it worked! I was the first student at AAU allowed to use a mirror-less camera for classwork! Check it out below (it’s a copy of email traffic, so you have to read from the bottom up).

 

Anyway, the rest of history. My Fujifilm XT-1 has gone almost everywhere with me over the last three years.

ABQ Selfie. July 2016. Fujifilm XT-1.

I even loved Fujifilm so much I decided to try out the wide instant camera as well. It was instantly a winner in my book! (Get it…? Don’t judge me.)

I got my latest addition a few weeks ago and it’s been just as magical as that first purchase of the X100, the new X100F. It even looks just like the first one I got four years ago.

For documentary photography, I love my tiny awesome cameras.

And having a camera that I absolutely love helps inspire me, and has made a huge difference in my growth as a photographer. Which is why I will always be a Fujifilm fan girl 🖤

Like everyone else, I have a few favorite things I love to photograph: my daughter, golden hour (or really golden minute), daily life, etc. But after a while, I go through my work and I notice it growing a little crusty and stale. It all starts to feel the same and somewhat boring. I feel like there are few things worse than producing boring work, and failing to grow.

I’m not in school anymore, and I no longer have the benefit having a teacher assigning me homework designed to challenge me and help me grow. But, I can’t let that halt my progress. So sometimes I’ll give myself mini challenges to stimulate me to create different photographs, and see things differently.

This past week, the assignment I gave myself was to try taking documentary photographs of Clovis at night.

I love shooting around sunset but I felt like I needed to change it up. Plus, the feel of a place can really change after dark, and I wanted to explore that.

 

My first foray into medium format film photography at the 2016 Curry County Fair.

Photographed with a Mamiya 645 on Lomo 120 film. August 2016. Documentary photography in Clovis, NM.

 

Water Play, 2015 | Shel Rogers Photography | Clovis NM

Do you ever think about the way ideas form and where they come from?

Mine rarely grow in a straightforward manner, like simply drawing straight line from point a to point b. Instead, they mostly blossom from an unexpected, and seemingly unrelated seed. The growth usually feels fast and wild, like a winding vine taking over a blank brick wall.

So that’s how this blog came to be. It started off with the daunting chore of sifting through the many GBs of images on my computer, to free up space (for more pictures, obviously). Now, here I sit, typing out my very first blog post about my photography.

I’ve always been passionate about art and creativity even before I began pursuing documentary photography.

Always. However, I can definitively say that my daughter was what really sparked my specific passion for documentary photography. I had never loved anything as much as my sweet little girl. Soon, I found myself obsessed with capturing as much of her life and amazing personality as I could. I wanted to be sure I couldn’t forget each new stage, or any of her ever-changing little quirks and mannerisms.

Testing the Boundaries | Shel Rogers Photography | Clovis NM

Testing the Boundaries, 2015

I began bringing my camera almost everywhere we went: the grocery store, play dates, and even documented the cranky meltdowns (hers, not mine). I quickly realised that my most successful images were the ones that captured the real moments, with raw emotion. And there was a certain magic in capturing our life how it was, instead of how I thought it should look.

Water Play, 2015 | Shel Rogers Photography | Clovis NM

Water Play, 2015

I soon found myself applying that philosophy in all my photographic endeavors. And I am hooked. I love having great images from all the places I’ve been, the people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I love the challenge in finding the beauty in the mundane, and the freedom of creative expression no matter where I am. And my unreliable memory can’t leave any of my documented experiences behind.

Shel Rogers Photography | Clovis NM

At the end of the day, I believe our memories are really all we have from this life. And I intend on collecting and treasuring as many of them as I can before my days are done.

Shel Rogers Photography | Clovis NM