“I love being around people and I want people to be comfortable around me. That would be the best way for me to do it because I don’t need a hotshot, fancy job. If you can make a career doing something you love, it’s not work. That’s how I look at it.”
— Incoming Moffat County High School senior Carli Griffith, about photography
Creative people are notoriously late bloomers.
Whether it’s a writer struggling to find a voice, a musician searching for a particular sound or an artist trying to tell a story, it can take years before someone finds their calling, and a lifetime before they perfect it.
For a fortunate few, life’s ambition becomes obvious much earlier.
Craig resident Carli Griffith, a 17-year-old incoming Moffat County High School senior, is one of those lucky people.
Last month a photo Griffith submitted to Photographer’s Forum magazine was chosen as one of 600 finalists and has been published by Serbin Communications’ Best of College and High School Photography 2012.
There were more than 18,000 submissions to the semi-annual international amateur photography contest.
“I’ve always been interested in photography,” Griffith said. “I’ve been taking pictures for as long as I could get my hands around a camera, but I never expected something like this would happen.”
Her teachers at Moffat County High School might say otherwise.
Beginning her sophomore year Griffith began shooting for the annual school yearbook, a project administered by English teachers Tom Duncan and Casey Kilpatrick, and librarian James Neton.
More than 90 of Griffith’s photos were published in the yearbook her sophomore year.
“I just thought that was the coolest thing,” Griffith said. “Ever since my sophomore year I have been really, really passionate about photography.”
It was Duncan who first informed Griffith of the Photographer’s Forum contest.
While conducting research on the magazine’s web site to see how she might measure up with past winners, Griffith stumbled upon a photo of a man posing behind a broken window.
“I thought that was really cool,” she said. “I wanted to shoot something dark and depressing like that.”
Employing an old window pane from her father’s garage and the help of a friend, Griffith set out to Loudy-Simpson Park to try to establish a similar shot.
She and her friend broke some of the windows and drizzled fake blood along the pane.
“That’s how we started,” Griffith said “We were trying a bunch of different things and I thought I had some good shots, but I didn’t have that money shot yet.”
Griffith and her friend decided to change locations and went over to the lot near the Yampa River. She was immediately drawn to its emptiness.
“There was nothing out there,” Griffith said. “I had my friend hold the window pane in the corner, so it looked like the window pane was just sitting out there in the middle of nowhere.”
The photo, which Griffith has subsequently named “Broken,” appears on page 375 of the Best of College and High School Photography 2012.
But Griffith had no intention of naming any of the six photos she submitted to the contest.
That too came from the encouragement of her teachers.
Like so many people her age, Griffith is preparing for the next of life’s many stages.
By her own admission Griffith is not a model student, recently struggling with ACT. College was almost entirely written off her future plans.
Neton encouraged her to use those feelings of self-doubt, fear and uncertainty to conjure up a name for the photo.
“I hadn’t set out to tell a good story, I just wanted to take a good picture,” Griffith said. “Mr. Neton whipped up this big old story about the broken window representing all of the stress and hardship in my life. But as the photo represents, once all that fades you’re in the clear.”
Being featured in Photographer’s Forum’s Best of College and High School Photography 2012 has not only filled Griffith with a sense of pride, it has rejuvenated her love of learning.
She is already being recruited by the director of photography at the Art Institute of Colorado.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “It made me feel so much better because I really didn’t think I wanted to deal with college, but now I’m excited. I want to go right now.”
“There’s so much to learn, so many new angles you can find, little tweaks about a camera you didn’t know. I’m so interested in all off that and so excited to be a somebody.”
Not one for flashy job descriptions, Griffith plans to tend bar while she continues to hone her photography skills after college.
“I love being around people and I want people to be comfortable around me,” Griffith said. “That would be the best way for me to do it because I don’t need a hotshot, fancy job. If you can make a career doing something you love, it’s not work. That’s how I look at it.”
Griffith submitted seven new photos to Photographer’s Forum’s spring contest.
She finds out at the end of July if any of her photos will be featured in the spring publication of Best of College and High School Photography 2012.
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