Interview with Savannah Condon: Practice Radical Gratitude

Savannah Condon: one of my great promising students who attended a recent creativity online photography workshop I taught. Learn more about her and what she does:

Savannah Condon Video

Savannah Condon Photos

Follow Sav on her website here. You can also follow her on Insta @savannahhbananaa

What is your photo life story?

I’m 25 years old and have been in love with photography since I was thirteen.

Rather than telling you the things that have influenced my love of photography, I would like to tell you how photography in tangible and real ways, has affected my life. Recently it has helped mend my relationship with my uncle. Here’s a journal entry I made while reflecting on the week I spent with my Uncle Dan over the summer of 2019:

My Unkie Dan and I have a complicated relationship. I used to worship him when I was a child- I named one of my pet birds after him and even had a birthday cake dedicated to him when he couldn’t make my party because he was deployed in Iraq. After he got out of the military, he lived with us for a couple years, so him and I used to spend a lot of quality time together. I loved my Unkie so much because he was so passionate about particular things- it was infectious. Whether it was dogs, cars, beta fish, the hulk, working out- he never half-assed anything and always put in 110% effort into whatever it was he was into at that time. Eventually… his passions turned into guns, religion, and politics. I remember when I was 16, we got into a heated argument about politics, and he told me I think the way that I do because “it was the devil speaking inside of me”. I then slammed my bedroom door in his face.
During my teen years and early twenties we stopped speaking to each other. I used to beg my parents to not invite him over for holidays because I dreaded his preachy rants about god and having Fox News on incessantly. But this year, I started thinking about my family, what they mean to me, and how they have shaped me as an adult. I sort of just had a sudden realization that everyone in my family is going to die and I have no idea when that is. So I could either continue avoiding people in my family who have wildly different beliefs than me or… I could try harder and get to know them better as a human. This meant reaching out to my Uncle to try and mend our relationship.
It was challenging, but we avoided talking about politics the whole week. He taught me the basics of boxing. He showed me how to shoot a gun for the first time. We watched Game of Thrones. We talked about our family history and what similarities we all share. He made me coffee every morning. We talked a lot about philosophy.
It wasn’t perfect- we did bicker about sexism and guns… but we both tried our best to enjoy each other as niece and uncle.
When I told him I wanted to take a portrait of him on the last day of my stay, he woke up an hour earlier than usual to shave, get ready and pick out a couple different outfits. That morning- as he burst out of his bedroom clean shaven and all dressed up, asking me which cowboy hat he looked best in, I couldn’t help but smile. It was his vulnerability and infectious excitement over me taking his portrait, that made me start loving my Unkie again.

Why do you love photography?

My photographs tell my story; they are my beloved treasures I’ve collected from all over the world and throughout my life. They connect me to my past and remind me of who I am.

Photography allows me to be creative, express myself and document my experiences and the world around me. Photographs are catalysts for change; they start political movements, they bear witness to injustices in the world, corroborate people’s stories, and lend a helping hand in changing public policy.

Advice you wish you gave yourself when you started again?

Dear Younger Sav,

Study the history and philosophy of photography. Learn from the masters and really soak it all in. Be hungry to learn more and take your education into your own hands. Analyze compositions of images you are drawn to. Ask yourself: why am I drawn to this image? What works? What doesn’t work? Reach out to photographers whose work you love. Be of service to them and ask as many questions as you can. Get your work critiqued. Dissolve your ego. Take your play seriously. Be protective of your inner artist. Treat her like you would a puppy: Take her for daily walks, let her stop and follow her curiosity, be firm, gentle and loving. Be involved in the photo community. Ask questions, reach out to others, go to meetup groups even if you’re alone. Document everything around you. Draw inspiration from multiple aspects of your life. Don’t pigeon hole yourself into just photography. Study cinema, poetry, music, story telling, comedy.

Aside from photo related advice…Be mindful of how you feel and of how other people make you feel. Practice radical gratitude. Learn that there are few things in this world that are truly black and white. Your mind, your health and your creativity are all interconnected (much like everything else in the world). Address your emotional issues. Examine your beliefs. Expose yourself to people with opposite beliefs. Be uncomfortable.

Listen to podcasts. Learn about philosophy, nutrition, and sustainability. Reassess actions. Are they in line with your beliefs? Don’t think of parts of yourself as mutually exclusive. You are apart of something much larger than yourself- your actions affect other humans, animals, and the earth. You are going to die soon. Each new day is never guaranteed, remind yourself of this every day, it will change your life and how you photograph.

Follow Sav on her website here. You can also follow her on Insta @savannahhbananaa

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