Vera Paskevich, Photographer
Vera walked into my coffee shop in February and I made her a latte and I had no idea who she was—she said I looked familiar. She recognized me from Facebook. When she told me her name, I almost dropped the latte and I think I said, “I know who you are! Your work is amazing!”
We met for dinner a week later and I showed up downtown an hour early and walked around a bookstore to pass the time and I want to tell you the truth: I was so afraid, and I was so tired. I’d stopped taking pictures. I’d stopped writing. I didn’t think I could do the work that I wanted to do because all I had was a tiny camera and one lens. Just that morning I’d started crying—one minute I was eating cereal and the next I was sobbing—I wound up pacing around the house wringing my hands like a crazy person, and the weight of a mountain pressing on my heart: I’ve got things I need to say, but I can’t find the words. I’ve got things I need to do, but I don’t know where to start. I thought, what if I can’t find the right words? I thought, what if no one wants to listen?
In the bookstore, I picked up Mary Oliver’s House of Light, and read these words:
All my life,
I have loved
more than one thing,
including the mossy hooves
of dreams, including
the spongy litter
under the tall trees.
And just like that, I woke up. Just like that, I felt myself slide back into my body. I mean that my heart kind of hop-skipped and picked up. I mean that my toes tingled. I mean that I shivered and I started to feel brave again.
At dinner, Vera told me that she loved my photos and she loved my writing. She told me I could make it; I could find a way to make it work. She showed me how I could get the camera and the lenses I needed on a small budget. She said I could second-shoot for her. She helped me know what I needed to do next. And all at once, the weight on my heart lifted. Because what I want to do, more than anything else, is take pictures and tell stories. I think it’s what I was made for.
"It's learning how to see: it’s teaching yourself how to see and to notice things, and to look for details: I can walk by the same house every day for five years and not notice that it’s got three stories, and that the paint job is kind of falling apart, but when I have a camera in my hands I do notice those things."
"I used to skip class and go to my dad’s shop and draw. My dad used to write me sick notes because he thought what I was doing was more important. I would take magazines and try to copy them perfectly. I wanted to be an artist so desperately."
"I bought myself a tiny point-and-shoot camera and walked around town, and it felt a lot more like what I was supposed to be doing than anything I’ve experienced before, and I knew that everything that I was able to capture during those weeks was going to mean the world to me because I couldn’t know the next time I was going to go back."
"It all goes back to photos that ask a question. My goal with my work is to ask a question that is interesting, that makes it easier for the viewer to fall into the image. The idea is to stare at it for a really, really long time and try to figure out all of the things that are going on."
"Every photograph has an element of truth, so there are always clues, right? Clues to the story."
"I want people to see themselves as beautiful and interesting. That’s the power of a photographer that does their job well; of a portrait that’s effective: it’s the ability to turn images around, and have your subject be amazed that they could look this way to someone when they just felt vulnerable. That never stops being magical."