When I was a child, my mother would drive my brother and I out to wealthier suburban communities to look at the huge mansions, beautiful landscapes, and clean neighborhoods. She would even visit the playgrounds, and watch us play without having a care in the world. My father was the same way. He would watch PBS with me over giant bowls of orange sherbet. He would hand his five year-old son huge newspapers with long articles that were completely over my head. I’m still not sure if he knew that I didn’t understand a word I was reading.
As a youth, I was unappreciative of these gems that my parents were giving me. I didn’t know much, but I knew we were poor. I knew that the neighborhoods we would visit looked nothing like our own; and I knew that the people there looked nothing like me. My brother and I would irk our mother’s nerves with our questions. “What are we doing out here?” “Can we go home?” As irritated as our mother would be, her answer would always be the same, “Because exposure is important.” It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized the truth in her statement.
In photography, the exposure determines how visible an image will be. Think about that. The same applies to people as well, especially children. We need to be exposed to different things in order to develop ideas; to even be able to think outside of the things that we already know. Sometimes, exposure can come in the form of a void, for us to figure out ways to fill it. Other times, we are exposed to resources that we never even knew existed, and didn’t know how useful they could be; whether today or tomorrow.
As a twenty-four year-old adult, African-American, born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, I finally realize the importance of the exposure my parents gave me. Though we could not afford many of things that we were exposed to, just to be aware of them is vital to our success, as well as our existence. This exposure taught me that my environment does not have to define, nor dictate my future.
Instead, I may define it.
– Steven Farrar (@ifarrarif50)