When We Talk About it...

Written by Cameron Cooper

Photography by Cameron Cooper

I’ve never been able to express myself through words. Or at least not speaking the words myself. I get choked up, start sweating, and tearing up. So instead, I use photography to get my emotions out. I use my film to tell my story and say all the things I know I could not. I hope my art helps someone the way it helped me, and even if it doesn’t resonate with others I had to get it out. In this series, I fill in the blanks with three different words that point to different stages of my life: pain, which is representative of my past, isolation, which examines my present reality, and freedom, which looks to my future. Sankofa asks us to examine our pasts and how they have shaped who we are. Each stage has its own narrative, and has played (or will play) a role in who I become. The narratives are as follows…

When we talk about isolation, we talk about the present. We talk about the life we thank God for because it is a place we never thought we’d be. We talk about the victories, the triumphs over pain, yet something lingers every once in a while. A feeling—no a reminder that while we have come so far since pain since darkness we are not yet fully light. When that reminder comes, I find myself slowly sinking into isolation. I am slowly transported from a room full of revelry to a room full of silence. Silence so deafening you are forced to observe your solitude. So when we talk about isolation, we talk about my present. The reality that I am doing well, but a small reminder that I’m not yet doing great. 


When we talk about pain, we often speak of our pasts. We speak of numbing pain that left us looking for anything—anyone who could make us feel again. Soon enough you become hollow. You become so empty it’s like you are floating outside of yourself. I remember I could see myself but did not recognize the vessel that carried me. On the outside she was happy and laughing, but the parts of her that I needed were gone. She—I—was very much an empty vessel. I was being suffocated by my own emotions. I was convinced that if my pain defeated me, no one would even notice I was gone. 


When we talk about freedom, we talk about my future. The moment I am finally released of all my past pain and reminders that I am not yet whole. I look to freedom as the day I finally recognize that while I was in the dark so long, it was my inner light that could heal me all this time. When we talk about freedom, I’ll talk about light. I’ll speak of the man who reminded me that I am the sun. I am the one I’ve needed all along. When I’m finally free, I’ll be floating again. But this time, I won’t be hollow.