Last Monday, I finished up Black & White I at Photographic Center Northwest, a fine art photography school here in Seattle. The class has pretty much consumed all of my time and energy since September 27. My teacher, the wonderful Jahnavi Lisa Barnes, guided us through the fundamentals of the analog B&W process, from the ins-and-out of the camera to development to Zone System to trial-and-error printing in the darkroom, etc, etc. To say the class was fulfilling would be an understatement. Not only did I become a better photographer, but the class was a vindication of sorts.

From the first week of class, Jahnavi recognized the way I viewed the world and how I wanted to convey that through pictures. Never once did she dissuade me from making the kind of pictures I want to make. Instead, she made me feel as though my “vision” was worthwhile, which was just as valuable as learning the practical technicalities of the photographic process. Her reaction to my final prints last Monday was proof that I was absolutely right in pursuing photography.

“The greatest compliment I could give you,” she said. “Is that I just want to keep looking at your pictures.”

Those words meant more to me than I could ever explain.

Why did it take me till age 30 to find photography? I’ve been wrestling with that question for the last year and a half. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. But I don’t think I was ready for it either way. Even if I had picked up the camera earlier in life, it would have been useless because I hadn’t spent enough time looking–truly looking–at the world. Life feels really, really good right now.