Today marks a major milestone for me.
My mom gave me my first camera for Christmas back when I was a wee little boy. It was a little kodak flip flash thing that took 35 mm film. I remember when I opened up the gift I was like… ‘hmmm… really mom?’ But mothers always know best. I grew to understand the importance of the tool she bestowed on me and soon you could not catch me without that camera in my hand (and soon after a stills camera in one hand and a video in the other). I documented everything. I found my dad’s manual camera and start learning how to use it. I’d go get 4×6 prints made of all my rolls and paste them up in my bedroom – an entire wall full of moments of my life captured on light sensitive emulsion.
Taking a picture is sacred to me. Whether it is a moment that is passing me by that I am just blessed to be witness to or if it is a scene which I create with others, each capture is uniquely mine while simultaneously all of ours. When I was 15, I took on the role of my high school year book photographer – I was already taking so many pictures of everyone that it only made sense. This role gave me access to the schools camera and I took full advantage. I went as far as finding out that there was a darkroom in the school that had not been used in over 10 years; I convinced the principal to give me and my best friend at the time, Andrew Ramberg (RIP), the keys. We dusted off the old gear and taught ourselves how to use it. Then we started a photography club and taught about 20 other students (we would get them to buy the paper and supplies so that Andrew and I had stuff to test on and learn and teach them with 😉 – social enterprising from time yo!
I took the schools camera on a trip I was going on with my sisters to Curacao. It just so happened to be Carnival while we were there and I was snapping away as a spectator in the crowd behind a barrier. After about an hour, I decided to jump over the fence and get into the heart of the action. Now I am walking the streets with the people, dressed in incredible costumes and dancing the day away. I saw other people who jumped the fence being asked to leave, but no one bothered me. That is when I realized the power of the camera and the access it would create throughout my life. I had another revelation that day. I realized the power of the images I was taking – I was not learning about what was going on that day in my Geography class or History class, and I realized none of classmates back home were either. I saw a deep responsibility I had to take these pictures in collaboration with the people I was shooting, and then most of all, share them.
Admittedly, if you know me, I have been very busy since that 15 year old self. And for the 15 years that followed, I have been on missions creating spaces for others to share. I paused for a minute this week to gather up some memories and put them together in one place. chekothari.com. This will be my home for sharing. I am super excited. Today I launch just a small piece of it. In the coming weeks, months, years, I will be sharing more of myself on this platform. It will be a place for me to share photos, videos, writings. A portfolio and a journal. A few new sections will drop soon – but for now, just wanted to get something out there to start the sharing.
I am so grateful to my long time friend, collaborator, and business partner Ryan Paterson for creating a site that serves my purpose perfectly. I am so thankful for all the hard work of my ride-or-die team: Huda Hassan, Wan Luv, Erin Lowers, Nate Martin, Idris Ali, Sara Staninszewskit, James Kachan and Adrien Gough for making it all possible. Also a shout out to Marc & Anthony at LikeMindCreative and everyone at Manifesto. I’m grateful for my family for creating me and my wife, Mriga, for creating with me, and all the others that know who they are for being such rock solid supports in my life. ‘I love my team, I love my team, I would die for these…’
We are just getting started.