Casey Kallen is alone, in a strange city, with a shattered iPhone that probably will not hold a charge much longer.
“It’s my GPS system, it’s my way of booking my lodging and my transportation,” said Kallen, 20, a journalism major with a concentration in photography. “It’s my everything and it’s barely working. I have no idea what’s going on.”
And somehow, she makes it all sound like part of her plan – getting truly and deeply lost, that is. Kallen is currently on a journey that will take her down the East Coast. She hopes the trip, starting in Baltimore and eventually ending in Tampa, will improve her photography skills and strengthen her portfolio.
“Baltimore was interesting,” Kallen said. “It has the hills of San Francisco, but it still has that East Coast vibe about it.” She admitted she did not make much of a plan for Baltimore and decided to walk the city with some other guests staying at her hostel.
In particular, Kallen noticed the street art in Baltimore. She said it gave Philly some competition as she recounted her experience walking around Baltimore for the whole day. She finds wandering around a new city is an important part of learning the area.
“Being present helps you know what moments you really need to savor when you’re taking those photos,” Kallen said. “Those will be the most honest representation of that city.”
With many more cities on her list, like Charleston, S.C. and Savannah, Ga., Kallen hopes to find more opportunities to get a better sense for those little moments are that are so important to a photographer.
It is not necessarily the first time Kallen strived to capture the essence of a location in her photographs, and according to the young photographer, it will not be the last. She hopes to shoot for Travel & Leisure or National Geographic one day. Kallen makes it a priority to travel as much as she can to make those dreams a reality. Before embarking on her solo-journey from Baltimore to Tampa, Kallen was in Jamaica with her father earlier this summer, whom she says inspires her love of travel.
Because her father used to live in Jamaica, Kallen is well aware tourists are told exploring the island can be dangerous, often confining visitors to resort areas. However, she had the chance to delve a bit deeper into Jamaica by driving around with her father as a guide.
“My dad got worried,” Kallen recalled with a laugh,” because we’re driving through the biggest ghetto of a city called Kingston, and I’m hanging out the window with my camera. But if anything, that kind of motivated me more – why can’t I experience it even if it’s dangerous?” Kallen admitted to enjoying the thrill of entering potentially unsafe situations, all for the love of photography.
Kallen was excited about being able to say she faced that fear in order to get the shot. There is a photo in particular that she is proud of taking: a shot of a little girl in a tiny mountain town, Fort Charles, playing around with Kallen’s DSLR.
“I was taking some photos of her and she started looking at the camera,” Kallen said. “She asked to see it. I put it around her neck, showed her how to hold it, and told her to be really careful. She actually ran out the rest of the photos on that memory card!”
While watching the little girl, Olivia, play around with her camera, Kallen said she was secretly hoping that the little girl might be able to pick one up for herself some day.
“She loved the sound the camera made. It was just so beautiful to see that same excitement that I had when I first got my camera,” Kallen said. She does not think she will ever forget that moment, not only because of the little girl’s joy, but also because of what it inspired in her.
“The photojournalism program at Temple is very good, and I’m so happy to be in it,” Kallen said. “But when you’re in a creative field, it burns a ton of energy.”
After a rigorous spring semester, Kallen found she did not want to pick up her camera for weeks. This reluctance became a cause for concern as she wondered if she was passionate enough about photography to continue, to do it day in and day out.
But that’s precisely why Kallen went to Jamaica, why she is travelling down the east coast with nothing but a camera and a backpack – to prove to herself that she has the fuel and the desire to keep herself going.
“You really forget why you’re taking those photos,” Kallen said. “It’s not even about the job anymore. It has to be about what you really love to do and why you picked it up to begin with.”
Kallen even purposefully packed her backpack so she would be forced to keep her camera out, in her hands, at all times.
“I’m remembering why I started taking photos in the first place,” Kallen said. “When I do feel inspired, I can put my eye up to the viewfinder and create something.”
Victoria Mier can be reached at email@example.com