With his grandfather’s old windup camera in tow, Wyatt Graff and his friends trekked to the Grand Teton mountains for one of their regular camping ventures. The film was expensive, so Graff took care to use the single roll he brought just for those extra memorable moments.
By the end, he returned home satisfied with his captured shots, and in anticipation, he sent them off to the development lab; the lab informed him that the film roll was empty.
To his dismay, Graff discovered he’d loaded the film incorrectly, resulting in 36 photographs of perfect nothingness.
“For that reason, a lot of the memory of that trip I don’t remember as much,” said Graff, a freshman studying mechanical engineering.
Since the first photograph by Joseph Nicephore Niepce in 1826, cameras have allowed people to immortalize the events of life in a visual journal. Graff said he considers cameras an amplification of the mind and eyes meant to help us remember and preserve the important things.
Over seven years ago, Graff picked up his father’s Nikon T40 camera and became a self-taught photographer.
“I started taking photos, and they were terrible,” Graff said. “But over time you develop an eye.”
Exercising all aesthetic rules in the book, Graff will photograph anything from colorful people on the street to dramatic landscapes and far-distant stars.
“For me, it’s all about the theme,” Graff said. “I try to capture the story of an image rather than just a good-looking picture because those are the ones that last.”
The real trick, according to Graff, is making an image relevant to others.
“People have a hard time empathizing with people they don’t know,” Graff said. “So part of the mission of photography is to bring that to life.”
The best way to do that is through people because people tend to connect to people more than objects, he said. Why do some people run for the photo book when the house is on fire? Because it holds those connections to people and events that are irreplaceable. When a moment is gone, it’s gone. When Graff lost 36 photographs, he also lost integral parts of the memories tied to them.
Whether taking photos of family or pets, of weddings and adventures, or just another selfie to add to the pile—regret taking none at all.