KEARNEY — Getting a camera in his hands changed Tanner Earll’s path in life.
A participant of the PhotoVoice project through Buffalo County Community Partners, Earll said he always liked taking pictures.
“It gave us something to do in our spare time,” he said of the project. “The fact that I got a camera out of it made me even more ambitious.”
Earll, 18, used the opportunity to learn about photography to redirect himself.
“I learned alternative ways not to get myself into trouble,” he said.
He also learned better and more creative ways of self-expression.
“Apparently, I’m the only one to stay with it because now I’m a photographer,” Earll said. “I’m not professional or a big shot or anything yet, but I just got a new camera and I’m starting to grow my business.”
Mark Foradori, youth coordinator for Buffalo County Community Partners, sees value in helping young people express themselves through photography.
“Exchanging ideas is what the PhotoVoice program is all about,” he said in a previous interview. “We discuss each of the photo assignments and the results. The participants learn to value their own ideas and how the power of photography can help them to communicate their ideas.”
Earll, a former Gothenburg resident, now lives in Kearney. He values his experiences in the PhotoVoice program.
“I learned to take pictures in PhotoVoice,” he said. “I think kids who would actually listen would get something out of it.”
Public exhibitions, another aspect of the program, help the young photographers to share their work. A display of Earll’s photographs, along with 25 additional pieces from other PhotoVoice participants, continues on exhibit at the Walkway Gallery at CHI Health Good Samaritan through Jan. 31.
“It felt really good to see a huge copy of my picture on display there,” Earll said. “I went to see it, and it felt good that other people can acknowledge what I’ve done with my life.”
Help from his family and friends — along with a creative outlet in photography — assisted him in dealing with challenges in his life.
“Photography lets me take a break from everything,” he said. “I can focus on the person in the pictures and not myself, for once.”
Earll said he concentrates on portraiture but also enjoys photographing nature. He made a series of 45 exposures of geese on Cottonmill Lake. Using available light in nature allows him to capture a mix of colors and textures.
Because of his experiences, Earll feels empathy with his human subjects.
“I like to get to know the people in my photographs while I’m shooting,” he said. “I don’t want them to feel awkward. It’s better to have a conversation and get to know them than shoot them while they’re quiet.”
Earll plans on pursuing photography.
“I’m going to take this photography thing and go with it,” he said.
Earll recently received a new camera from his grandmother. Because of his draw toward nature photography, Earll sees his outdoor lens as his most important piece of equipment.
“That’s the one I use the most,” he said.
For more information about Earll’s work, the best way to reach him is through his Facebook account. Information about PhotoVoice can be found at www.bcchp.org/photovoice/.