How I Caught the Photo Bug: Ibarionex Perello


When I was 10 years old, I suffered from a terrible stutter. It was a physical manifestation of my awkwardness and insecurity that I felt around others.

There was a feeling of inadequacy that seemed to pervade all my interactions with other children be it in the school yard, in the classroom or out in the streets of my neighborhood. While it seemed that others were able to become part of the group with ease, I felt this perpetual sense of anxiety that at any moment I would say or do the wrong thing.

When I would open my mouth, the clear thought that I had in my head would tumble out in a tangle of words, which only became worse when I tried to control my tongue.

It was often why I chose silence and isolation, which inevitably left me feeling alone, different and in many ways, invisible.

When I discovered photography while attending the Boys Club of Hollywood, I found a way I could have a voice without the benefit of words. As I learned the mechanics of photography and the darkroom, I discovered a way of communicating that didn’t depend on what came out of my mouth. Instead, it was the image that I printed on a sheet of paper which was the means by which I could share something about myself.

Those first images and prints evoked reactions in people that I had never experienced before. The image of a boy playing pool was one of my first photographs. And when I first showed it, there was a sense of wonder at what I had captured. The idea that I could make something that would elicit such a strong reaction from others was completely new to me. The feeling was intoxicating.

Just like an invisible image is revealed in the developer tray, photography helped me to discover and reveal something about myself that others including myself didn’t realize was there.

Despite whatever feelings of insecurity or self-doubt I experienced, I was able to create photographs that revealed my own unique way of seeing the world. I got to see that vision affirmed over and over again, providing me a sense of confidence that had often eluded me.

As I grew older, I was able to gain better control over my stutter, though I still have moments when it manifests itself. But I still have the gift of what I can do with my camera to remind me that the way that I see and experience the world is unique and special. It’s a feeling that makes photography such a necessary and integral part of my life.

When I make the time to walk out with a camera and make images, I get to affirm the best part of myself. It’s a part of me that deserves its own, distinct and clear voice.

It’s a practice that reminds me that I don’t have to be invisible.

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