By Mariel Brunman
Mazelle Etessami â14 quietly stood at attention, surveying the people around her. She brought her Nikon D40 up to eye level and snapped, causing the shutter to whir. Etessami has honed her photography skills to act as a bridge between subjects she meets abroad and characters in her life at home.
“The thing I like most is that there is something powerful and unique about telling stories through photos,” Etessami said. “Thereâs something special you can do with pictures. Iâve been so much luckier than so many people and have been able to see so much more than others, so with one click of a camera I can try to bridge that gap.”
At a young age, Etessami was first inspired by photography when her father would hand her his camera. She began snapping photos on family vacations, and at 13 her father gave her a Nikon as a present before a family trip to do volunteer work in the Himalayas. Etessami would pick up her camera when there wasnât much to do at the familyâs campsite and would wander off, taking photos of people around the site.
“I think what really inspired me were the people that were there, because it is hard to not be inspired in that environment,” Etessami said.
Although Etessami has been interested in photography from a young age, she regrets that she canât take photographs more often because of her busy schedule, she said.
In eighth grade, Etessamiâs art teacher at The Mirman School submitted a photograph she had taken on her trip to the Himalayas to a National Scholastic Arts competition. Etessami won a gold medal for the photo, and it was later picked as one of 30 national gold winners to be displayed in the Presidentâs Gallery, in Washington, D.C. She has also won two gold medals at the regional level, one silver medal and one honorable mention from Scholastic Arts. Her photos have also won first and third place in the Photo of the Year category from the National Scholastic Press Association.
Despite her commitment to photography, Etessami refuses to upgrade to a newer Nikon.
“I have a weird attachment to my camera,” Etessami said. “Itâs old, and compared to modern models, itâs not as nice, but I just really like it because the pictures I like the most were taken with that camera, so I stick with it.”
Although Etessami has won awards for her photographs, “itâs weird when people compliment my pictures because I donât see anything special in them,” she said. “I think anyone with a camera could take the picture if they were given that subject matter, so I just see myself as really lucky to be able to travel to a lot of the places.”