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Arts & Culture

'Things We Hold On To'

National Geographic

by Mari Hall

When I was a child, my mom never understood why I seldom played with the toys she bought.

“Why don’t you play with that Bratz swimming pool I bought you?”

I always tried to make it seem like I played with it more than she thought, or that the times I did play with it, she wasn’t in the room. But that wasn’t true. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the toys my parents bought me; I was just often seen with a pencil in hand and paper sprawled out in front of me. In my stories, there were boxy figures, exaggerated clouds, smiling suns, and clashing colors of reds, blues and purples. My handwriting looked just like it does now, but larger and shakier. I would staple papers together to make small booklets and my mom would buy me bound journals from the dollar store. She always said that was one of the gifts I was the most excited about. At a young age, I wanted to be a writer.

As a journalism student, I was excited to hear that Bill Allard was coming to my Montana Writers Live class. He’s a photojournalist for National Geographic, and I was eager to hear what wisdom he had to share.

Allard read the introduction from one of his books, Five Decades, which pertained to his childhood. He explained that when he was about ten years old, he would sit and listen to boxing fights on the radio. He told the class he could visualize what the commentators were saying, from the punches the fighters threw, to the color of the trunks they were wearing. Even when his family bought a television, his attention was always set on the radio. That was when he realized his love for art, and that words and pictures create something more powerful than either of the two by itself. “My inner child has never grown up,” he said.

I realized that this was something Allard and I had in common. Our love for art, whether it be photographs or written words, was born along with us. It only blossoms and grows as we get older. I started by writing children’s stories, and as I was introduced to novels and short stories, I started writing some of those as well. Allard helped make me, an uncertain college student, feel a little more confident. He mentioned that what he does as a career is something he really cares about, and I think a lot of that stems from his childhood. 

“Have the reader experience it, don’t tell them how to feel,” he said.

I thank Allard for talking about his childhood and making me realize that what you love comes from within. Just like Allard’s inner child, sitting in front of the radio, that imaginative little girl scribbling away at the dinner table will never grow up.

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Credit courtesy: Mari Hall
Mari Hall

Mari has spent her entire life in the beautiful state of Montana and was raised in Billings. She is a junior at the University of Montana majoring in journalism with a minor in Spanish. She is currently studying abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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