DuBOIS — Making time stand still was not photographer Joelle Watt’s first passion.
“I had a theater scholarship when I was graduating from high school. I had plans on doing that and I wanted to be on Broadway,” Watt recalled.
But then she experienced what she calls a “twist” in her life.
“There was a circumstance that changed my life. I decided not to go forward with that,” Watt said.
After losing her identity in every way, Watt said she put herself back together several years later. She said she discovered, “This is who I am. This is how I’m established.”
After moving away from the DuBois area for a short time, Watt said she came back and started spending a lot of time with her twin sisters.
“They’re 11 years younger than me and I would take them out for days with my mom’s 35 mm camera and just take pictures of them,” Watt recalled.
She’d take the photos to be developed at local department stores.
“I’d get messages back on my envelopes that you got back and they would say, ‘These are so great. Do you do this for a living?’ Little notes to me and they always made me feel nice,” she said.
“One day, the photo manager at Walmart, and understand this is probably close to 20 years ago, the photo manager came out and she said, ‘You bring your pictures all the time and they are so good.’”
Watt said the woman told her that she should consider photography as a career.
“My mom had told me that just for somebody outside of my circle to speak into me, and that is a key point, is that I needed somebody who didn’t love me to speak that to me.”
She then called Clarion University and asked if they had photography classes.
“They said, ‘No, we just dissolved our photography department because we’re going to all digital,” said Watt.
Disappointed, she told them she wanted to learn on a camera.
The Clarion University representative suggested that the professor would still teach her.
“I met with him one-on-one for about $10 a lesson,” Watt said. “He taught me how to shoot with a manual 35 millimeter camera. He also taught me how to print and develop in the dark room.”
Relating that her love for photography started with a camera the professor lent her and the first pictures she took, developed and printed were of her twin sisters, she said she still has those photos on the wall today in her studio in downtown DuBois.
Photography may have not been Watt’s first passion, but now it is the way that she lives rather than something she just does.
Her words on her website may describe it best:
”My whole life, I’ve gone around asking my heart to stop moments so that I would not forget. What I get to do with my camera is just that. I shoot what my heart sees. The moments — how they feel. When you look at your images — no matter what kind they are, you will see the beauty of moments. The unmatched emotion, and the value of time standing still for even a moment. With my camera, I stop time. And then, I give it back to you.”