Sulley and Me | Teen Ink

Sulley and Me MAG

August 5, 2021
By Ella_Snyder SILVER, Winter Springs, Florida
Ella_Snyder SILVER, Winter Springs, Florida
5 articles 40 photos 0 comments

I climbed the metal stairs of the bleachers in the section labeled “freshmen,” inching my way to the top row. I sat alone. As 2,200 students poured into the gymnasium for a pep rally, I clutched my backpack on my lap. I was prepared to endure the excessive cheering and the incessant degradation of the freshmen. Soon, the class competitions began, prompting the sophomores, juniors, and seniors to gang up on the ninth graders and chant “GO HOME, FRESHMEN!”

I was alone. I was out of place. I was miserable. I felt like an impostor in the stands. My eyes darted around the gym — marching drummers, stunting cheerleaders, shrieking students. To me, it was an overwhelming frenzy of activity — one where I didn’t fit. So where did I fit? I wasn’t sure.

But then, I met Sulley. 

Not only was I no longer in the dreaded freshman section — I was no longer alone. I now had Sulley by my side. Sulley was my camera, a Nikon D3500 DSLR, named after Pixar’s lovable blue and purple monster, James P. Sullivan.

Pep rallies during sophomore year were different. I was now behind the scenes but in the action. Sulley and I worked together with a goal in mind: capture an emotional image for the school’s yearbook cover. My classmates, now sophomores, hollered the infamous chant “GO HOME, FRESHMEN!” I tuned it out; instead of engaging in the slightly derogatory chant, I fiddled with Sulley’s shutter speed: 1/250s seemed to do the trick. The shutter would be open long enough to let light seep in without blurring the students’ arms as they swung around enthusiastically. Students whizzed around me — dancing, shouting, cheering — but my vision was confined to the rectangle of my camera’s viewfinder. Each grade screamed at the top of its lungs, competing to prove that it was the loudest. “I got the seniors!” I shouted to another staff photographer. I strategically positioned myself, knowing that the senior class would inevitably win the spirit stick. I was right — the crowd roared with excitement. I slipped my lens cap into the pocket on my camera strap, crouched down to a “worm’s eye view,” and snapped photos as the stick was handed over to the seniors.

Zooming in on what was once a gymnasium full of chaos, I noticed the little things — the dance team’s matching lipstick, a student’s rainbow shoelaces, and reflections in the French horns.

As photography made its way into all aspects of my life, I learned to look closer. This wasn’t a revelation, but more of a gradual realization. I put in the effort to notice the small things. In fact, in my AP 2–D Art and Design class, I chose to answer the question “What objects are small but important to society?” through my photography. Outside of the class, I expanded my observations beyond just “objects.” Patterns on a soccer ball, stripes of a zebra, rays of sunlight peeking through the window — I appreciated details.

I still do.

I chase down bees and butterflies at Lukas Plant Nursery, aiming to capture a clear image of an insect in action. I hang string lights in my backyard, setting my aperture wide to photograph the out-of-focus lights in a perfect bokeh picture. I travel to low-income neighborhoods with the non-profit organization GROW Central Florida, capturing the smiles of children receiving brand-new sneakers. I embrace golden hour, positioning a family of sixteen beside cypress trees during a portrait session. I pop water balloons, leading Photography Club in a lesson on photographing liquids. I marvel at the completed yearbook, admiring my pep rally photograph printed on the cover.

I was a freshman who didn’t fit in, a sophomore finding her place, and a junior noticing the details. Now, even when Sulley isn’t by my side, I continue to appreciate the little things.

The author's comments:

I hope people learn two things from this article: find where you fit and appriciate the little things.

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