Artist commits to year-long challenge

Darbey Younce is head over heels in love. That’s what she says, but then, so do most 16-year-olds. She’s been in love since May 2010 when she was in New York City with her family for their first visit to the Big Apple. You see, Younce is in love with photography. This is what happened when she picked up a camera one day in New York City.

"Everybody in my family was getting ice cream and trying to find where our bus was," she said. "I saw this old man sitting on a bench reading a newspaper. He needs his picture taken, I thought, and I kind of just wanted a picture of him."

Younce said she ran to her mother, grabbed the camera and started clicking before the man on the bench ran away. The young photographer didn’t want to lose the "shot."

"He had to know I was taking his picture because I was about five feet away, and he just sat there and kept drinking his coffee and reading his newspaper," Younce said.

After shooting a few frames of the man on the bench, Younce said she began to feel "creeperish.” By this time, Younce’s younger sister ran up and yelled "Take my picture."

Younce put the camera up to her eye, framed the shot, and pushed the shutter button.

"I waited for the click sound that I love so much now, and nothing happened," Younce said. "I tried again and again, and nothing happened,"

Younce dreaded to tell her mother that she somehow broke her camera — a camera worth $1,000.

"She was not happy that the remainder of our New York City trip was photographed using my older sister’s cheap, many times dropped little pink camera.

By Christmas, Younce’s love for photography continued to grow, but she was in for a surprise when she opened her Christmas gift.

"When I opened my gift, it was the camera that broke in New York — all fixed up," she said. "I immediately started taking pictures."

The next day, it snowed. Younce insisted the entire family go outside in the snow. In two hours, Younce took more than 300 photos.

Younce takes her camera just about anywhere she goes — friend houses, parties, family outings and more.

"You never know when the perfect photo opportunity will come along," Younce said.

Currently, she is working on Project 52 — a photography assignment she learned about on Facebook . Each week, a different photographic assignment was given.

"After 16 weeks, the woman stopped giving the assignment," Younce said.

"I kept going. Mom said to keep going, so I made this my senior project.”

The different assignments varied from week to week, and with each photo, there are words to describe the image.

"It was challenging — sometimes I saw the image but couldn’t come up with the words," Younce said. "Other times, I saw the words but had to figure out the photograph."

Fifty-two weeks worth of photographs hang in the McCreary Modern Gallery at Newton-Conover Auditorium.

A reception is scheduled for Sunday, April 1, from 3-5 p.m.

"My first show," Younce smiled. "We’ll have cupcakes with little cameras on top at the reception.

Younce, family and friends will be on hand to greet visitors. Two of those visitors will be Younce’s mentors — professional photographers Carol Ann Hartman, of Hickory, and Jennifer Pinkerton, of Hickory.

"I admire and respect them, and they are willing to let me tag along to assist them and learn from them," Younce said.

Meanwhile, the homeschooled young photographer has a job on weekends and at nights. And, as most teens, Younce enjoys hanging out with her friends, her dog, watching videos, facebook and YouTube.

"I’m living the dream, any teenager’s dream,” she said.

Younce has a master plan, as she calls it.

“I’m going to work hard on my photography skills through high school, then I’m going to college to study photography and business,” she said. “I’d really like to go to ASU.”

It’s a work in progress, and she’s on her way.

“One day, I want to own my own business and call it Darbey’s Hot Shots,” she said.