Locally Grown: Cassia McLoon

Interviews with South Dakotans finding success outside their college major by Kyle Hallberg.

Images submitted

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Pinpointing the thing that makes you who you are is not always easy, unless you’re Cassia McLoone. Between graduating from Lincoln High School and enrolling at the University of South Dakota, McLoone found herself discovering who she was through the photos she took. While most of her classmates were headed to college, McLoone knew her pictures needed her, as much as she needed them – for anxiety equally fought for her attention, pulling her between the world she saw through the lens and the world around her.

McLoone, her adorable pup, and I sat down and discussed the power of photography, anxiety, and the influence of the scholastic world.

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Kyle Hallberg: First of all, I saw your photos for sale at Keller’s and I was beyond impressed. So, tell me, how did you get into photography?

Cassia McLoone: It’s hard to pinpoint when I got into photography, we’ve always had pictures around and my grandfather was also a photographer – which probably inspired me to pick up a camera. I remember going into his dark room with him and watching his pictures develop.

KH: Did you take pictures in high school?

CM: Yeah, I hung out with a lot of skateboarders and I would take photos of them with my iPhone, which led to getting my camera and then I discovered I liked to take pictures of other things. Right around that time I took photo class in school, which helped me build my portfolio.

KH: After high school did you start college right away?

CM: I didn’t. I decided to take a year off and focus on myself. Which meant working at RedRossa and taking photos. I just needed to do what I wanted to do.

KH: Was that a hard decision for you to make?

CM: I didn’t know what I wanted to do in school, but I knew I wanted to take photos, so that’s what I did. I knew I could support myself and I knew I would go back to school when I figured it out. I like learning and challenging myself, so I knew the break would not last forever. The break I took gave me the opportunity to excel in photography and to further myself as a student.

KH: That’s a really great way to look at it. I think some people forget that who they are is just as important as the degree they have.

CM: Exactly. This fall I will be finishing my generals at USD, which I started at the University Center in Sioux Falls. I’m thinking about being an art major, but I’m not too sure yet.

KH: That’s awesome. I spent a lot of time in the Arts Building at USD and they are a dedicated group of people, especially when they are really into the projects they are doing. What are you really into, as far as what type of photography really appeals to you?

CM: There are a couple of things I like to do. I like to set up shoots that reflect the images in my head. I have an ongoing series of people with half of their faces covered with moss, that has to do with being one with nature. I am also always adding on to a series that expressed what it feels like to have anxiety. Usually, that incorporated me strangling somebody. The first one I ever did was in high school and it involved me, a plastic bag – tying it around my neck and take this photo to represent the emotion I was feeling.

KH: I always find it super interesting to hear about the different ways people handle their anxiety. I know that for me, school and class has always been accompanied with extreme anxiety and worry. Did you ever experience anxiety in school?

CM: Oh yeah. During my junior year, I was in a few accelerated classes. There were so many things going on during my life, and in addition to those classes, all of my anxiety was enhanced and I would find myself leaving class because I was sick with anxiety. That spiraled into my teachers telling me I was lazy or I should give up, which was the worst. But, I made it through and then I was able to focus on my photography, which allowed me to further understand my anxiety.

KH: So after you take your photos, do they reveal more about yourself?

CM: Definitely. I will see it in candids and while I’m out and about. I will take a picture and look at it later and say to myself, ‘That feeling? That’s what it looks like. Right there.’ I think taking a year off was a big step in the healing process of dealing with my anxiety. Photography gave me the opportunity to figure that out. So while I love learning and school, I needed to figure out myself as a person in order to figure out myself as a student.

KH: Well now that you have that figured out and school will be starting, are you worried at all about losing out on photo experiences?

CM: Photography has become part of who I am, so I know it will never leave me or my life.

McLoone’s photos can be found around Sioux Falls, as well as on her Facebook page. 

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