“I realized I wanted a career in photography when I came to Bates,” says 19-year-old Taylor Henson. “I was influenced by the people around who were focused on their career paths, and I wanted to do something I was good at and could focus on.”

Taylor, a student in the Digital Media program, found his way to Bates through an unusual route. As a young teenager, Taylor and his family faced homelessness for more than a year. His mother retired from the Army, had trouble obtaining a job, and lost their home. The family spent a year living with a friend until they found shelter at The Salvation Army.

“We were homeless from my freshman year until I was a sophomore,” says Taylor, who attended Stadium High School. “Then, my mom got a job at SeaTac Airport, and I started looking for apartments for my family.”

He dedicated his free time to finding a safe and secure place for his family to live. “I helped my mom with anything she needed. I wanted to get out of where we were because it was a scary situation. With my little brother, mom and me—we were a family and we needed to get out of the shelter,” he recalls.

Speaking of his mother, who he says is his biggest influence, “We went through so much, but I always noticed her determination and how she worked hard to make her family’s life better. I have taken that with me, and I love her for showing me that,” says Taylor. “That is one of the major things that kept me going through school and life,” he adds.

Throughout this experience, Taylor continued to snap photos whenever he could. “I used my photography to help express how I was feeling. I wanted my feelings to show through my photography,” he says.

Soon, the family moved into the Guadalupe Vista Apartments, where he learned of the REACH Center, a local organization that connects young adults with professional and personal development opportunities.

The idea that he could earn his high school diploma and a technical degree at the same time attracted him to Bates, where he spent two quarters in the Software Development program before switching to Digital Media.

Taylor recalls that in two quarters, the Digital Media program instructor, Brian Parker, “showed me more than any other person I’ve met. I told Brian I wanted to be a photographer, and when he saw my photos, he said I had talent—that I could still grow. I’ve never had anyone talk highly about me except my mom,” laughs Taylor. “It shows me that someone cares for me.”

In the program, Taylor is honing his photography skills through class projects, assignments and an internship with the college’s Communications and Marketing Department.

When he graduates this year, Taylor plans to enroll in a four-year college to pursue a degree in photography. Since he also has a passion for teaching, his career goal is to teach photography.

“I want to show people how photography applies to their lives, and how working a camera can provide a sense of empowerment,” says Taylor, who now lives in Tacoma’s Eastside neighborhood. “I take pictures of everything, and I see things differently. I can apply my outlook and my thoughts on life to other people, not just pick up a camera and shoot, but look at life differently through the camera. And that’s what I want to do.”