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Road Trip

 

Six years ago in a Magnum workshop, Larry Towell gave me some advice I’ve tried to put into practice. Because I’m not a professional photographer and the amount of time I have to make photographs is limited, he suggested I take a chunk of vacation time and devote it entirely to photography either working on a project or traveling to a place to make pictures.  Later that year I took a road trip and saw some incredible landscapes for the first time when I visited the Salt Flats in Utah, drove miles and miles through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, sat wide-eyed looking up at the majestic sandstone cliffs in Zion, perched on the edge of Bryce Canyon, and was dazzled by the star-filled skies in Moab.

The following year I travelled to Thailand for a month, met some online friends in real life, and made new friends while photographing the Doi Tong Development project. The next year I managed to take a couple of short trips to Montana and to see Yellowstone National Park. No pictures of note but still I had the chance to follow Larry’s suggestion to carve out dedicated time to make photographs. One year was pretty bleak as I would soon be unemployed but still I traveled to New Orleans and create a series called Colour Wheels where I had a chance to work with a young writer, Emily Kawahara, and made one of my favourite single images while spending time with Bill Allard. In 2015 I didn’t have a block of time to travel and photograph as I started a new job but I used some unpaid time to be a part of an artist residency in New York. It didn’t seem so pressing either because I was into Year 2 of a long-term project close to home called The Village Life.

The road trip to Utah a few years earlier had sold me on exploring more places in the United States. In 2016 I tagged along with Raymond Ketcham as he photographed his project on Route 95. We saw few signs of the undercurrents that later would dramatically shift the country politically. In retrospect, in much of what I saw and felt, it was there. The pictures were few and the time was spent experimenting with instant film. Later in the year I travelled to visit my good friends Stuart and JoEllen who live in Indiana and created a small Instax series, A Walk in the Woods. Sometimes the work isn’t there in volume but I’ve always had things to keep me photographing especially my Village Life project which includes another Instax series, Tokyo Swing. It is one I plan to add to each year when the Obon Festival is held in Steveston.

As I write this post I realize how much work I have been doing although somehow it hasn’t felt that way. I think that is because I have spent less time talking about my work and more time making photographs. These days I don’t share my work as frequently or write blog posts about my photographs and while I feel the pressure to not go unnoticed, there is a certain freedom to simply work. Perhaps this is the same feeling Leonard Cohen wrote of in a personal letter to a friend: “My publisher refused my novel. Since hearing the news I have been strangely exultant. I feel free again, the way I felt before a line of mine was ever published.”  I wonder too if there is something about the work we create if we are more concerned with people liking our pictures than the content of the photographs themselves. The truth is once you let go of the need for validation, your photographs will get worse before they get better. Keep photographing though and you will likely discover the missing ingredient is a sense of purpose in your work. It won’t be easy to uncover what that is but if you persist in making pictures without the hinderance of constantly amplifying your work, I promise the revelations will come.

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photo of the day: night life on fisherman’s wharf

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Songs in the Snow

 

The Steveston Historical Society is a partner in hosting Songs in the Snow at Steveston Museum’s Town Square Park on December 2nd, 9th, & 16th from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. The initiative was made possible with funding from the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th. We are collecting cash and blanket donations for the Richmond Hospital / Healthcare Auxiliary Thrift Shop building restoration on Chatham Street and Ignite the Warmth, which provides blankets to the homeless. Hope to see you there!

 

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photo of the day: rooted

moab utah canyonlands

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photo of the day: once upon a time in america

American flag Philipsburg Montana

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