In the past couple of months, I’ve found it difficult to make the photographs I want to make. A lot of that has to do with time and the demands of my work – full-time, this site, and otherwise – and I realize that it may sound strange for a working photographer to say, “I wish I had time to make photographs.” There can be a wide gulf between what pays and what moves you, and that gulf exists for me. You might say, “Well, you work for a photography website.” I do, but since moving to Turkey, I haven’t reviewed gear because the shipping process is too long and complicated. As a result, I’ve had more time to think about photography and my place in it and write about it. Lately, I’ve been trying to find balance.
In thinking about this, I was reminded of what Zack Arias said for a piece on this site late last year. Chris has asked photographers to write about how they changed in 2014, and Zack expressed difficulty with how he hadn’t changed. He had spent so much time making work for others, that he had almost no energy left to photograph for himself. For his best picture of the year, he sent a blank photograph.
I find that in the occasional freelance work I do, the images are both mine and not mine, and I should note that most of my freelance work is protest coverage. The images are mine in the sense that they have notes of my style, but they are not mine because they largely belong to the story of the event, whatever the event is. Moreover, the event was going to happen regardless of my being there. These kinds of images, for me at least, are co-authored by the protestors and me, and by extension are co-owned by the event itself and me. In some cases, I’ve had to adjust my style to meet the demands of the publication, which is both frustrating and understandable.
The photographs I want to make, the ones that dig at my core, are the ones I haven’t had time for lately. They’re almost always in black-and-white and sometimes strange, with off-kilter composition, no direct meaning and occasional humor. The way I’ve managed to make time has been reimagining my routes between work and home. After reconciling with the fact that I don’t have endless amounts of time, at least in the short term, to make photographs, I’ve turned buses and trains and the roads between them into visual playgrounds.
All of this is not to say that I’m ungrateful for freelance opportunities. I am. It’s an honor every time someone expresses interest in my work enough to pay me, and those photographs are almost always in service to something else, which is okay. I’m more than happy to help illustrate something with my camera. I just can’t call those photographs fully my own.
The images that are my own for now are those fleeting monochrome ones I find when I’m in transition between places. This post isn’t a conclusion, as I haven’t drawn any and won’t be able to for quite some time. What this is is a working-through of my thoughts about my photography, the photographs that are completely my own, as I transition to the next thing.
For now, my photographs are in buses and trains.