See ya, 2015.

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Seoul, South Korea. 2015.

In a hotel room in Seoul. Staying in a hotel makes me feel like I’m doing something. I sort of enjoy it. I don’t usually take this kinda photo. Felt like a memory I wanted to be in.

2015 has come and gone. It was a mostly up and sometimes down year. I enjoyed most of it. 11 months of it anyway. Not sure what I can say about the rest aside from it was better than it could have been.

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Suwon, South Korea. 2015.

Some people have asked me if I have made any resolutions. Maybe I have, at least subconsciously. I think I’ll take less photos this year. I took just under 900 photos last year. I still feel like it is too much. Quality over quantity and all that.

That being said, I did take some photos I like. I think it was a year in which I struggled with gear more than any other. I bought, sold, returned, and broke more cameras than in the previous 2 years combined. Sucks, that. Hard to be consistent.

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Somewhere between Iksan and Seoul, South Korea. 2015.

It got to the point late in the year where I had no real (pocketable) camera aside from my phone. The cameras I had trusted broke or died. No fun at all. Even got to the point where I bought a Canon just so I can have something to trust.

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Seoul, South Korea. 2015.

Weirdly, what I can report about that experience is that I understand better now why 90 percent of the World Press Photo winning photos are taken with something similar. They just work. Not small or cool, but I’m okay with that now. Every small or cool camera I had this year had issues big enough to be returned, sold, or retired. I often talk about cameras not being important, and they aren’t particularly.

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Seoul, South Korea. 2015.

ASIDE from having to work.

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Seoul, South Korea. 2015.

I shot mostly in the subway or on trains this year. I did so because I normally only take photos when I’m on the go. I’ve thought about making a project out of it. I look at Bruce Davidson’s Subway book – not that I’m comparing myself to him – and think it might be something interesting to do. I look at the photos from this year and really feel like the inconsistency of look (I blame the cameras) sort of killed the idea for me. I will try to “re-shoot” it in the upcoming year. The plan is to make an e-book out of it first. There is also another book coming this year that features myself and Eric Kim. Can’t say much about it yet, but it will be an interesting project for sure.

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Seoul, South Korea. 2015.

Another thing I struggled with this year – especially when shooting in the subway – was in being able to make connections. A friend wrote me a message last week (a very nice message) explaining the reason he likes my photography has nothing to do with the way my photos are processed or how many stops I have pushed my film. He wrote:

“I think some people look at your photos and talk about the technical aspects of it – b&w, high contrast, grainy, usually wide angle, and try to emulate it – but what sets your work apart is how emphatic it is and how intimate and up close it is.”

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Seoul, South Korea.

I was taken aback by what he said. I believe though, it is also the reason why I take photos. I take photos to be intimate. My camera gives me an in; a way to get close to people. I don’t think of taking photos as a way to turn people off but as a way to get closer. The scene above, is making it harder and harder for me. It is making me less and less happy when taking photos. People are consumed by their smartphones.

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Seoul, South Korea. 2015.

I remember taking this photo. I waited for nearly a minute for someone to look at me. I said “hello” loudly hoping someone would look. Nothing. Some people say I should make that part of the book. I’m not sure I agree. I don’t take photos for that. I took these mostly out of frustration. I don’t take photos to make social commentary.

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Seoul, South Korea. 2015.

I take photos to feel connection. I like the idea of fleeting connections. A small piece of shared time. Now, I end up spending more time on my phone than taking photos. I just don’t see the point.

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Somewhere between Seoul and Busan, South Korea. 2015.

So, ironically this is my favorite photo I took in 2015. No people. Maybe the connection here is with myself. It is something I see a lot. I spend much of my time looking out the window of a train. It feels like the story of my 2015.

I reread some of this and realized it sounds like a lot of complaining. It wasn’t supposed to be. I guess the point is I need to try harder. All of the things I complained about can be remedied. One thing I wish I could do this year is just use a single camera. I don’t know how possible it is, but perhaps made more possible by the fact I have one that can probably last the year.

Maybe that is a start.

January 1st, 2016.

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Iksan, South Korea.

On a different note, I have started working on getting my portfolio up and running. Any ideas or comments would be great. Maybe a photo you think deserves to be there or one that is there that you think shouldn’t be. I’m not very good a figuring out which of my photos are good so I appreciate hearing from people about it. You can find it by clicking the portfolio link above and then selecting “memory.”

A special thanks to Eric Kim for hosting it for me.

 

17 thoughts on “See ya, 2015.

  1. Great article. No complaints about complaining from me. The thought process through an extended period of photography is my weakness. I can not settle on a project and end up with a lot of unconnected photographs. My resolution for 2016 is to find a project and try at the end of the year to have 12 photos that are linked by a theme. I just need to discover what that theme is as I am an engineer not an artist so the technical side of photography I can do it’s the artistic side that baffles me. Hence my consumption of blogs and books similar to yours over recent months.
    Happy New Year and Happy Shooting.

  2. Happy New Year, and all the best to you!
    I can totally relate to what your friend told you, it is my sentiments exactly when looking at your photos. It might sound weird, but you are not exactly the only one doing these photos or similar ones. There’s just something extra special in them, for me, since I love trains but never ride them, love the subway, but my country don’t have one, love culture, but the interesting parts of it seem like they always, for me, stem from an unreliable source. What I would like to do with your photographs is just line them up both sides of a wall in a gigantic hallways and just walk for around 4 hours straight and look. Anyways, I can ramble praises like this forever (when I like something!). I wish you the best of luck with your projects in the new year and with the camera stuff. Sucks when they get broken!

    • Of course, I know I’m not the only one. I copied others myself. I remember starting photography and loving the photos of Anders Petersen or Eikoh Hosoe. I think the aesthetic of it something, certainly. I guess it has a lot to do with the place and the people.

      I really appreciate the kind words. I don’t think I have enough good photos to make a line that would take hours to walk haha. And yeah, I hope the camera continues to work. They all seem to be breaking these days. Fingers crossed ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m curious also, where are you from? Since you mentioned your country I’m intrigued.

      • I am from Belgrade, Serbia, where metro is a myth ๐Ÿ™‚ One of the most inspiring places I’ve seen is the underground train station we have, but people here are so skeptical towards any cameras, that I just don’t feel comfortable going down there with a Canon.

      • Oh, interesting! One of my closest friends is Serbian. People are sceptical towards cameras everywhere, here included. All depends on the antitude of the photographer ๐Ÿ˜‰ I never shoot in a sneaky way so people don’t usually give me a hard time. My friends that are sneaky about it get in a lot of trouble though haha.

      • I never try to be sneaky, just respectful and with a good attitude, but I always get grief. And it is only when I am with the big, proper camera. I think people are too paranoid and think I am a newsreporter and will sell their images or something. Funny though, is that I see so many people with big cameras around that never even get a glance, both tourists and domestic folk. Nobody cares when I use my phone or my Samsung camera on the other hand. It is a mystery, but it never deterred me from taking photos, just a bit reluctant to do it in places that are packed with people , but are not famous.

      • Yeah, I can understand that. It is hard, people shy away from big cameras no matter why. I enjoy shooting with my phone a lot in the metro because people tend to be less worried and put off.

  3. People on their cell phones has become my biggest annoyance lately. Always having my camera on me, observing life, makes it so much more apparent and annoying.

    It makes me sound older than I am, but it really is sad seeing everybody with their head down, completely consumed by their smart phone. They’re missing so much life. I’m out attempting to capture something special, so it’s partly selfish, but I often wonder how many special moments don’t happen because of cell phones.

    Technology is great, but that might be the worst effect of it.

    Anyway, Happy New Year! If you get another 11 good months out of 2016, that’s not so bad ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. happy new year josh! i to hate how engrossed in smartphones people are now..and it makes taking photos harder and harder! really looking forward to seeing what you’re going to put out this year, and also to hopefully connecting if you’re still planning on coming to la this summer… although i think we may move to toronto in august…my wife and i are going next week to scout. anyway, all the best, cheers, miles

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