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.
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.
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.
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.
ASIDE from having to work.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.