Montauk, Long Island, 2016

The 2017 Journal Plan

Book Dummies, A New Project, Content Experimentation, Writing About Walking, Photographs from the Archive


In 2016, I celebrated two age related milestones. First, I turned 40, which I’m told means I’m now officially moving into middle-age. Second, it’s been 10 years since I started making photographs. Together, that basically means I spent my 30s working on photography projects. During that time, I’ve shared my photography and writing on numerous platforms on the internet, and have been engaged with the photography community to various degrees. It’s been an interesting ride, and I’ve met numerous people I now consider friends.

The last few years, along with my friend Tom Starkweather, I’ve produced and hosted the LPV Show, a podcast about photography and photobooks. That, along with working on my own photography projects, has taken up the bulk of my free time dedicated to photography. I like the podcast format because it’s spontaneous, conversational and takes a real time investment from the listener. But it’s also challenging because it takes a lot of time and effort to produce a show and build an audience, not to mention the challenges in making it financially sustainable.

L to R: Kahlik Allah, Greg Miller and Manj Sharma, Andrew Hetherington and I
L to R: Café Lehmitz by Anders Peterson, Monsanto by Mathieu Asselin, At Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus by Rob Hornstra
L to R: The Worst Party I’ve Ever Been to by M. Scott Brauer, Nicolas Faure: Landscape A
L to R: Tom Starkweather, Susan Stellin, Graham MacIndoe and I; Tom Starkweather, Qiana Mestrich and I

I’ve decided to put the podcast on hiatus for the time being so I can dedicate more time to my photography projects. I have plenty on my plate, including editing and printing a few projects I wrapped up last year, as well as a new project I’m excited to get started. Part of my plan is to start writing and ‘blogging’ again.

Over the years, I’ve always admired photographers who can maintain a personal blog or journal. When I first started 10 years ago, these personal blogs were popular and there was a lot of energy in the community but over the years the blogs slowly disappeared for various reasons: the time commitment was a big factor, the return on investment (is this helping me?) was minimal, professional blogs sucked up more attention, new platforms emerged that favored visuals over text, but the main reason in my opinion was that most photographers simply didn’t want to spend time writing. They’d rather be making photographs, in most cases so would I!

From the project ‘Skyway’

Writing has always been an important aspect of my life, both professionally and with my photography, but over the last few years, I have not invested much time to writing publicly. So, that’s something I want to change in 2017. In order for that to happen, the writing needs to have stakes, and that’s where this journal comes in. Sharing writing and ideas publicly has always given me anxiety because I know how difficult it is to write meaningfully for an audience. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, especially given the incredible volume of content we have to choose from each day. I’m under no illusion that I’ll be on the top of the must read list, but that’s something I’m ok with because as I’ve told people in the past, if you don’t personally find writing and blogging rewarding and beneficial to your photography or creative process, then it’s not worth doing.

There needs to be a purpose. So, what’s my purpose? Well, how about we do this in one of my favorite formats, the listicle!

Write About the Editing of Two Projects

L: from the Long Island project; R: from the Skyway project

Last year I finished two projects that I’ve put nearly three years of work into. I’ve been editing them along the way which always helps, but now it’s time to start thinking about the book dummies. I have a bunch of 4x6 prints on my walls from my Skyway project. I’ve been looking at them for months, to the point where I basically have the short sequences memorized. I think that’s important: memorize the photographs, you should know the photographs that are lodged deep in your mind, then when you edit, look for the surprises, the few that pop out at you again. Cut, and keep cutting, but not too much. I don’t believe in being ruthless. It’s one of those bullshit axioms photographers like to use as a shortcut to thinking about their own process (more on that in a future installment!) Editing and sequencing are difficult, frustrating, time consuming tasks, so I want to share some of that pain with you!

Write to Structure and Expand Ideas

Something I regret over the years is not writing down more of my ideas. I’ve always thought that the best ideas will stick around in my mind and won’t need to be written down. That might still be true but I’ve also learned the value in writing them down. Seeing them on paper and writing about them allows you to dig deeper and refine. Writing also helps me think. When I put something down on paper, then I know I can leave it for the awhile and always go back to it, often with new insights and ideas. Using this platform will give me more incentive to work through ideas and determine if they are valuable or not. If they don’t end up being valuable to me, perhaps someone else can pick up the thread and go with it.

Share Thoughts and Ideas About Photography, Particularly the Process but Some Other Stuff Too (Maybe Book Reviews, Who Knows?)

A few years ago I co-authored ‘Photographers’ Sketchbooks’ with my friend Stephen McLaren. Working on it was probably the most important experience I’ve had in photography. It had an enormous impact on my own photography and process, and I feel honored to have had such access to so many great photographers. I don’t consider myself an expert or a teacher. I have a lot to learn, so I feel I’m very much a student and conduit to ideas. I have only been making making photographs for 10 years, which isn’t that long compared to many of the greats, so I have a long way to go, and will keep studying, and working, so perhaps some of what I’ve picked up and will be thinking about will be of value to others on this strange creative journey.

Write About A New Project in Progress

Chicago, 2015

Walking is a central aspect of my process, in fact I’d say walking is probably more important than making photographs at this point. Over the last few years, my walking has become more ritualistic. I plan my walks, and go to specific destinations for my projects. Well, those two projects have now ended, but my walking certainly won’t, so I’ve developed a new idea that’s much less defined than my previous projects. I’ve never been able to integrate blogging into the early part of a project, but I’ve always admired photographers that were able to do it. I want to try, that’s about the extent of it at this point. Stay tuned!

Experiment With the Format (Because the Medium is Still Young and There’s Plenty of Territory to Explore)

From the Photographsonthebrain.com archive

Ok, I haven’t specifically mentioned ‘Medium’ as of yet because I’m very apprehensive to tie myself to one platform or another. If Medium were to disappear, I’d still pursue blogging. If I were offering advice related to a business, I’d recommend that the blog be hosted on your own domain. I should probably go that route as well, but I’m taking a leap with Medium because I feel they are going down the right path, despite recent setbacks. I like the platform and I think photographs look amazing on it. I’ve also admired Michael David Murphy’s experiments with Medium, so I want to try out a few of my own ideas and experiment as well. I’m sure most will fail, but who cares!

Find an Outlet for My Enthusiasm and Obsession With Walking as a Creative Pursuit

I’ve been diving deeper into the philosophical and creative aspects of walking. I have a list of books queued up to read. Last year, I read ‘Wanderlust’ by Rebecca Solnit. I highly recommend it. It’s a brilliant book that examines all the different ways that walking impacts culture and society. I have an itch I need to scratch and the time is now. I have some bigger publishing ideas as well but I want to take small steps and not rush anything.

Indulge in Nostalgia for Past Projects and Photographs

From the Archive, 2006 to Present

I have 10 years worth of photographs, a handful of projects in the can, and many random photographs that I like but have never shared with anyone. I like old photographs, and I like that I now have old photographs to share, and I want to talk about them nostalgically because time is mysterious and photographs unlock so many crazy memories in photographers that can only be articulated through written and verbal language. I want to write and discuss this weird phenomena and find a new context for the photographs in my archive.

What’s Next?

I don’t know yet, but now I have a plan and plenty of ideas, so it’s time to get to work. I don’t plan on developing an editorial calendar as that’s too intense, but I am going to publish regularly, so follow along here, or catch me on Twitter or Instagram. All my current projects can be found on website.

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