Following Through

A much needed update ahead:

After my last post ‘Persistence’ I wanted to follow up with the fruition of a long-planned personal project that finally came to be. There were actually two personal projects that I got to work on in quick succession (the second I have saved for a future post).  

The first began back in 2022 when the invasion of Ukraine began. Like many others I was struck by the sheer number of people fleeing the conflict. Images streamed in of emotional goodbyes at train stations, long lines at borders, and countless others volunteering to fight against the oncoming invasion. 

I wondered though, what about those who couldn’t leave? More specifically, what about those who were confined, incarcerated? What do prisons look like when a country finds itself at war?

After researching the structure of the Ukrainian prison system and generating a list of who to contact I began making inquiries. Understandably, this took time as there were a lot of variables and unknowns in the beginning of the conflict.

My initial request was rejected by authorities as there had been blindspots in my proposal that could put people at risk. This was uncharted territory for me so I took it as a lesson and pushed forward. Fortunately for me, the Ukrainian prison service saw that my interest was genuine and worked with me to address the issues in my first proposal. With their help and mediation I was granted access to four prisons throughout Ukraine in September. Working alongside an Ukrainian-based NGO we crisscrossed the country visiting institutions both near and far from the front line. 

I can now say that the work will be published soon by Prison Insider who also assisted in gaining accreditation. I can’t wait to share it.

Thank you for reading.


An image from the series A Boy of Great Promise that shows Owen’s year 3 report card. The series takes its title from the first of the teacher’s remarks in the top left.

I take a lot of different types of work in media (for both video and stills): spot news (favourite), commercial, editorial and corporate. While I love the variety, I also feel like it pulls me away from the work I’m really passionate about (that few often commission). For me, that work is anything to do with incarceration and its wider affect. If you’re reading this, you can see a selection of this work here (and a wider collection of the work by clicking ‘Incarceration’ in the left drop down menu).

I think there are working photographers out there who will agree that what pays the bills often pulls them away from work they want to make for themselves or long term projects that they are passionate about (these might be one and the same).

This is to preface a project I wanted to start last year. For a long time I have watched how different the Norwegian criminal justice system is. The humanizing of incarcerated individuals and focus on rehabilitation has worked for Norway in reducing its prison population and, perhaps most importantly, reoffending/recidivism. 

Last year, I contacted the prison service in Norway to request access to see how this system works. I told them why I was interested and showed examples of the type of work I had done on incarceration in the past. In the days after the application I felt optimistic that they would permit me to visit and photograph. Due to a number of factors they rejected my request, but encouraged me to apply next year. It was frustrating and disheartening, but I thanked them for their consideration, and a year later, I applied again. This time I was successful and am excited and very much looking forward to the visit later this year. Persistence pays. 

As I mentioned in previous posts, this is a personal journal and is as much for my own reflection as it is for anyone that might be reading it. If that’s you, thank you for reading.


“The professional cannot take rejection personally because to do so reinforces Resistance. Editors are not the enemy; critics are not the enemy. Resistance is the enemy. The battle is inside our own heads. We cannot let external criticism, even if it’s true, fortify our internal foe. That foe is strong enough already.”

I’ve just been emailed a rejection letter. It’s not the first and it certainly won’t be the last. I had a feeling it was coming, but remained optimistic that maybe the judging panel would see merit in the work I was doing and the benefit of funding the work towards completion. The work in question was the prison farm project on two prisons in Ontario, Canada. Having worked on this project for the past 3 years, it’s so far been a self-funded endeavor and looks like it will remain that way for a little while longer.

Around the time I was awaiting results, and in an attempt to steel myself against this outcome (and the rejections to come) I started reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art (this is where the quote that prefaces this post comes from). Hoping to develop emotional calluses I picked up the book a few weeks ago, I can’t say it’s makes an immediate difference in my creative outlook, but I do take comfort in knowing that many creatives experience rejection far more often than they let on. 

Pressfield brings attention to this (along with sharing his own experiences with rejection) and argues that the willingness to subject oneself to rejection time and time again is part of “turning pro”. I might not be pro yet, but I’m working towards it. However many rejections that means…we’ll see. 

While this may read as a poor attempt at self-pity, it’s just as much for my future self as it is for anyone who decides to read these posts—one day I, and you dear reader, will be able to look back on these and reflect on what a journey this has been. 

Thank you for reading.

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