It’s been a while since I’ve posted and for good reason. Since the beginning of the pandemic I have been some what “stuck” literally and figuratively. Travel restrictions halted plans for international travel, and the subsequent lockdowns (Thanks new variants!) put me into a creative and emotional holding pattern.
I did however get to work on some awesome projects during the pandemic. I worked with WHO and FIFA to document Thailand’s efforts at containing the outbreak, and the return of football respectively. I made my first attempt at wet plate collodion photography (see photo below).
I had the opportunity to contribute to a narrative film (a first for me) with the ever-talented Chye-Ling Huang. You can see the short film in its entirety here.
Finally (and most importantly), I was able to continue developing my portrait work. I was fortunate enough to attend the Pi Tha Khon festival in Loei province early in the summer as well as Thailand Fashion week. Below is one of the thousands of images I’m (still) working through:
However, despite these opportunities, I was still cancelling, postponing and reevaluating projects that I had planned to undertake once things “returned” to normal. Having said that, many have put their lives on hold these past 2-3 years and my experiences and my doing so is not unique.
Eventually, I tired of caution and planned a trip home. This would be no quick visit to see friends and family though. In the space of 7 weeks I would:
- rent a car to explore British Columbia’s interior and north
- be declined said rental car upon arriving at Vancouver International Airport
- come close to defeat and be very tempted to turn around and go back to Bangkok
- quit feeling despondent, figure out a solution, and drive 6,500 kms across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax instead
- finally (!) be granted access to return to Kingston, Ontario’s prison farms to document those working towards release, a project I began working on in summer 2019
- read 3 books (this is a big deal)
- and of course take thousands of (film and digital) photographs in the process
I am just settling back in to life in Bangkok after returning this week and shaking off the last bit of jet lag. I won’t be able to take my film in for developing until the end of the month as my favourite lab is closing for the lab tech to take a much needed vacation. I do, however, have thousands of digital images that I am working through and will share them shortly.
Stay tuned and thank you for reading.
I’m going to preface this post by saying that photography is largely a solitary undertaking. Those who shoot as hobbyists often find therapeutic value in the time spent photographing alone. Those who shoot professionally, may also enjoy being alone when they shoot.
I can only speak for myself on this (I have heard agreement from others), but photography can be a lonely grind. A lot of what we do we do alone, along with the stressors, mistakes, rejections, etc. we face as part of being photographers.
For me, working alone can, and often does does, lead to overthinking. With that comes imposter syndrome and comparison to the work of others. This is the reason I quit using Instagram. I found myself scrolling and asking myself why my work wasn’t getting the same attention. This in turn led to a spiral of self-doubt and being overly critical of where I was, and what I was doing professionally. There were times (more than once) when I considered packing it in and finding another career path.
The worst part of mental illness is that it’s invisible. Unlike a broken leg, infection, etc., the pain caused by mental illness is not localized to one area of the body but seems to rest, unseen in just ‘being’. With this in mind, I began thinking of new ways to comment on this nature of mental illness through images, as a way to introduce myself and my work. I decided to attempt visualizing the invisible; using an analogue process (film) and by introducing the doses of drugs I take on a daily bases—caffeine and sertraline (a commonly prescribed serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) to the film surface prior to exposure. Over two days, the two doses affected the film much the same way mental illness affects those who carry it—invisibly. The result (unexpected and serendipitous) is more representative of who I am and is, therefore, a more accurate self-portrait.
I wrote this post because it’s important to be open about mental illness and how it affects us. There may not be many that read this post (or any of my posts for that matter), but in the event that someone does, I hope it helps them realize that while they may be alone in much of what they do, they’re not alone in how they’re feeling.
Beeple’s Everydays fetched $69 million dollars at an auction by Christie’s in March 2021, and brought the world’s attention to NFTs. Since then, their popularity has grown exponentially. Soon after Beeple’s auction, anyone and everyone seemed to be jumping in with the idea that there were millions of dollars to be had. The volume on marketplaces seemed to reinforce that: in August 2021 the monthly volume on Opensea (the most popular NFT Marketplace) reached a record $5 billion dollars.
I’ll be honest, the idea of a new way to monetize work appealed to me and was what drew me to the NFT space initially. I too, jumped in and shilled experimental work (very different from the images I usually publish) under a pseudonym in the hopes that it would bring financial appreciation for work that was otherwise just sitting on a hard drive. And like many others, I too learned that it was not that easy. I did not feel (at that point) that there was room for documentary work (I’ll elaborate on this later on) in the world of NFTs and so, with my tail between my legs, I stepped back from the marketplaces and chose to observe rather than participate.
Like anything in the art-world (and in life more broadly), no success is without its critics. As more and more artists/creators found success in NFTs, more and more outside of the community called NFTs a scam, a fad, or worse. In more than a few cases, these criticisms were true; billions of dollars have been lost in cryptocurrency scams and rug-pulls. However, alongside these horror stories there were photographers, graphic designers, and artists that had found their work generating a new stream of revenue (and in some cases a very large one).
Since I’ve starting, one welcome and unexpected consequence from joining and engaging with the community is that I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of photographers (and become acquainted with their work)—something that would not have happened if I hadn’t started engaging with the space that is still very much in its infancy.