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.
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.