Competitors leave the starting line at an organized amateur motorcycle race in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. October 2018.

The title says it all, and “Burnout” is a phrase that is often repeated in Photography regardless of genre, or where in the spectrum one is working. Often whenever I mention the word “burnout”, or the phrase “burning out” amongst colleagues I’m met with sympathetic nods in unison with an agreeing “mmm, I hear you” or “I know what you mean”. It’s a phenomenon experienced by so, so many in the photographic community (and across many industries more broadly), but many have yet to find a winning formula or solution to the problem of burning out. 

Right now, I am burning out. I wanted to write about it because being able to read the words back might lead to some perspective and that, might lead to feeling better about taking breaks. It also may be read (unlikely!) by someone experiencing the same and offer some consolation that they are not alone in feeling this way. 

My burnout is not due to working long hours, but rather from not working. I find that when I’m still, I have a lot of time to think. That, in turn, leads to overthinking, which often causes stress and anxiety and leads to me feeling emotionally drained. This, in turn, leads to feeling uninspired and forced creativity. In times like these I remind myself that it just takes a fraction of a second to feel better and find that energy again. That fraction of a second is a made image. I just need one image that comes together in such a way as to remind myself of the journey that I’m on. The challenge is in finding that fraction of a second. With this post, I’ve included a fraction of a second that helped rekindle my energy following a past burnout.

When I’m working, it’s the opposite: I’m simply too busy to think too much and I’m, therefore, able to avoid overthinking. This is all part of a broader pattern of anxiety and depression—a topic for another post—, but I think many can identify with the feelings of overexertion regardless of how they’re wearing themselves out. 

In the unlikely event that you are reading this, I hope you too can find perspective and remember why you picked up a camera and what drives you to create. Thank you for reading.

“Research, Development and Patience”

Many photographers will tell you that there’s so much that goes into a successful shoot besides making the images themselves. I’ve found this to be especially true with documentary projects; with what is often weeks and sometimes months or even years being dedicated to research and development before a project can be undertaken in earnest. 

I’m currently in this phase on a topic that I continue to return to with my documentary practice: incarceration (you can see my work on incarceration here and read about what brought my interest in the topic here).

More specifically, I’ve been following the prison farm program and those who—near their release date or deemed a low enough security risk—work on the farm away from the confinement of the prison walls. It’s not a project I can share or publish in earnest just yet. In fact, there’s a long way to go. Despite first photographing on the farm in 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic has largely stopped media access to correctional institutions around the world. And rightly so, the close quarters and inability to offer adequate social distancing has made prisons a hotbed for new infections and severe ones.

Until I’m able to return, I’ll have to be patient and continue to do the work I can do on the outside. In the meantime, here’s an image that is a favorite of mine from this work in progress.

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