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Maybe it’s the migraine I’ve had all day long but I’m again going through the process of where and what I’m doing with my photography. Discussions with friends and fellow photographers only add to the mix in that I don’t know how to define myself. What exactly am I doing is a question I ask myself all the time. Am I just a gear collector or am I really a photographer? I have all these cameras that I’ve acquired over the past few years but where does that lead me? Have I produced a cohesive body of work? Am I a camera snob or as one friend said jokingly “a showoff”? Ouch. I really don’t care what one uses to produce his or her art because I’ve seen some amazing art with nothing more than say a Holga or an old Instamatic. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive about it all because of the lack of oxygen heading to my brain to cause this headache. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.

14 comments to “Struggling”

  1. It’s the ketel one talking. Your stuff is great.

  2. Haha..Thai you’re not the only one who mentioned it but I do understand where it comes from. I really do and my hope is people don’t think I’m flaunting what I have because I don’t think I do that. Maybe I should remove all the photos of cameras on my flickr stream. Ha!

    What I’m more worried about is what I’m doing and where I’m headed. :).

    John Agoncillo
  3. Thanks for your last sentence

  4. Not being content with your own work is one of the driving force that pushes you forward, as Sir Tony told me on his farewell party when I said that I’m sometimes bored by my own stuff. (Yeah, I know, one of those rare cases where he actually says something useful.)

    I have the same confusion from time to time. I got a Leica in the hope to make my photography suddenly better. And I was disappointed. So I wonder maybe using something crappy would allow me to produce refreshing stuff. It turned out that doesn’t work either. Yes, it *is* a struggle. I guess that’s why artists get crazy easily. They subject themselves to mental suffering.

    As of cohesive work, I think it comes in more than one way. Someone set off with the intention of doing something specific. Someone look at their existing work over extended period of time, and realize the recurrent theme(s) in it. Seems to me, the latter is cohesion too. That cohesion comes from your vision, personality, technique, and even your lifestyle. But this type of cohesion needs proper presentation to convey, which is hard. And my thought has been stuck here for a while.

    BTW, being a gear snob and being a good photographer aren’t mutually exclusive. And you’re pretty good at both.


  5. I would say try not to worry about any of this. As long as you enjoy what you’re doing, nothing else really matters. It doesn’t need a label, or name, or specific direction. It is what it is, and that’s all it needs to be.

    paul burd
  6. >>> What I’m more worried about is what I’m doing and where I’m headed. :).

    Heh, when you figure that out, I’d be grateful if you could pass along some tips and insight!

  7. Just keep doing what your doing. Thats a good plan, I think a vast majority of photographers struggle with this most of their career. I do agree that not being content with your work pushes you forward and makes you do things to advance your work. I love your street photography, you should put together a book.

    I would love to grab a beer or coffee sometime. I am fairly new to the city and would like to meet some people with the same passion for photography as me.
    JP Jespersen

    John-Paul Jespersen
  8. John, your work is excellent. Your blog is a highlight of my day. When I get into a similar funk, which is often, I try to think in terms of a project I can do that will give my work some cohesiveness. I put together several small self-publishing projects to get my feet wet, and now I’d like to do something more thoughtful and wide-ranging. To tell you the truth, though, I’m not sure thinking about my work thematically is any more fun than just going out and shooting whatever I feel like shooting, whenever I feel like shooting it. So much is cyclical. If you’re in a down-cycle, all you gotta do is wait it out. 😉

    John Wall
  9. Thanks everyone as your input is very important to me. It’s difficult as I really don’t have any projects in mind other than walking the streets of SF with all it’s beauty, grit and humor. I think that’s why it’s so difficult to define what “street” photography is as so general. You’re all right that this “feeling” is cyclical as it seems I go thru it every few months or so. Like I said I’ll stick to what I’m doing and we’ll go from there.

    John-Paul, yes let’s get together soon. I’ll shoot you an email the next time the gang gets together. It’s always fun meeting new local photographers.

    John Agoncillo
  10. John, as a friend, I think it’s probably in your best interests if I were to shoot with your M6 for a while–you know, just to make sure it wasn’t defunct or anything..

    Jesting aside, what are you looking to accomplish? Is it to produce a cohesive body of work, or is it to just to do street photography in general? One of my favorite photographers, Ferdinando Scianna has a few books published, but the best ones are those that require a lifetime of work to produce. He has this one on sleepers, which you can probably find at Green Apple–you can find it there ’cause it’s shit and contrived.

    If you are looking to produce a cohesive body of work, I think you have to look extra hard, and maybe even set out to do some projects. Please though, be extra critical of publishing any books as the world has enough shit photobooks laying around.

    ’til Friday.

  11. Like the saying goes, “we are our biggest critics,” John. IMO, you’re a photographer and an excellent one! Your blog is an escape for me. BTW, LOVE THE BLURRY PHOTO!

  12. hey john – backing up what pinky said – for me, your blog is one of a number out there that made my decision to give up my TV last year a lot easier…

    In terms of trying to figure it all out though remember that photography is one big puzzle itself and part of the fun (for me at least) lies in trying to figure that puzzle out. That’s enough of a reason to stick at it.

    And it would seem to me that developing a cohesive body of work, working on projects etc – all of that is just bonus and will come naturally after a sustained period of time.

    Books and stuff – sure, you can do that when you retire… 😉

  13. some people take drugs, smoke cigarettes, bet on horses, like rollerblading, are yoga-fanatics: you love cameras! I wish I had your camera collection. And reading through your list of cameras has prompted me to look for some collectibles to buy and try out too. Now I am looking at the Argus C3 ‘Brick’. But my boyfriend has a Rollei 35S rangefinder which I will practise with this weekend. Anyways, you have some really good pics, so you should just keep taking them. if that is what you like doing. And don’t think that great photographers don’t doubt their work: they do! No one is that sure of themself. And they shouldn’t be. We should always remain critical of ourselves so as to develop further.

  14. John, I recently recorded a program off the Discovery Channel “The History of the Gibson Guitar”. The guitar riffs/runs of the once wild guitarists and their now calm explanations of their growth and who influenced them just soothe and uplift me, as do your photographs. I don’t go for the Ansel Adams symphony/score/previsualize gobbledegook. I like the wander/discover/guitar/banjo/dirt road/street photo/see what you get, stuff like yours. It’s just me, the scanner, and the Walmart 4×6 printer. Stay off the trail. The herd is headed for the packing house. My wife says we been off the trail so long we can’t see it from here. Although I have a bunch of Nikons, your photos inspired me to get an XA4. Recently at a local thrift shop I got Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim with 22mm lens fer a buck. Internet says they’re a cult camera. Very cheap. There are no curses in life, only blessings. Best regards, middle of nowhere, Nevada. Yer doin’ fine off the trail.


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