I used to be good.

Seoul, 2016.

There was a time when I was a good street photographer. There was a time when I would shoot constantly. I’d walk constantly.

Iksan, 2019.

I’d walk and shoot. Nowadays I walk to the coffee shop on Sunday mornings to get a coffee for me and my wife. I sometimes take my camera. The coffee shop is at the end of the road above.

Seoul, 2011/12.

What happened?

Time.

Time waits for no one.

As they say.

Iksan, 2019.

There was a time when I’d walk all around Iksan on a rainy day. I’d cover my non-weather sealed X100 in a plastic bag with a hole poked through for the lens and walk around town. These days, I take photos of my breakfast.

What happened?

Somewhere between Iksan and Seoul, 2016.

I guess I lost the plot. At least, photographically. I mean, not lost the plot. I love my life. I am happy.

Happy.

Seoul, circa 2014.

Happy. That’s the crux innit. That’s the problem. Being happy. I sat down today in this cafe and this post was meant to be called “why I love street photography?”

Suwon, 2015.

I figured out before starting to write that the reason I love street photography (or loved as it were) was that it was my mental release. Street photography was therapeutic. Feel stress, grab my camera and boogie.

Somewhere between Iksan and Seoul, sometime in 2014.

Street photography was the distraction. Some people zone out playing or listening to music. Some play video games or read books. Some relieve stress by punching a punching bag or going to the skate park. I did so with my camera. I walked. I took photos.

Iksan, 2014.

There was nothing else. Anxiety is a c%$t. My cure for anxiety wasn’t pills or booze. It was my feet and my camera.

Iksan, 2017.

Now, I don’t grab the camera so much. I don’t care if my camera is big because I rarely reach for it. My photos are happy, because I am. I don’t need to walk out of my house at 3AM to take photos because I can’t sleep. The reason I loved living in Asia is that Asia was as much a cure for anxiety as the camera. Something always happening and always somewhere to go.

Iksan, 2014.

Will I ever be good again? Will I ever take the photos I used to?

I don’t know, honestly. I really don’t. I don’t know how much I care to. I look back at these photos and know they’re mine. They feel like someone else’s. I don’t remember this emotion. I don’t remember why I’d take that photo.

Somewhere between Iksan and Seoul, 2015.

I don’t remember being on the train and walking. I walked through the cars continuously. I didn’t want to sit down. Sitting down meant thinking. I didn’t want to think.

So I walked.

Somewhere between Iksan and Seoul, 2016.

If I sat down, I’d constantly be looking out the window. I’d shoot.

Shutter speed.

Aperture.

Blurry or not.

Framed well or not.

Interesting or not.

These thoughts were safe thoughts.

Somewhere between Iksan and Seoul, 2015.

These photos were self portraits of my mood. I shot people looking the way I felt. I never thought of it that way. I might have said it and wrote it off as hipster artsy nonsense.

Somewhere between Iksan and Seoul, 2012/13.

Looking back now it is obvious how true that was. I don’t remember being the way I was. Not really. But seeing these photos I can “feel” it.

Close to Iksan Station, 2015.

Will I ever be the same? I don’t think so. I have a loving wife and great family. Anxiety is no longer what it used to be. I don’t need 3AM walks like I once did.

Winnipeg, 2009.

It all started in 2010. My father drowned in 2010. Before that, my photos weren’t that dissimilar to what they are now. They were happier. I was happier. Something happened when he passed. I changed that year. So did everything else.

Tokyo, 2011.

I meandered through Tokyo for a time. I don’t remember much of what I did. I was just, there. I don’t even think I told many people. I just existed for a while. That was enough. It had to be.

Seoul.

I wandered through Seoul. I thought I was starting to figure things out. I’d go back to Canada for a while. Finish law school. Make my dad proud.

Toronto, 2013.

Things weren’t better in Toronto. It was too soon. In fact, I think they were worse. My photos from Toronto scare me. I look at them and feel scared for myself. What was I like then? I’m sure I put on a good face. I’m good at that. I don’t think I was well. I couldn’t have been.

Iksan, 2018.

I’m happy being happy. I still take photos, they just aren’t the same as they were. I take them for different reasons. I’m happy for the old photos. I’m happy to look at them. They remind me of where I came from. They remind me of how far I’ve come. Am I a better photographer? Probably not. I don’t think I care. If being depressed and anxiety riddled is what it takes to be what people think of as “good” then maybe I’m happy being mediocre.

Being “good” certainly isn’t the same as,

being good.

Iksan, 2019.

___________________________________________________

Some of the images above are from my now for sale zine, Neverland: Volume II “Somewhere between Iksan and Seoul.” It covers my travels back and forth from, as mentioned, Iksan and Seoul.

Available for purchase from Magcloud.

Profits going to help build a home studio. Any questions, feel free to ask.

13 comments

  1. Ha , this sounds like me ! Two years ago I met the love of my life, we got married last Friday. Im happy but my photography has gone to shit !
    I think it will come back , I just need to find a new rhythm to life. I still take pictures but I need to chill out , stop pressuring myself to make a good image. Accept life is great but different and if the pictures come ,they come. If not , dont stress.

  2. An honest post, kudos to you.

    Personally, I have always thought that – Photography enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time, (in other words, it is a circular existence); holding a camera, is in fact, much like holding a mirror to the soul, it seems to me.

  3. I have very similar experience. I was walking the streets for couple of years. Resulting in photos that a mirror of myself. But I needed to move on in life. I was probably not happy and I showed it in the pictures, but didn’t know what I was going.

  4. There are so many different thoughts here, Josh. I started seeing your photographs in those dark years. They were stunning. But you were in pain. I’ve always believed photography is a reflection of who you are. Or at least, who you are at that moment. It’s like holding a mirror up to the world and seeing yourself in your photographs. That person who you were was hurting, and the photographs from those years are unique because of it. Is that good? Is that bad? It just is. But I’m so glad you’re not that person anymore. You must have taken thousands or tens of thousands of photographs documenting the road you walked. Do you need more like that? I love those old photographs but I would worry for you if you were still that person and not moving forward but staying in that place. Watching you heal and move on and fall in love with your amazing wife has been incredible to follow. You’re not the photographer you were back then and thank god! We love your photographs, Josh. All of them. And you’re writing. And your thoughts. And your generous spirit. And you’re incredible story. And you! I found you because of your photography but what I actually look forward to most is your writing on your blog. And the chats you have with people in the comments section. You’re a great photographer and a great writer. And as for what people think of as “good”… one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from you is just shoot for yourself. Who cares what other people think? What matters is what you think of your photographs. I hang out with a bunch of analog guys who hate digital and I shoot both and I honestly don’t give a shit what anyone thinks of my work or what gear I’m using. Let people with clients worry about that. I’m not a wedding photographer or an event photographer, I’m a ME photographer. I shoot things I love or find interesting. And a few weeks ago I saw some of your TLR shots and I was blown away. I was like, here’s a guy who’s bombing around with a Twin Lens Camera and using it like a point and shoot. I actually went and got some Rolleinars for my autocord to try some close up stuff and I shot some photos of my daughters and they’re stunning. It never would have occurred to me to try that if I hadn’t seen your shots with it and someone asking you about it on your blog. You’re an inspiring dude, Josh. Keep posting pictures of your cats and your wife and your lunch and your story. Or don’t post any photos at all but jot something down and tell us what you’re up to. – Best, Robbie

  5. Taking walks at 3 am can happen….at different times in a person’s life. It can happen when you are struggling. Or barely keeping afloat in a rising tide. But it can also happen….when you are happy. Or content. But when, you feel the need to go out and walk…when the rest of the world is sleeping. It isn’t always quite as simple as….being happy. Or not.

    This was a great post by the way. Much food for thought. The photographs and images here have a way of cutting through other layers….but your words, here, do similar things.

    Photographs, like words….are like the tide: they come in, they go out….and then….they come again.

  6. I have been through years of shit going down. Now also got a wife, i just have a vast number of cameras shipped from overseas. I’m going to start doing the walk again too – i don’t know if you are but I think with time you don’t need to always be working it as hard – that becomes more like a grind than a passion.

  7. Hi Josh.
    Great, heart-felt post.
    It’s only great news if you are now shooting less because you have better things to fill your mind with, starting with the soothing effect of having a loving wife and a home you made yourself from almost scratch.
    Well, you are essentially subscribing to the theory of the anguished artist and to that other theory that with photos we are making self-portraits and/or self-searches. And there is a good element of truth in that, though perhaps the first category is only one part of the artistic landscape. Arguably, you yourself have made tons of great non-anguished work, where you’ve taken us along inside your circle of friends and not just out in the street and on trains. Arguably, your recent work may be more sparse (see above, better things to do), but it’s equally strong and personal, only a happier and mellower sort of personal.
    All of us (not you yet!) that have been shooting for 30-40 years have certainly gone through periods of activity or even hyperactivity and periods of slower activity if any. And being more or less lonely may or may not be crucial to producing work, let alone good work.
    So, cherish your “old” work done when things were different, accept that you may be shooting less in this moment (but you may go back to shooting more someday), keep your eyes sharp (make photos without a camera, in your mind), capture your current life at the rhythm you feel comfortable with now, it’s just us here who will be for a while seeing fewer pics of yours and less frequent posts.
    But your heart and eyes and mind are always going to be recognisable from a million miles, and I for one am looking forward to seeing whatever you will choose to share with us. Happy, in between posts, to know that you are happy.
    Best
    Giovanni

  8. No back scratching or whatsoever, I wanna thank you for the post because it’s the state I experience, your days of Future past as I tend to call them.

    Now I only have photography, and my “naked” self is in constant fear or interest towards a future that will have more.

    In that sense it’s acceptance of my state that I was looking for. And I found it in your words.

  9. Long time follower, first time commenter. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I don’t pick up my camera as much lately as well – when at a point in time it truly felt like a fifth limb on my body. I do think that we change as artists and as humans and it shows in the work we produce (Or don’t produce).

    I appreciate the genuine side of artists like you and I applaud you for being vulnerable!

    An Admirer

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