My journey into photography was a complicated one. It was not something that I had a vision of doing in life, but a severe creative slump left me in a sort of desperation to be able to express myself. I have always drawn and painted in order to voice my creative self and when I wasn’t doing those then I was cooking to exhibit it. In late 2009 I found myself lost in depression complicated by burnout and feeling directionless in work and life. To further complicate it, I had also just become newly sober and was in heavy conflict as to how to move forward and the steps to do so (I will write more about that process later).
My girlfriend, Agnieszka, saw the despair and suggested that I use the camera to see and be creative again. I wasn’t sure what she meant at the time, but I do now. Earlier in 2008, we had purchased a new Nikon D80 that we took on a trip to Europe. I had never really used a DSLR before and had no idea or understanding with how to use it the way that she did. Her images always seemed so effortless and amazing to me that my few attempts with it were of utter garbage. So when she took the time to explain to me how it works, what all of the different parts do, the settings to use and how to get more from it, I began to very cautiously shoot.
The early stages of photography for me were very experimental and I was intimidated of anything other than being up close. I was drawn to macro style immediately because I felt that I could control the frame much easier and produce something that excited me, giving me an opportunity to explore. For months, I shot everything up close and personal, learning how to use the camera controls while I did so. My favorite thing to shoot was of rusty objects. I loved the color and how it looked a bit alien in the image and how getting close to it would cause a bit of blur that I would later discover is called “bokeh”.
I spent hours in the local junkyard shooting pieces of rust, wires, car parts and anything that I could find covered in rust and patina (you can find an entire gallery of images on Flickr here). I wasn’t very concerned with any of it, but really enjoyed the process and a new way of seeing differently than I had before. All that really mattered was that I was teaching myself how to shoot and making the effort o get out to shoot while learning little bits and pieces along the way slowly moving onto the next phase. Even though I had no idea what that was yet, I was excited by the possibilities.
When not out finding rust, I spent hours every day looking at other photographers works and finding images that appealed to me, inspiring me to try to replicate what I saw they were doing. At this time I was using a 60mm and an 18-55mm kit lens which never really gave me the image I was looking for often leading into disappointment. I used these lenses for as long as I could until Agnieszka picked up a 50mm 1.4f for my birthday that changed everything for me. I had enough of a grasp of the camera to shoot ok, but when I started to use the 50mm it wasn’t long before I began to shift how and what I shot becoming increasingly confident along the way.
The only real online forum that I was participating in around 2010 was Flickr (which I still use today) and it was by joining weekly challenge groups that really started to help me in having a direction. One of them that I really enjoyed participating in was Fence Friday. The idea was that you would post an image of a fence every week on Friday and be critiqued by other group members. It was fun to have a task to shoot every week and it gave me something to focus on in a creative way. It was dong this weekly challenge every week for the next year that helped me to learn composition, tone, light, and perspective. I was very dedicated to this group, obsessed perhaps and loved that I could see improvement in what I was capturing and being able to use those techniques I learned in the group to further explore. In fact, shooting fences became a bit of fun joke between Agnieszka and I and her patience through all of these efforts and fences is something that I am very lucky to have. I remember being on many drives to places in the Seattle area when I would see a fence that appealed to me and I had to stop the car and get the shot. After which, we both laughed at the silliness of it, but I still couldn’t wait to get home to post it. I wasn’t quite ready to fully open up and shoot the streets, but I was starting to move into that direction.
It was a slow process, that first year and I felt like I was not shooting for me yet and the images that I was producing still lacked what I desired to show. This frustrated me and stated to gnaw at me. I was searching for more but didn’t know how to find it or where to look. I needed a story that could compel me to look deeper.
At the end of 2010, we came to Europe for the Christmas holiday. The first time we came to Europe in 2008, I seldom used the camera because I didn’t know how, this time I had some confidence with it and was excited to explore the city through the 50mm. We visited Prague, Krakow and then off to Wlodawa for Christmas. All of it was a new revelation in how I was seeing the world through a lens and it was the first time that I used the camera in a style that remains with me today. When we returned home to Seattle, I continued to shoot the fences, but I found a new way of exploring through the inspiration of a holiday in Europe. This stayed with me and when we moved to Poland on September 27th, 2011, I was ready to capture the streets of my new home and learn to further explore the story unfolding before me.
Oh…and I still shoot fences every once in a while. Most recently in
Thank you for visiting me here and I hope that you enjoyed the read. I am happy to answer any questions that you have and love to read any comments you might have. Cheers.