When I was in the UK in September, I worked on an assignment for an editorial client – a story that I had helped to develop, that wasn’t about a travel destination, but focussed on the people, economics and politics of the area. It was hugely fulfilling to work alongside an experienced journalist, reporting on issues that felt relevant and important not only to the people we met, but to a broader audience.
The reason I mention this experience is that I’ve had a little bit of downtime over the last couple of weeks to reflect on my practice, how things have changed during the pandemic, and the direction in which I would like to go with my work in the future.
The main change in my work has been the disappearance of international travel. Prior to the pandemic, I would regularly go on assignment to other countries, dropping in for a few days to pursue a particular story or sometimes to make a more generic travel piece for a client. Apart from a couple of shoots that I tied into a recent family trip to the UK, I’ve not travelled abroad for work since March 2020. What has surprised me is that this has been a hugely positive change. I’ve enjoyed being more present at home – I didn’t realise how tired I was of being on the road, and how my consistent absence from my family was increasingly unsustainable. The pandemic has enabled Francheska and I to build a more sustainable work/life balance, and we intend to build on these foundations.
Being more present at home has given me the space to think about why I photograph. I realised that over time I’ve become to beholden to social media and the desire for validation. It’s unhealthy, and it’s not why I started photographing. The ‘why’ is relatively straightforward – like many photographers, at a basic level I get great pleasure from exploring my environment and recording it. However, as I mentioned previously, the more complex, and satisfying part of my job comes from collaboration, developing stories, and reporting on issues that I believe in. I’ve decided to reduce my social media use considerably – I’ve removed almost all of my instagram posts (and the app from my phone), and from now on will use this blog both for new photographic content and for recording my thoughts on photography as a profession and a medium.
I’m certain that the changes that I have experienced during the pandemic won’t be unique to me. International travel was something that I took for granted, but the frequency with which I stepped onto an aeroplane troubled me. I want to keep on working with my travel media clients, but hope that together we can be more sustainable. Maybe in the future I will take the occasional overseas trip, but if 100% of my work is in Spain, I won’t be complaining. To reflect this more sustainable approach, I’m going to plan and research travel and culture stories that reflect a more sustainable future; work that focuses on people, history and a sense of place as opposed to conspicuous consumption.
I’m also going to develop personal projects that are close to home. It’s a well worn refrain that a photographer should be able to find interesting stories on his or her own doorstep; The book project that I developed with Francheska last year, Amuleto, is a great example of this. I have a couple of ideas for photographic series that I can make part of my weekly routine over the coming months, that won’t involve major financial investment or travelling away from home.
It’s remarkable to me that even after 15 years as a photographer, I still firmly believe in the potential of the medium, and have the energy and enthusiasm to pursue new things!
Finally – I realise that this kind of blog post is largely self indulgent, but the act of writing these thoughts down is useful in itself. I hope that if you have read this far there’s been some useful takeaways!