One week and forty-nine years ago, a young photographer named Eddie Adams made a photo that would not only dramatically change his life, but would greatly affect the future of the subject in the photo, and more broadly, the perception of Americas' ongoing conflict in Vietnam. The photo, taken on February 1st, 1968, on the third day of the Vietnamese lunar new year, Tet, portrays the execution of an alleged Viet Cong lieutenant in the street by a South Vietnamese police general. It is a very well known photo, and one of the primary reasons I wanted to be a photographer. A reason, that Eddie Adams told me personally during a brief meeting "was disappointing". I did not understand Mr Adams disappointment at the time, and he would not discuss it with me. But as I learned about photography, and more specifically the story behind that particular photo, I really began to understand the power of news images and the impact those images can have on the lives of those that make the photos, those that are in the photos, and those that see the photos. These days with all the fluff floating around, I can say with some confidence, there are very few images impacting the lives of viewers more than images from conflict, more specifically the images of people affected by conflict. Refugees, for example. At the same time, due to the overwhelming volume of images on the internet, there is what I call "image fatigue". This works against photographers trying to make a difference much in the same vein of what Eddie Adams was doing, though the impetus may be different. Don't get me wrong. I still love photography, the process, the work, finding wonderful images from daily life, be it a news event, a celebration, a sharp angle from life on the street. But, wow. There is such a preponderance of "news" images now, it is virtually impossible to keep up with them, let alone appreciate them. With the requisite 'likes' and 'shares', I pity the news editor having to troll through the waves and wave and waves of pictures, looking for something new, with punch. News photography is no longer that. It is visual vomit, constantly pouring out of the world wide web. Personally I find it really difficult to find images that have the impact that one Eddie Adams photo had on my life, world opinion, and collective perspective on a particular subject, one that was made forty-flipping-nine years ago. Why is that? Could be that I was six years old, the image was pretty shocking, and I was very conscious of just how shocking the photo was. Another reason could be is that I have lost interest due to the sheer volume factor. What I choose to look at is of course affecting what I see, and perhaps my state of mind at any given moment along with a pretty cynical outlook on the image making industry are also valid reasons, or excuses.
Less is more. This is what I hope for the future of photography. Less photos. What I am looking for is really good, focused, clear, unambiguous imagery. The good news is that there are a few photographers out there doing just that, whose work I greatly respect, and like. They are culturally diverse, coming from North America, the Antipodes, Africa, South East Asia, the Near East, and Europe, they are men and women.. I like what they do, how they do it, and have great admiration for how hard they work. That they have not become disillusioned (at least not outwardly), instead continuing to produce stellar work on solid social, economic, and environmental issues, is truly inspirational. Perhaps I am a snob. Yes, maybe I am. But I prefer to be discerning in what I look at these days. After all, it is those people who I want to emulate. It is this small group whose work inspires me. Their vision and drive is what compels me to not give up and go work at Trader Joe's, though certainly my bank account would appreciate the influx of income, rather than the hemorrhaging of cash that is my usual state.
So, what is the conclusion to my rant? It's good stuff. Because there are people out there that I can learn from, that I can gain insight from. I have a few new projects to get off the ground. The first is a reboot of a Japan book project. I concluded editing and printing a first copy in December, 2015, did some minor edits, and then put it away. The images were not talking to me nicely, I was having arguments in my head, and most bizarrely showed it to no one. Self defeating prophecies at work. Recently I put my ego aside and showed it to someone whose opinion I respect, whose work I respect, who works harder than most photographers I know, and is familiar with the subject matter. He gave me some great feedback. There, I pulled my head out, and am now conscious again of how easy it can be to be productive.
The above photo was taken in Tokyo in 2014, it is part of my Japan book project.
More to follow...