My documentary on Nathan Huf and his family was my first real body of work. Now that I’ve finished it I’m left wondering…what next?
Obviously the first thing to do is try and get as many people to see the work as possible. The entire point, in my mind, of doing this type of work is to give a voice to those that have none. That said, if their voice isn’t heard by anyone what’s the point? With that in mind I will start submitting the Nathan work to museums, galleries, and online venues. I am also working on a book and exhibitions, which will hopefully all work out. I’m not convinced that traditional print outlets have much value anymore in this regard, and certainly won’t for much longer if they do, although I may still pitch it to one or two. Besides, I’m not a photojournalist. I am a documentary photographer with a fine art twist. One thing I learned from Alec Soth was that you have to be honest with yourself about who you are and what kind of work you do. I have no desire to bounce from story to story, showing the world what is happening at every given second. I prefer, in fact, need, to work on projects over a long period of time. Part of the reason for this is I am not typically attracted to “hot” news stories, or those that are considered breaking news for CNN or whoever. Rather, I prefer to find my stories after the journalists have left and start digging into the why of the story, as well as show how people continue to deal with life’s problems after the newsworthiness has gone. Don’t get me wrong, I totally respect those who do this type of work, I just realized a long time ago it wasn’t how I could work. So I’ll let the news guys do what they do and I’ll do what I do…world’s big enough for both of us!
The entire point is simply to expose as many people as possible to Nathan, his family, and their situation. My hope is that someone will see it and possibly want to help them out. Caring for Nathan is a 24 hour a day job that has extreme costs involved, and they must do so largely on one below average salary. Anyone who doesn’t believe in universal health care ought to have a conversation with the Huf’s and have a look at the stack, yes, stack, of rejection letters for coverage from various agencies.
This desire stems from why I became a documentary photographer in the first place. After having tried to be Ansel Adams for a few months and taken more than a few crappy pictures of trees, a friend (James Koo to be exact) showed me Paul Fusco’s “Chernobyl Legacy” and I knew immediately what I needed to do with my life. If you haven’t seen it, grab some Kleenex and check it out:
I was moved so powerfully by this essay that I decided that if I could make even one person feel the way that essay made me feel, then I will have been a success. So my hope is that someone will see it, be moved, and take some sort of action to help. Naive? Probably, but I’ve always felt that if man were exposed to the struggles of his fellow person, then he would do something to help. If this happens even once in my life because of something I’ve done I can be happy…but I’m hoping for more than once right?!?!?
Which leads me to the other “what next?”, the “What project is next?”. This is the tougher what next in my mind. Anyone in any creative field has to go through a process of finding their next piece of work, and I think the beginning of that process is the most challenging aspect of being an artist, or a creative, or whatever. You’re not certain what to do, and you have to ignore the desire to compare it to the last project (which is silly after all since you haven’t even started the new one!). For me, I think it’s important that I not try to force anything. I need to make sure my mind is open, and that I’m listening to what the world wants to tell me. I make lists of things that interest me, chew on them for a bit, and if something ends up stirring my soul…I go shoot it. Then hopefully it continues on and develops into a workable documentary. If not I go back to my list! The most important part for me on any given project is it has to stir my soul and inspire my curiosity. Without that it’s rare that I can do more than a half-ass job, and I owe it to the people who let me into their lives to give them everything I have. I’m working on a few things right now, and if any of them develop into something serious ‘ll be sure to let you guys know!
In the meantime, I think I’ll start doing some kind of picture of the day or week type thing. Keep me shooting, and more importantly EDITING, you know? Also, I’ve been doing a photographer of the week type thing on my twitter. For those of you who missed the first three, they are Shiho Fukada, Dorothy Hong, and Matt Lutton. I’m trying not to focus on people you may have heard of and rather show you those up and coming talents that I truly believe you WILL hear about soon. These three are incredibly talented individuals who make amazing images. Enjoy! Ah, and here’s that pictur eof the day/week/whenever…