2017: A Year In Review

I realise I am a bit late to the party here, I meant to type this up during my Christmas break but life got in the way. While I was off work I was busy painting our kitchen, and since decorating is super boring, I got thinking about my failures and achievements during 2017. I guess the easiest way to do this is to look back at my new year’s resolutions from last year and see what I can tick off the list. So here goes nothing.

Make more shit

I didn’t do too badly on this one. I finally got around to making a zine having procrastinated about it for far too long. ‘All We Have Is Now’ was released in November and it sold out really quickly, which I was very happy about, not to mention the nice feedback I got from some photographers I really admire.

All We Have Is Now Photography Zine Cover

My Zine – ‘All We Have Is Now’

I also made a bunch of prints, some of which I sold and some I traded with other photographers. If you’ve not done print swaps before it’s a fun thing to do and is a nice way to build up a collection of photographs from your favourite photographers.

I submitted one of my photos (the one below) into a local art exhibition-come-competition. It was an open exhibition so there were all kinds of art on display, hung in bars and restaurants all over town. I was selected as a finalist and my work was put forward to the public vote for the winner to be chosen. My ugly photo barely stood a chance against pretty paintings of birds and landscape photos of sunsets, but I did sell the print, so that was nice. If you’re interested in getting hold of a print of any of my photos then just drop me an email.

Paradise, Chester

Paradise, Chester

Update my portfolio

This I did do. I cleaned out all the old shit and started fresh. I finally finished editing and sequencing my ‘Hellcats’ series that I’d been sitting on for over a year. It was pretty stressful making that series (yes, those really are their only wedding photos) and I think I had to let the dust settle and for me to be able to look at it with fresh eyes. I’d tried to edit and sequence it before but had failed to finish the job. I really need to do more and procrastinate less. I’ll add the whole ‘All We Have Is Now’ series to my portfolio at some point too, probably in a couple of months after everyone who bought it has had time to read their copy.

Shezz & Kim, Chester (From my project 'Hellcats')

Shezz & Kim, Chester (From my project ‘Hellcats’)

Blog more

I’m not really sure how I did on this one. I don’t feel like I blogged any more in 2017 than I did in 2016, but then I wasn’t really keeping count. I like to think I’ve maintained a quality of quantity approach, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. I did get the opportunity to interview some awesome people; photographers who I’ve admired for a long time, and so I am thankful for that, and it’s also been a great way to make new friends. I’m definitely going to try and do more of those. I rarely look at my stats but having just had a sneak peek, I’ve seen a pretty significant increase in the amount of readers I am getting, so I guess I must be doing something right.

Learn to develop and scan film

Wow, another resolution I actually achieved, well kind of anyway. I started out wanting to develop and scan colour, but that didn’t really pan out because my scanner doesn’t do a great job with colour film, so I kind of gave up on that after a period of putting up with poor results. I think I just got frustrated with missing photos and felt like I was wasting my time. I also learned that almost all compact film cameras really suck compared to their modern equivalents, and so I ditched that idea too after getting way too many photos out of focus. I did enjoy the process of shooting, developing and scanning my own negatives though, so I switched to black and white, mainly so I could continue to use my Dad’s Pentax MX he gave me.

Pentax MX Camera

My Pentax MX, handed down to me from my Dad

It was actually the first camera I ever used back when I was a kid and I have fond memories of my old man teaching me how to focus, meter and expose a photograph. I guess it boils down to sentimentality really. Unfortunately the camera developed a light leak not long after I started using it, and I had to send it away for repair. I got myself a Leica M4-2 as a spare and really loved using the rangefinder. Since that camera has no meter, I also had to learn to shoot without one, reading the light with just my eyes and computing the correct exposure with my brain. Ironically, I got much better exposures from ‘guessing’ than I ever did with using the meter on the Pentax. I never planned to learn to use the ‘sunny 16’ rule, but I am really glad I did. It feels kind of liberating to not have to rely on the camera to tell you what exposure to use, and after a while you really start to know that you got the shot you wanted without having to wait until you develop, only to find out the exposure is wrong or the photo is out of focus. Complete control. Everyone should learn it. There is a lot of info out on the web, most of which makes it sound super complicated (case in point being Ansel Adam’s zone system). I recommend this article if you want to learn it the easy way.

Start a project

I failed miserably here really. I just meandered through the year taking photos of whatever the hell I wanted to. I did have one idea for a project that I half started, but I kind of lost interest in it. When it came around to making my zine I just came up with an idea to tie it all together and used the editing process to make it coherent. I guess that’s not such a bad thing really, plenty of other photographers have taken the same approach over the years and it seems to have worked for me so far. I suppose I don’t really know what I want to take pictures of until I take them. Garry Winogrand once said “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” – that seems to work for me.

Meet more people

I did pretty well on this one I am pleased to report. I spent two weeks out in South Korea meeting my long time virtual friend, Josh White. We had a ball while I was there, we laughed and we cried, we travelled, we drank plenty of beer and we even took a couple of photos along the way.

Josh White Photographer, Busan, South Korea

Josh, Busan, South Korea

While I was there, Josh was holding a workshop in Seoul along with a bunch of other photographers from We Are The Street. I went along for the first half of the workshop before I had to fly home. I made some awesome new friends in those two days and I was sad to leave. Completely aside from my love for photography, I am super grateful for the friends I’ve made along the way and I can’t wait to see them all again. I’m hoping to make my way back east this spring.

The Gang, Seoul

Elevator Music, Seoul, South Korea

When I got back home another virtual buddy of mine, Joe Brazil, moved from the south of England to the north, not far from where I live. We met for the first time, and got on like a house on fire. We’ve met a couple more times since and it’s been awesome. I have a lot to thank Joe for, including forcing me to finally make my zine. He curates an instagram feed called OurStreets and he pushed me to make my zine and offered me a takeover on the OurStreets feed to help promote it. He even helped me finish off the edit and sequencing (well, actually he did most of the work). What a stand up guy.

Make more photos of family

Another failure here unfortunately. I don’t really know why. I guess I don’t go back to my hometown to see my folks often enough, and whenever I do we are too busy talking or doing stuff for me to even think about taking photos. It’s too easy to take our loved ones for granted; when you’re a kid you think that your elders are somehow immortal – that they were around before you arrived on this earth, and that they’ll be around forever. You occasionally think about life without them, but you push it aside and try not to think about it. Sadly, my grandfather passed away whilst I was in Korea, and now I have to go through life annoyed at the fact that I never got a decent photo of him. I wrote this note and tied it around a single rose; I placed it on his coffin at the funeral. My siblings and cousins did the same. I could barely see through the tears as I took this photo.

Dear Grandad, Chester

Dear Grandad, Chester

Lose weight and drink less

The year started out pretty well in this regard, with me completing Dry January and then continuing to stay sober until July. I lost a bunch of weight and was feeling pretty damn healthy, apart from developing a slight penchant for Cherry Pepsi Max. My trip to South Korea kind of signalled the end of sobriety. It was towards the end of my trip and that day I’d heard news about my grandfather’s death and I wanted to enjoy my time with my friends and kind of block it all out. Having sat through a bunch of weddings and parties earlier in the year where I was the only one sober, I had kind of had enough of being the boring and miserable one sitting in the corner wondering when it’s time to go home. I mean, I’m generally of a pretty miserable disposition anyway, but being sober when everyone around me is wasted seems to amplify it. So yeah, fuck it.

My Fridge, Chester

My Fridge, Chester

After I got back home from Korea I was pretty exhausted. Both emotionally and creatively. I think my grandad passing away coupled with two weeks intense shooting had really taken it out of me. I kind of took a break for a while. One of the ways I found to escape my ‘normal’ photography was to carry on shooting black and white film. I didn’t share any of the photos I made during that period for a long time. I didn’t make many but they felt kind of secret, as though they were only for me. I did share some of them before the year was out though. I also carried on drinking regularly and put on a few pounds. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself about it. I still don’t feel like I’ve got back into the swing of shooting regularly, so that’s something I’ll be working on getting back to this year.

In summary

As with any year there has been some ups and downs, and looking back there has certainly been more ups than down, so that’s something to be thankful for – despite all the positive stuff, losing a much loved member of the family made it one of my toughest years yet.

Truth be told, I never looked at my 2017 resolutions after I initially declared them here on my blog, so looking back over them I was kind of surprised I achieved any of them at all and on some I even surpassed my own expectations. I did fail to follow through on some, and arguably some of the more important ones – particularly missing the opportunity to make some photos of my grandad before he left us.

I’ve decided not to make any resolutions this year. Instead I will just keep-on-keeping-on and see what happens. I don’t really have any specific goals right now, and there’s no point putting any undue pressure on myself so I think I’ll just roll with the punches and see what happens.

Self Portrait, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Self Portrait, Riviera Maya, Mexico

To end on a positive note, one thing happened this year that I am really excited about. I’m sure most of you who know by now that following their mysterious ejection from We Are The Street, my buddies Josh White, Nicholas Dominic Talvola, Aik Beng Chia, Sean Lotman and Junku Nishimura started a new group called And The Last Waves (website coming soon). I was psyched when they decided to continue with the remaining members, so when Christmas came around and they asked myself and Joe Brazil if we would join them I was over the moon. It’s hard to put into words really, but when I started out in photography these were some of the guys I really looked up to (and still do), and it feels a bit odd to be amongst them and that they consider my work worthy enough to become a member. It certainly gave me the lift I needed to end the year happily and I’m pumped to see what 2018 brings for the group – that is probably where I’ll be focusing most of my energy this year.

I hope you all had a good Christmas (if that’s your thing) and wish you all the best for 2018.

Much love xx

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Filed under: Journal


I am an engineer, graphic designer, documentary photographer and blogger based in Chester, UK. I blog about my experiences of photography with the hope of encouraging you to start documenting your life and the world around you.

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