Below is an excerpt from one of my journals. This isn't the first time I've shared the following entry... but given recent circumstances I thought it relevant to post it here.
As you know I've been working diligently on my book Will's Store for quite some time. I've just completed my 10th week (now approximating over a thousand hours) of shooting.
I've recently begun to think about what drives me to work like this.
We do a lot of work as artists. We ideally have some connection to all the work that we do, but I feel that despite our dedication to our work we rarely become truly connected to in the sense that any and all borders, seams, and boundaries between ourselves and our subjects disappear.
We frequently maintain a healthy distance from our subjects. For less experienced artists this distance is simply due to immaturity, naivete, and perhaps "creative arrogance".
Yet when we become more experienced and more attuned to the nuances of our medium we continue to maintain this distance that separates us from our subjects. It is constantly an "I-you" or "I-it" relationship.
We are constantly building and repairing a fragile facade to guard us against our own creativity.
Why is this?
I think that many artists are simply afraid of letting themselves get so close to their subjects. Once you get close enough to what you are being creative about it becomes difficult to discern where the subject ends and the artist begins.
The relationship becomes one of "we" and "us".
Many artists are afraid of what they will find if they point such a powerful lens at their own heads and hearts.
However, once we finally arrive at the point where we can no longer discern the art from the artist we become (if we are brave enough to open our eyes) capable of creating work that may be otherwise unachievable.
I think that the lack of an "we" relationship is a major problem in global society. If we can deconstruct the false walls and facades between us and the larger world we'll become more able to see that we are all in fact interconnected and that while we might not all be the same carbon copies of each other; we are in fact ONE. We are in this TOGETHER whether we like it or not.
It is my belief that this work is not born wholly out of a deep inward desire to become a better artist. Granted, I've worked and toiled at great cost to become a better photographer.
However, I feel that no matter how long I read through the multitudes of technical manuals; no matter how diligently I make notes on what I've photographed; and no matter what model of light trapping box I happen to have in my bag of equipment. The discovery of a "we" relationship with my subject is absolutely critical to my work.
My work is not art. My work is not beautiful.
Or at least it isn't art in the traditional sense of the creation of something visually beautiful and interesting. My work is born of deep and burning passion, compassion, and empathy with those whom I share the world with.
I feel that we all need to wake up and take notice of what is going on around. The good and the bad. Amazing and tragic moments take place every single day.
Photography is not a miracle.
Photography is the feeble attempt at perceiving, understanding, and illustrating that which is occuring inside of these delicate and crystallizing moments. It is a exclaimation of "Hello out there! Good things and bad things are happening outside our windows! Let's celebrate these things we know to be good and work to overcome these things that we've come to endure in times of hardship."
This I know to be true. We're all human, we're all compassionate, and we're all alive on this earth at the same time.
I feel that even in the darkest moments of my darkest photographs that there exists a sense of hope and resilience in the face of difficulty and uncertainty. A sense of better days on the horizon.
These photographs are a celebration of the determination and unbreakability of the human spirit. This is what I strive to photograph and this is what I feel I must photograph. A lofty goal to be sure... but one not so out of reach as one might think.
So, while my work might not fit the classical definition of art. I feel it does correlate with the broader purpose of art: communication.
Art is the communication of emotion and spirit through ink, paint, plaster, or pigment.
Perhaps in my journey to become better at communicating what I see and feel I might somehow on the road brush fleetingly past the beauty and truth that I've been attempting to photograph.
This is why I do what I do.