Favorite Film Photos of 2021
For many years, I have seen a strong distinction between the body of work that I create professionally… and the body of work that I create for myself. They may bleed together on occasion just by nature of the medium… but for the most part I see them very differently. Much of my personal work is comprised of ongoing projects… many with no intention of ever fully completing.
An integral part of my personal work is centered around my family. They are my everything, and easily my favorite my favorite thing to photograph in the entire world.
Over the years, this work has slowly evolved into a more of a photo-journalistic style… almost entirely shot in black and white. I like to think of these photographs as an ongoing feature for Life Magazine in the 1950’s.
Throughout the course of each year, I quietly document the periphery of our family without sharing any of the images, and make a book for them at the end of each year. In today’s world of instant-everything… it is infinitely more special that way. I guess you could call it a literal bookend to the year!
I am so grateful for the ability to express my love for my family through the fractions of these seconds that illustrate just how special I see our family to be. None of these moments are lost on me… and through the nature of this medium, they aren’t lost on anyone.
My inner child connects with so much of how I observe my niece and nephew experiencing the world. Capturing these moments brings back so many memories of my own childhood. In that regard it is just as much for me as it is for them.
This doesn’t just apply to my own family, but the families of my closest friends as well… like this moment with my dear friend Clair Bee tossing his son Shepherd up into the brisk morning air. I can still hear Shep’s laughter as he landed back into the safety of his father’s hands.
This same photo-journalistic style carries over into a lot of my life in regard to my own personal interests. Oddly enough, despite however much a part of these subcultures I may be… I always feel like an outsider looking in. I feel these photographs reflect that.
For much of this work, I think simply being present in that moment to take the photograph is enough. I really feel that these images create themselves as long as you’re present and open enough to snap the shutter when the moment calls out.
Sometimes those moments whisper… sometimes they shout. In some cases the sheer absurdity alone is overwhelmingly impossible to ignore. I know fast food’ll kill you… but this had me dying thru and thru!
Here is where my personal work bleeds into my professional work… and vice versa. Despite being shot on tour with Blackberry Smoke, these moments feel equally as candid… and of the same present, reportage eye as the rest of my personal work.
And at times… just as indicative of the childlike nature that I connect with when photographing my family.
To be fair… in many ways, these folks are my extended family. At times, I spend more time with them than my actual family… so it only makes sense that I would notice and feel compelled to document some of the same simple life moments with them as well.
This photograph of Atlanta Dragway was a self-assigned project that is very important to me. It easily cemented itself as a favorite from 2021… especially considering that it was demolished right after this photograph was taken. I am forever honored to be the last to document this track before it became one with the history books.
Over the past six years, I have found myself photographing more and more of what I consider to be landscapes (see: New Topographics). Vastly different from the black and white documentary style that much of my personal work entails… these scenes are better suited to full color… preferably in a true panoramic 35mm format.
For quite some time I have been trying to figure out what it is about these spaces that are so attractive to me. For the most part they are found off the beaten path… accessed via backroads around the country.
Although I recognize that driving these roads and experiencing these often overlooked parts of America is an unmistakeable passion of mine, and an undoubtable force behind the creation of these images… I have never quite been able to nail down WHY I feel so compelled to stop and photograph these particular spaces.
There are certainly plenty of consistent elements within these spaces that catch my eye. They usually feel Southern in nature to me, regardless of location. There are usually strongly Americana… typically nodding to a bygone era.
Sometimes they make a statement so loud and absurd that they demand to be heard.
However, sometimes the absurdity of the statement is so subtle that I can’t help but wonder if I am the only one that sees it. This quiet moment from the Help Build Veterans Park was taken on September 11th… and really had me questioning warfare and why we fight as a whole.
Most of the time there are old vehicles in these photographs… which I am aware subjugates this body of work into a HUGE photography trope… however there are SO many vehicles that I don’t stop to document. What is it about these specific vehicles… and these specific spaces?
After years of contemplation I had a MONUMENTAL epiphany… that I am seeing myself in these spaces.
These photographs are essentially self-portraits.
I have come to understand so much about myself in the past year-or-so. I have learned that I am a highly-sensitive person (HSP). This knowledge reiterated to me that a key way that my sensitivity communicates with the world is through photography. However… I was completely unaware that it has also been attempting to communicate with me in the very same way.
I don’t need to delve too far into the details here, because I feel these images speak for themselves as to how I have been trying to externalize my internal struggles. There is a clear sadness and isolation to all of them, which has been ignored for quite some time. This is all deeply reflected internally.
The fascinating piece to me is that this has all been weathering the effects of time in just the same way… simply yearning to be seen.
It merely took navigating the backroads of those internal struggles and making the time to stop and take notice… to tell those struggles “I see you… and you’re beautiful” the same way I am paying these scenes the same respect by stopping to photographing them in the first place.
The terrifying prospect then becomes… will this knowledge and understanding change the direction of this body of work? It seems inevitable that actively working through these issues would at the very least alter the way that I connect with these spaces… if not change it altogether.
Despite the sadness I see (and truly love) in these photographs, I also see genuine, unadulterated beauty. I would hate to lose the latter as a result of working through the former.
But perhaps I have payed my dues and a change in how I feel about myself is more important than this (or any) body of work. Maybe it was all simply a means to an end.
Time will tell… that much I know. Either way, I am really excited about the future… both from a mental health perspective, and my continuing evolution as an artist.
Thanks for taking a stroll back through my favorites from the past year… both the photographs and the personal growth that came along with them!
232-page 10×8″ hard/softcover books with all of my 2021 favorites are available here.