Photography, blogging, writing… these are like any other activities and disciplines that we choose to do. Or maybe we’re driven to do them. I suspect that’s the case. Either way, if you don’t do them for awhile you start getting rusty, you find it harder and harder to start again after a period of inactivity, you can start to feel like you’re trying to draw water from an empty well. I’ve been feeling a lot like that lately.
Last year for me was spent more in reflection than in actually doing new work. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I went through much of the photography I’ve done in the time I’ve been here in LA, and I’ve realized just how empty much of it is. It’s not that the photographs are bad… some of them are actually well done. With a few exceptions, particularly a few bark photos and abstracts, I feel an emptiness from them though, a lack of real meaning. They’re largely snapshots of where I’ve spent the last two years of my life and do little more than scratch the surface. I don’t easily connect to urban areas… they can be visually interesting to me but that gut-level connection is missing that in my mind is vital to meaningful art. Hence, very little new work. I don’t know if it’s a shortcoming on my part, or simply acceptance of how I’m wired, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s the way it is.
I’ve been going through some of the things I’ve done in the past. I have a number of images that I’ve never worked with or posted to this blog, and I’m going to post some of those occasionally. This is from a short hike up Kootenai Canyon in the mighty Bitterroot done a couple of years ago. As I made it ready for posting, I realized (again) that this simple fire scarred ponderosa pine trunk moves me more than a whole book of photos of homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks and the surrounding urban blight ever could. That’s neither right nor wrong… it’s simply the way I am. It’s the way I need to work.
pj johnson -- photographer
the american west
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