Fair warning, this is going to be a long one. A kind of purge. A meandering document of nothing in particular, of everything in general. Of the past 10 years of work and life and some incidental happenings along the way. Plus way too many photographs.
I arrived in Vietnam 10 years ago. In that time, I’ve been a sub-editor at a State-run newspaper, an intrepid (and incredibly unqualified) television host for a local travel show, an Art Director for an ailing luxury lifestyle magazine, a property-related photo retoucher kind of guy who—you know, I actually had no idea what I was doing on that one—and a Photo Editor for a city publication. I’ve also been a freelance photographer for a large portion of those years. Full-time since about 2011. It feels like forever, but in reality it’s barely the blink of an eye.
In all that time, I’ve grown older. I have more grey hairs now, more laugh lines. Sometimes my back hurts. I’ve seen myself change, for better and worse. I’ve lugged film and large-format cameras across continents. I’ve broken cameras and lenses. Dropped things. I’ve lost hard drives and once threw a binder of negatives into an abandoned well in a fit of sadness, rage. I’ve made an incredible amount of friends along the way. I’ve also hurt and lost people. I’ve attended weddings and funerals, though thankfully mostly the former.
Over the years, my work has taken me across the world. Fashion shoots on the rolling windswept plains of southern Scotland and in the glittering bazaars and spice markets of Kochi, India. Portraits of artists, activists, and everyday men and women. The death and mourning of Rama IX in Bangkok. The dog meat trade in northern Thailand. Travelogues in Laos and Cambodia and along the Red River in Vietnam. Urban farmers. Agent Orange victims. Traditional medicine. Transgender women and war survivors. I’ve spent time in leper colonies in Shan State and with inmates in Klong Prem prison. I’ve hunted sea urchin in Hokkaido and climbed volcanoes in the Philippines. I’ve crossed the steppes of Mongolia on horseback. I’ve seen mountains on top of mountains in Ha Giang province. I have been—and try to remain—in love with this world and the people in it.
In short and in retrospect, I’ve done more with my life than I ever imagined I would or could, and I’ve set a bar to surpass over the next 10 years. Going through a decade’s worth of photographs for this post, I tried to include a little bit of everything—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Selects and outtakes and others that I’d long since forgotten about. Some never seen before, some thrown out and resurrected. Hundreds of images amongst hundreds of thousands, most of which only exist in digital graveyards or in my archives at this point. There’s no rhyme or reason here, no timeline. No delineation between travel, fashion, commercial, journalism, or personal work. I wanted everything to coexist, to see what threads emerged. I wanted to look for consistency, not growth. And I wanted to have all of the pieces of this complicated fabric laid out, so I could more readily see where I need to go from here.
As we turn more to our phones and computers and digital cameras, as we snap and tweet and post and like and comment, as we get lost in countless apps and group chats, as we look down more than up and around, and as we become more connected and more inundated and more confused than ever before, I want to take a step back. Consider my images more. I want my photography to feel tactile. There. An intimate part of something much larger. I want it to inspire awe and wonder and empathy. I want it to show our current world, but also evoke the past. I want it to be free from the confines of tradition and journalism. I want it to be ugly and relevant. I want it to be different, which is maybe the most difficult thing. And so with that, here are hundreds of wonderfully imperfect pictures, and here’s to another decade. And here’s to you.