It’s been a strange few years. Since the start of 2020, I’ve lived in Charlottesville, Bangkok, Sydney, and New York. Three continents in as many years. Then, in March, I moved back home to New Orleans. I’ve felt uprooted and unbalanced for a while now, but things are starting to settle in. I’m starting to settle in.
I mention all of this because I think my photography has suffered for it. I’ve been preoccupied and distracted and I’ve lacked focus. I’ve been lazy as well, and I’ve used the past few years as an excuse for that laziness. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. It’s much more difficult to dig your way out of it.
So I’ve been trying to change the way I see things, to relearn some things about seeing, and to recapture some of the wonder I felt when I first picked up a camera. I’ve been photographing clichés. Reflections in puddles. Landscapes out of plane windows. Temples and riots of wires above old shophouses.
As artists, we’re often told to kill our darlings, to not fall in love with a thing because of our experience with it. But I’ve always found those platitudes disingenuous. All art is personal. Some clichés are really beautiful. Show what you love and hope that it resonates with even one person.
I didn’t set out to make these photographs anything more than what they are–a document of the past nine months. I tried to pay particular attention to things I would normally walk past. I tried to point the camera at anything even remotely interesting. I tried to see in layers and to simultaneously embrace the obvious and move past it. I took a lot of bad and boring photographs. I love them all.
There’s no narrative here, no through line or connecting thread. Just a small collection of small pictures. Personal, but also maybe more than that.
This is how it usually happens in India. I get sent there on an assignment and I stack a few extra days on either end to explore a bit more of the countryside. I take thousands of photographs and dig myself into corners and poke my nose where it does and doesn’t belong, and in the end the magazine publishes around 10-15 final pictures and I’m left with more outtakes than I know what to do with. Photographs that I love, that I remember taking, that bring back very real and visceral experiences for me. The smell of a curry and the way a light flared down a side alley. A cat jumping from crate to crate at the fishing docks. A rickety river bridge and a boy floating in the water below. Sweet street side masala chai. A talkative guesthouse owner. A barber. A painter. A sweets shop employee.
Oftentimes the outtakes become my favorites. They’re the more memorable photographs, the imperfect ones, the ones that didn’t quite fit into the original story’s narrative arc. They become the underdogs. They’re simple images of meals and streets and people I’ve met along the way. They’re inconsequential and they’re numerous and they’re the reason I take on these assignments, knowing I’ll come home with stacks of treasures and memories. So here are some treasures and memories from the state of Kerala in southern India. One of the softer and more accessible points in the country, but no less magical for it.
I’ve spent more time recently moving back to films in a continued effort to slow down and consider what I’m doing instead of just spraying thousands of frames and editing to get the best of the bunch. I don’t post as much as I used to because I haven’t been shooting outside of assignments for a while now. But I’m slowly getting back there, and it’s a nice path. I’m just trying to figure out how to navigate it in my own way. Without guideposts or hashtags. Digging into the crevices. Finding what’s left of what used to be a very tactile medium. Here are a few Polaroids from a recent fashion shoot with Sula Clothing in the UK just outside of Brighton. The sun was warm and the barley fields were swaying lovingly in the wind. The clothes were gorgeous and the model was amazing and for a few days there everything was right with the world.
Just a few quick Polaroids from a motorbike trip into the mountains of northern Vietnam near Pu Luong national park, a few hours southwest of Hanoi. A simple, soul-affirming kind of drive along small dirt roads and over rickety bridges and chaotic highways. It was a wonderful way to end over a month of assignments that took me across Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. More to come once my film gets developed. So for now.
A lot of expats and travelers in Southeast Asia like to rag on Singapore. They say it’s too clean, too orderly. It’s boring and polite and polished. Nothing but soft edges. But I’ve always thought criticisms like that said more about the person than the place. Singapore–like everywhere else in the world–is largely what you make of it. It’s a complex and complicated place, capable of being just about anything.
Little India on a Sunday is chaotic and wonderful, with energy pulsating through the crowded streets. Chinatown fills up with old men playing chess and gossiping as they sit idly about. Hawker centers dish out world class cuisine day and night. Locals and tourists alike browse through the Gardens by the Bay and the old colonial promenades downtown, and at night restaurants, cocktail bars, speakeasies, and clubs all come alive until the early hours.
I’ve been back and forth to Singapore several times this year, and I haven’t once had to repeat a single night out. There’s always somewhere new to go, some place new to try. Something newly opened, etc. So don’t be so quick to judge–it’s one hell of a place. Here are some outtakes from a recent travel assignment. People, places, and things. And some of the best food I’ve had in recent memory.