Category Archives: Personal

I woke up at 3.43am and couldn’t go back to sleep. In the deep of the night I felt I had to write something. The last time this happened I wrote a manifesto that had nothing to do with mason jars. The question on my mind this time is different.

Why do I do this?

I’ve thought about it a lot lately, going through some personal things myself, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and re-evaluating.

Why do I do this?

Why do I spend my time traveling the world shooting weddings for people I hardly know? Why do I spend time documenting other people’s stories? What kind of stories are important to me? Deep down I know, but sometimes it’s hard to express. But then this morning when I couldn’t sleep I read a post on a wedding photography group on facebook. The question was about what we wedding photographers find the most boring to shoot. Someone argued for the family formals, other about capturing the cocktail hour, but what surprised me the most was that most photographers answered they think the speeches are the most boring part of the day.

I couldn’t disagree more.

I love capturing the speeches.

And I realised it’s part of why I do this.

During the speeches everyone is equal, that’s when I see the vulnerability and commonality. It doesn’t matter whether I’m shooting lawyers or hairdressers, celebrities or carpenters, during the speeches I see the real people shine through the facades they spend years to build up. An investment banker from Hong Kong becomes a son chasing through the backyard at home, a surgeon becomes a childhood friend to the butcher’s boy. There and then they all become the same, the same blood, the same tears. And I love capturing that.

We’re all human.

And those are the stories I have to tell. I spend my time trying to pry my way in to people’s stories, I observe and I capture what they want me to see and sometimes when I get lucky, things they didn’t want me to see.

The vulnerability of being human.

A groom with tribal tattoos having to sit down, holding on to the ground, ugly crying when his girl is walking down the aisle. A bride with three diplomas and experience from the most cutthroat law firms on Manhattan tearing up when her father kisses her mother on the dance floor. Another bride in a perfect dress looking out the window on the happiest day of her life, for a moment I see the sorrow from not being able to share it with her twin brother who passed away at birth.

The vulnerability of being human.

And that’s why I keep doing this. Some of the locations I get to travel to are amazing, but I’ve seen magic happen in the most boring places. In community halls with horrible lighting I have seen the things that bring us all together. I see the fear mongers and conservatives of the world argue for higher walls and larger gaps between people and I wish they could come with me for a year. For the cop I overheard saying how he hates jews to come with me to experience a hora at a Jewish wedding. For the anarchist cursing the wealthy to come with me and hear the speeches of people with power. To hear that the person she hates grew up climbing trees and fishing in ponds just like her. That he cries just like her when his father says he loves him.

The vulnerability of being human.

I am convinced we need to share more, not less. And the more we share, the more we’ll realise we’re all the same. You can’t hate your neighbour when you’ve shared a meal with him, when you’ve seen he hesitates to ask someone to dance the same way you do.

And that’s why I keep doing this.

Because we’re all human.

The Wind is ghosting around the house tonight
and as I lean against the door of sleep
I begin to think about the first person to dream,
how quiet he must have seemed the next morning

as the others stood around the fire
draped in the skins of animals
talking to each other only in vowels,
for this was long before the invention of consonants.

He might have gone off by himself to sit
on a rock and look into the mist of a lake
as he tried to tell himself what had happened,
how he had gone somewhere without going,

how he had put his arms around the neck
of a beast that the others could touch
only after they had killed it with stones,
how he felt its breath on his bare neck.

Then again, the first dream could have come
to a woman, though she would behave,
I suppose, much the same way,
moving off by herself to be alone near water,

except that the curve of her young shoulders
and the tilt of her downcast head
would make her appear to be terribly alone,
and if you were there to notice this,

you might have gone down as the first person
to ever fall in love with the sadness of another.

Billy Collins

 

 

Things are slowing down here in the Southern Hemisphere, winter is only days away are we’re moving toward something that resembles what I’m used to. I’ve said for the longest time that I want to write more here on the blog, but then I simply…don’t. Having worked as a writer before, both in advertising, but also writing columns for various magazines, I know my creative process way too well. Without a deadline I simply don’t do it.

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

Thomas Mann said the above and I think it’s very true. The weird thing is that nothing comes more naturally to me than writing. It’s the only creative endeavour I do without effort. I’m not saying I’m a writing prodigy in any way, and on top of that I’m writing in my second language, but when I write I never have to think. I don’t worry about grammar, I don’t worry about the length of sentences, all I want is for my thought to go from my subconscious, then filter through my heart, pass briefly through my brain, my hands, my fingers before I tap the keyboard with the intention for you to understand.

To feel.

It’s all I’m after.

It’s true for all the things I do, whether it’s photography or anything else. I want you to feel something. Nothing else matters. Few things make me more proud than when my work makes people feel so much they cry. It may sound horrible, but to make someone cry is a very powerful thing. We build up facades, desperately trying not to feel, walking around pretending we’re people we’re not. If anything I do can break down that barrier and touch your heart, the core of your being for a second or two, we have created a connection that’s very powerful.

And that’s what I’m looking for.

Connection.

If you feel something when you see my work, I have succeeded, if you’re indifferent to it, I have failed. It’s true you don’t have to connect with everyone, but I want to connect with as many as possible. For the longest time I couldn’t handle people not liking what I do, but as I’ve grown older I’ve realised it’s ok, *deep breath* not every single person in the world needs to share what I think, what I feel.

I’m hoping to share more of my thoughts here on the blog. If you like that, please tell me in the comments, hopefully we can start a discussion. We live our lives on Facebook these days, but no one has time for anything longer than fragmented views. I want to slow things down and reflect a little more.

And I also don’t want this to be all about me and my work. People often ask me what inspires me and the truth is that everything inspires me, often it’s not photography at all. This TED talk by Brene Brown is one of my favourites and talks beautifully about both connection and vulnerability.

Let’s start working on that connection.

Road trips. There’s something magical about seeing a country out the window of a car. Take in the landscape, smell the air change from salty ocean to pine forests. Listen to good music. Stop for food somewhere and then keep driving. Often without a goal.

This is the California I saw during a few warm weeks last fall.

Rest in peace, Leonard Knight.

Shot with an Ikoflex on Fuji 400H.

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