Seeking What Counts


Part Three

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THE WEIGHT OF TIME

“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” – Andy Warhol

After 3 days and 30 hours of driving we at last entered the Suri community in the dusty Omo Valley region. On the ground in pieces, I saw a cell phone tower with workers halfway through constructing it. This was the first sign of modern development I had seen in hundreds of miles, and it marked a literal and symbolic step into Westernization.

Around the tower men herded skinny cattle, wearing the traditional cloth wraps of this area, while a topless woman appeared with her newborn on her breast. The contrast was jarring, and my photographic responsibility felt heavier than ever; in that moment, I could not help but feel the weight of Africa as it rested, briefly, on the precipice of change.

THE APPROACH

My subjects are what defines my work, which is why I spend a year or more researching each location I am to visit before ever picking up my camera. These choices are what I am most frequently asked about because my diverse array of subject matter may at first seem unconnected.

Whatever I am shooting, I am always using my fashion photographer’s aesthetic sensibility because my goal is to make these cultures or subjects – despite rarity or geographical differences – approachable.

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THE TEST

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” – Ansel Adams

For the last 10 years and no matter what subjects I have in mind, the choice to create a series always comes down to the same five questions. Will it stand the test of time? Does it represent a sense of shared humanity? Does it represent a form of beauty? Has it been done before?

Lastly, would I live with it?

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“In Sync” from Sail: Majesty at Sea hanging in my living room.


My taste is what makes my work distinct, so I always ask myself if I would want to wake up to these images every morning in my own home.

I feel an immense responsibility to my audience and I want to give a glimpse into something unexpected that is, at the same time, recognizable. This comes down to my process of selecting subjects, because while it may seem varied, my choices tend to have much in common.

There are so many photographers out there these days, so the only thing you can really count on is that your eye provides something unique or evocative of a time and place that the viewer would want to relive again.

This is all what happens before I arrive somewhere, and the most physically intense part – the  journey of making my work – comes next.


Read Part 4: The Expedition 

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