Virginia Woolf once said, “If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people." So this is where I begin the long arduous journey of sharing my truth. It is where the images I make and the reasons I have for making them come together. 



14,272 Attempts


It is a compelling challenge to look back at everything you’ve photographed for one trip around the sun and, like an anthropologist (my dream career, by the way), try to see the patterns, connect the dots and learn something from it. I have 14,272 photographs from 2016. And since I delete even more prolifically than I shoot, I probably took at least twice that many, maybe three times. That’s a lot of time behind the camera. That’s a lot of time pointing this device in a direction of my choosing. It’s a lot of choosing, period. What moment, which person, how close, from what angle, which detail in focus? In other words, what story is in front of me and how am I going to tell it?

When you look at it from that angle, it underscores how deeply personal photography is. Everything about who I am as a person coalesces in my choices about when and where to point the camera. I’m struck every time I photograph an event just how biased I am. I can only see what I see. Surely there was more there. A completely different story perhaps. But I didn’t see it. Maybe someone else did. Maybe I will next time.

So out of more than 14k attempts at seeing, here are 35 that feel like I succeeded. I don’t mean succeeded by producing an amazing photograph. Or even a technically proficient one. These are definitely not the prettiest photos I've taken this year. I just mean that these feel like I saw what I was meant to see. I saw the person. I saw the moment, the contradiction, the feeling that was waiting to be seen. And what else can you really ask for as a photographer but to learn to recognize what only you can.

The Pie Chart in our Heads

There is a pie chart in the minds of every person disappointed about the presidential election. The pie chart represents the reasons behind Trump's win and what that says about his supporters. It has the following segments, in no particular order:

- Racism
- Sexism
- Bigotry
- Misogyny
- Ignorance/lack of education
- Economic disparity
- Justifiable desire for change
- Unjustifiable desire for change
- Rebuttal of the elite status quo

There are more, but that gets us started.

So, there is this pie chart and for every single person, the pie chart in your mind looks different. For some people, the sexism wedge obliterates the other wedges. In that pie chart of the mind, America wasn’t ready for a female president, women are still inferior in our culture and everything else is secondary to that cruel, painful fact. For other people, the racism wedge is enormous. In that pie chart of the mind, America just got super scary because it means that racism is even larger of a problem than we realized. And for some people, the pie chart says that everyone else is simply not very smart.

I think that there are a lot of very real issues in the pie chart that need our attention. I am not minimizing their importance or their existence. I feel the pain of them immensely, just like many of you. But I have to keep reminding myself that I actually do not know the size of each wedge. Maybe sexism took up 90% of the pie. Wow, that hurts. But maybe sexism was .05%. It still hurts and still needs attention but I’m going to show up differently in the world if I think it is 90% of the pie. And that may or may not be the most helpful thing.

I will never know what the pie chart looks like. So it is important that I don’t act from a place that assumes I do. Even when it feels really accurate. Even when I can read 1000 articles that tell me I’m right. Even when people I love and respect agree with me.

So, have strong feelings. Take action in your part of the world to make it a better place. Fight for equality and justice at every turn. But let’s all consciously remind ourselves as often as possible that we are operating on imperfect, strongly biased perceptions because that is all we have. We just don’t know the hearts and minds of the millions of people who voted a particular way. And acting like we do will not lead to our highest and best selves taking the most effective next step.

It is all a matter of perspective.

Wait, but Why?

We are seeing a lot of analysis of this week's presidential vote based on certain key demographics:

- by level of education
- by race
- by where we live
- by religion
- by gender

And while those things can be interesting, they only tell us such a tiny fraction of the story of who we are and why we make certain choices. The other 99.9% comes from our respective personal histories and, in my opinion, how consciously we’ve processed those histories and actually know who we are and why we hold the values that we do.

I wish data existed that gets more to the heart of the why behind our vote and our view of the world. Imagine if we knew how America voted:

- by Myers-Briggs type
- by your top five traits according to Tom Rath’s Strengths Finder assessment
- by whether you’ve had three or more sessions with a qualified therapist to finally process all that messed up stuff from your childhood so you can stop letting it subconsciously run your life.
- by how strongly you identify with the statement “I feel angry every day.”
- by how strongly you identify with the statement “I feel all humans are connected.”
- by whether you lean towards the scarcity or abundance mindset

Obviously we will never have this information. It is deeply personal and too many people think it is a bunch of psycho-babble anyway. But regardless of politics, we need to elevate the value of self-awareness and emotional maturity in our culture.

I think that has been the scariest part of the past 18 months for me - that we so clearly don’t recognize or care to what degree someone has done the hardest and most important work there is - of understanding who they are and why they act/feel/think the way they do.

Oh and for kicks, I’d love to see the vote by whether you’ve ever travelled outside North America. Because I stand by my long held belief that travel changes how you see the world and the rest of the humans in it in profound ways.

It can get messy in there.