The Forty-First Photographer

Updated: Aug 16



Currently, I am reading a book called “Photo Work: Forty Photographers”. This book is a collection of interviews with forty eminent photographers. The set of questions was the same for all forty but the answers were unique and insightful. It has been an inspiring and minds nudging read so far and it has made me validate my own perspective of photography against the views of these forty masters. In this process of self-validation, it occurred to me perhaps I should try answering the set of twelve questions put forward to the eminent forty and be the non-eminent forty-first photographer.


1. What comes first for you: the idea for a project, or individual photographs that suggest a concept?

I will say it is the individual photographs that over a period of time come together to suggest a concept. Though I must also say I have gone out to photograph with a certain idea in mind and hunted for subjects and external conditions I had in mind. Most of those attempts ended up in exhaustion, dissatisfaction, and frustration. I feel I work best when I let myself go with the flow and let my surroundings lead me to create images that feel close to heart. I have found myself more connected to the pictures I take this way.

2. What are the key elements that must be present for you when you are creating a body of work?

I will answer this by replacing “Create” with “Curate” cause that’s what I do - immerse myself with the most heartfelt of my pictures and see few of them gravitate towards each other to form a body of work. It’s usually one particularly powerful image that lingers in my mind for days. I look through my past images that evoke the same emotions as this one image and a body of work starts forming.


3. Is the idea of a body of work important to you? How does it function in relation to making a great individual photograph?

Yes and No. I like the idea of a body of work. It is a great way to tell a story, convey a message, and a beautiful way to provide the audience with an immersive experience of an idea through a series of photographs. I have had dabbled in creating a body of work in the past (nothing that inspired me to show to others) and currently working on one. Is it important to me? No. As I had mentioned earlier, a body of work just comes to being eventually over a period of time. It’s the individual photograph and the effect it has on me that matters most. Every shot I take today has the potential to create a body of work around it in the future.


4. Do you have what you might call a “photographic style”?

I have pondered over this question for quite some time. The answer is “No”. In the past when I would hear people calling themselves street photographers or landscape photographers I would look at my work and feel less of a photographer. I had dabbled in almost every “style” of photography and had no specific “style” that defined me. Over the years I have come to ignore this categorization of one’s work. I know some people specialize and enjoy certain types of photography. My brain works in a different way and I feel fortunate about it. I shoot depending on what I am feeling and what’s inspiring me at that point.

I will also add that there are certain things that do appeal to me more than others. I prefer black and white pictures, I like capturing elements of nature and hunt for light and shadows. This certainly doesn’t define my style.


5. Where would you say your style falls on a continuum between completely intuitive and intellectually formulated?

Since I don’t have a style I will answer this in the context of the whole gamut of my work. I feel my work is more intuitive than intellectually formulated. It’s a tough question to answer actually. When I go out on a photo walk, many things present themselves before me. But only a few stand out. I would say a potential scene stands out because of my intuition but the decision to capture that scene is based on at what intellectual level the scene connects to me.

6. Assuming you now shoot in what you would consider your natural voice, have you ever wished your voice was different?


Yes and No. When I see some great work by others I wished I have the thinking and approach that they have. But I make peace with the fact and move on following my own voice.

7. How do you know when a body of work is finished?

I don’t think a body of work ever gets finished. An idea… a concept may never be defined with a finite set of pictures. There will always be a picture at some point in the future, maybe tomorrow or 2 years from now, that will beautifully complement the existing pictures in the body of work. Once a body of work has started, it becomes a living thing and we can always re-represent it with a newer set of work keeping the idea intact.


8. Have you had a body of work that was created in the process of editing?

Yes. Almost every time. Since I don’t shoot with a plan in mind, a body of work usually evolves when I look back at the pictures. I think I have answered this in the second question.

9. Do you associate your work with a particular genre of photography? If yes how would you define that genre?

No. The reasons are the same as to why I don’t think I have a photography Style.


10. Do you ever visit a series that has already been exhibited or published to shoot more or to add to it?

I have never been published or exhibited so I can’t answer this.


11. Do you ever visit a series that has already been exhibited or published and reedit it?

Same as above.


12. Do you shoot with presentation in mind, be that a gallery, show, or a book?


I haven’t come to the point in my photography journey where someone has shown interest in presenting my work to a wider audience. Neither have I attempted to publish/exhibit my work, though I do want to publish my photobook. It would be interesting to see how I approach my photography when the idea of a photobook starts getting real.

© 2020 by john jethi | e-mail: johnjethi@gmail.com

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