I'm in the Atacama desert at the moment and new year is almost upon us. I always find new year a time for pause and this year I seem to be looking back to my very first travels to South America in 2003.
Back then, I had only really been into photography for about three years. Up until my trip to Patagonia, I had been mainly making photographs as a memento of my travels. But Patagonia changed all that and I found that my time there turned my hobby of travel into a secondary aim: I was traveling to make photographs now, not the other way round.
Since then I've been back many times. Patagonia has become an almost yearly adventure for me, and indeed, a home from home. It is also dear to my heart because back in 2007, it was where I ran my very first workshop! So there is a deep connection to this place for me for several reasons.
And so too the Bolivian and Chilean Atacama desert. First venturing here in 2009, this place has become somewhere where I feel I've grown as a photographer. I've written in the past that the Bolivian landscape helped me to simplify my style over the years. I feel it is a place I am still building a relationship with as I notice my photography is evolving from my visits here.
So too with Iceland. I have had a long standing, and deepening relationship with it since 2004. First venturing around the ring-road on the local busses, I spent a glorious summer photographing throughout the beautiful evenings. This trip has stayed with me as one of the more pivotal moments in my own photographic journey. I feel my photography came on in leaps and bounds.
You may have noticed from the way I have been writing about Patagonia and Bolivia, that I like to get to know places by returning many times, over many years. I feel this approach allows me to connect more deeply as I begin to learn and understand how the landscape works.
And now to the present day.
Last month I visited Hokkaido. It was in some respects, a 'rite of passage'. I know some of the places here so well through the work of Michael Kenna, that the trip here felt like I was re-connecting with who I was way back in 2000 when I first picked up a camera. I felt as though I am at the start of hopefully a new and lasting relationship with this landscape, but that is really for the future to show me.
So I am now looking ahead. In 2016 there are a few new locations lined up, that I am looking forward to visiting for the very first time. Knowing the way I seem to work, I hope that they may be the start of some new life-long relationship, where my appreciation and depth of understanding grows as the years pass, and that maybe my association with these new places brings new insights and enlightenment to my photography.
By looking back, I see that I've come so far and I delight in realising that I may still have a long way to go, both in terms of life-experiences and artistic development. This I feel, is at the core of why we photograph - to experience life and find ourselves inspired and engaged in the future. It's a great way to go through life.
Here's to 2016 and beyond.
I wish you well.