2015 Year In Review

December 27, 2015

It's that time of year again. We've got a week left in 2015, and everyone is making their rounds with "best of" lists and year in review posts. The year has been really eventful for me, and I like to do these posts as a way to look back and remember how much I've been able to accomplish. It's a really good looking glass for the next time I feel like I'm not good enough. 

That feeling creeps up more often than I'd like to admit, so having these kinds of posts helps to keep me grounded. I'm really glad that some of you like to follow along. That really means a lot to me. Without further ado, let's get into the happenings of 2015.

The year began...rather slowly, actually.

In January, I didn't do much of anything. I did, however, manage to get a post of mine featured on PetaPixel, and that was pretty cool. It was nice to have a post of mine reach such a wide audience. I received some really great emails, and one hate mail. Aside from that, I just wasn't doing much.

I wasn't feeling very motivated, and all of my photography was in a lull as a result. I hadn't shot any street photography, I was hitting snags getting approved for concerts, and I wasn't feeling up to making abstract pieces. I had recently gained access to the blogging platform on Huffington Post, but I had nothing to say, nothing to share. A day in February would change all of that, when I got an email from someone at the New York Times. It simply said "Come see me sometime." In my rut, I was certainly skeptical, but I didn't dare balk at an opportunity to shoot for NYT. 

The meeting wouldn't happen for a few weeks after that, but that was such a huge motivational spike. I went out and started shooting again. When we had snowfall early in the year, I went out and captured it. I wrote about it. It was a catalyst that got me to pitch my talent to an editor at The Guardian, and subsequently shoot a quick assignment for them. Things were just picking up steam.

I started getting concert assignments again. That was really refreshing, because I really thought that things had screeched to a halt. Things began to pick up in March, in more ways than one. Not only did I finally get to shoot a couple of shows that month, but Adobe reached out to me, through Behance, asking to license one of my abstract pieces. That came as a huge surprise, and it felt amazing to have my abstract work recognized by such a major company. At this point, I was feeling pretty great about my work. Within a matter of a month, I had been contacted by The New York Times, Adobe, and I got back into shooting shows. I felt wonderful. Wouldn't you?

I spent the next couple of months feverishly reaching out to a ton of people. I was hoping that all this good fortune was a sign that I should start approaching publications and that more people were noticing than I thought. I also made myself available to meet people who were doing the things I wanted to do, and doing things related to how I wanted to progress. Ultimately, the high of so many good things happening started to come down, and when my progress started to wane, I began to get anxious again. I was really excited from all the things that were coming my way, and I just sent that energy out in every direction. After a while, those reserves were dry, and I felt like I was in a rut again. Was I? Not likely, but it sure felt that way. Sometimes, when so much is happening at once, the mere absence of all that commotion can seem like a loss of progress. I needed to calm my nerves, and I ended up reading a really nice article over on Noisey. It prompted me to give myself a little talk. Not only that, but I reached out to each and every person in that article who inspired me in some way. I didn't expect to really hear anything back, but to my surprise—I did. 

Something that I really tried to focus on this year was fostering better relationships. That meant reaching out to people who could be helpful, sustaining meaningful relationships with peers, and in some cases, severing ties with toxic people. In the meantime, I kept looking for ways to continue doing what I liked. The summer brought about some more crazy events.

I began reaching out more to artists I wanted to work with, and tried to establish better connections. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't, but it was a great confidence building exercise. I started to learn that a lot of the barriers that I saw were self-constructed. That's not to say that there weren't any real barriers, because there were—and there are. However, there were some things that I was just leaving undone because I thought they couldn't be done yet. It felt good to be wrong. I shot more shows, built a rapport with a few more people. Seemingly out of nowhere, I was contacted by Apple—yes, that Apple. Following a feature on But Does it Float?, I received an email from someone at Apple, saying they were interested in my abstract work. After getting contacted by The Times, then Adobe this year, you could imagine my excitement. This time, I wasn't so lucky, and Apple ultimately took their project—which I suspect was going to be iOS9 wallpaper—in a different direction, but it was such a crazy thing to have happen. Even being considered was really exciting. Things were starting to fall into place. I was working harder than I've ever worked, and while I was exhausted, it just felt really good to be getting so much done. Not only that, but for the first time in this whole climb to some sort of success, I didn't feel alone. Not only did I feel the support of my friends, but I could sense the support of peers in the industry. Other photographers who were out there working hard every day, editors, curators...it just felt good to have that. I can't express just how thankful I am for that.

I think the remainder of the year can just be summed up with the word "more." I've been doing what I can to keep doing more of what has been working, as well as trying other things to see if they work. I've shot over 100 performances this year. I finished my abstract project, which had a two-page write-up in the December issue of Popular Photography. I met even more people who I look up to. Featureshoot even featured the first photo in this post on their Instagram on Christmas.

There are definitely things that didn't happen this year. I never got to shoot for New York Times—or Vice, or Rolling Stone, or The FADER—but I maintained contacts at all of those places, and I think that still counts for something.

There's still so much to do and learn, but I'm so happy with my progress. It certainly wasn't easy, and I felt like I was failing so many times along the way, but I can say with confidence that I'm happy with how 2015 panned out. Bring on 2016. I hope it's even bigger and more creative than 2015 has been. 

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