Inspiring Friendship: An Open Letter Response to A.G.

An outtake from a December adventure with Andres Gonzalez. Accidental photobombing is inevitable with two photographers working in the same space!

Prelude

Making new friendships as an adult is difficult, especially as an introvert. As an adult you just don’t have the kind of time that children do to invest in creating history and familiarity with another person. As challenging as it is for me as an introvert, I highly value making new connections. Through relationships we gain a better, more diverse understanding of humanity and the world around us. I would even go as far as to say we better understand ourselves.

Last July I received a message from someone about purchasing one of my calendars. When I asked about delivery, he mentioned maybe we could get together for coffee. I’m very glad we did. That is how I met Andres Gonzalez. Since then, Andres and I have had coffee or breakfast a few times, communicated fairly regularly via social media, and even shared a short road trip to Northern Arizona. In October Andres wrote me an open letter on his blog in response to my post about Inspiration and Accountability.

A Letter of Response

Andres,

I very much enjoyed reading your thoughts on the subject of inspiration, and I was humbled by your generous comments about me and my work. I am sorry I was so long in getting around to a response, but from the moment I read your letter I wanted to further engage with you on this.

I am honored that your wife thought to mention my name to you as you began discovering photography for yourself. Monica is a wonderful artist in her own right and her passion for living an art-centric life has certainly inspired me since we became connected on social media. I am thankful for her presence in my daily feed and for her role in our introduction.

I was glad that you felt the freedom to finally post the architecture shot that you made, but were previously hesitant to share. I can see that you came by it honestly. The fact that you recognized my work as potentially responsible for your initial interest in the building doesn’t negate the work you did. Your design solution seems to be the result of your experimentation, not direct comparison to my work; a perfect example of engaging inspiration in a healthy, intentional way.

Now, my friend, I must thank you for the role you’ve unknowingly played in inspiring me recently.

I’ve been pursuing photography now for about six years. Only in the last three years have I begun to really find the beginning of my own voice as an artist, and I’ve yet a long way to go (in fact, I believe it to be a lifelong pursuit, a destination that is never fully reached despite increased progress and proximity to it). When that first began to happen, I was excited and enthusiastic. I didn’t care that nobody seemed to understand or even like my architecture work. Making it was satisfying enough for me.

A year or so later I was beginning to move on from that series to other projects when I started receiving belated attention for it. I earned my first local gallery show and I was getting online attention from companies like Adobe and Ralph Lauren. Suddenly, despite the excitement, it felt like a burden to maintain this level of engagement with my audience. I started trying a little too hard to perpetuate what I had already started rather than forging ahead in exploration. I was subconsciously afraid of losing ground, losing what little following I had found. While there are many benefits to the kind of artistic focus it takes to work in series’, there’s a balance to be found so as not to become stale. I don’t want to be a one-trick pony or coast on past successes.

Upon reflection I recently realized that I was only actually making new pictures a few times a year, typically while traveling. I would immerse myself in shooting for a short, intense period, and then spend several months processing the resulting images. This is partly due to the season of life I am currently in: My family recently moved into a new home and I recently became a dad again, both time consuming ventures on top of a demanding job. But it was also partly because I wasn’t making it a priority. There are definitely seasons in life when priorities shift a little, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it can make you lazy if you lean to much on it as an excuse. My latest travels to California were mostly unfruitful, largely, I believe, due to lack of practice. I came back from that California trip feeling very defeated, painfully aware that my sparsely-used craft and composition skills had atrophied.

Watching your journey in pursuit of this new craft, and having shared a few creative experiences together (photographing ASU, the Jerome road trip), has rejuvenated me. It reminded me of my early days of experimentation when I would frequently wake up before sunrise and explore my surroundings, no agenda in mind, just to see what I could see. I’ve missed that feeling. It stretches the mind and eye, and exercises the problem-solving skills needed to produce meaningful art. I’ve noticed your hunger for it. I’ve seen you getting out several times a week and getting to work, broadening your experiences and honing your craft. I’ve seen you improving. It convicted me. It called me to accountability.

I’m happy to say I began doing something about it. I’ve been carving out some time to go exploring again. Sure enough, when I started practicing what I preach, I stumbled into inspiration that sparked a new series. I need to develop it some more before I share it with the world, but I’ve included a few of the iPhone sketches from my Instagram account. It’s very colorful (which is a new challenge for me) and it gets me back to my graphic design roots. Best of all, it has me excited about the hunt once again. It has me shooting nearer to home, and more frequently. It has me seeing my surroundings and appreciating beauty in new ways.

Working sketches from my iPhone

Thank you, my friend, for your open-mindedness, enthusiasm, sense of humor, thoughtfulness, and friendship. It has been a pleasure to get to know you and I look forward to continuing to do so.

Warmest regards,

Johnny Kerr