2018 | Reflections of a Photographic Year

It is December 23rd as I post this, Christmas now only two days away.  Somehow it managed to sneak up on me again, the year end rush of activity suddenly coming to an end as we prepare to spend time with family and friends.   I watched my daughter’s final elementary school Christmas concert this week, the usual joy a parent feels while watching their child perform mixed with a touch of melancholy this time.  My daughter is 12 now, off to high school next year, so this really is the end of an era for our family.  Life is full of these transitions though, isn’t it?  Change is life’s true constant; we can try to resist it, we can choose to embrace it, but rarely can we stop it.

For me, 2018 was a year of successes and failures, of reflection and growth.  I started the new year full of excitement, as detailed in a post I wrote called 2018:  From Transition to Realization.  I vividly remember one morning in January, just a few weeks into the new year, when I was shooting in San Francisco.  The light was amazing, I was nailing my photos, my workshops were filling up and I was overwhelmed by a sense of joy and gratitude.  It was a great way to start 2018.

Looking back, I see many successes that I am thankful for:  Six group workshops in Vancouver, Toronto and Paris, 14 private workshops with students in Vancouver, 44 Skype lessons with students from around the world, 12 presentations for various organizations, over 40 blog posts written on this site (including my popular five part series on Street Photography Composition), two articles written for other publications, five weddings photographed and I was featured in a few new interviews.  

Yes indeed, there is definitely a lot to be thankful for.

Without a doubt, however, the best thing about this year was the time that I got to spend with my family.  Sure, there were many stretches where I lived in a hotel room for a week or two while I was teaching, but on the whole I spent more time with them this year than I ever have before:  family walks, looking for crabs on a beach in Hawaii, watching sunsets… it has been joyous.  Finding work / life balance is always a struggle, but I feel like I took one step closer to it this year.

Celebrating success is important, but equally important is to embrace failure… to own it and to learn from it.  For me, specifically, my greatest regret was not publishing my street photography book in 2018.

I remember reading an interview with one of my favourite musicians where they were asked: “When do you know a song is done?”  Their answer was that a song is never done, you just eventually record it and walk away from it.  Upon reflection, I can see a direct correlation between this quote and my first book.  I am a lifelong student, a lifelong educator and, perhaps most importantly, a lifelong artist.  I am always out shooting, creating new work, and incorporating new ideas into my workshops and Skype lessons.  As I do this, I cycle back to edit the book to include this new content.  I’m obsessive about quality, so I want every product I deliver to my clients to be the best that I can create.  

I realize now, however, that this process became a barrier to the completion of the book.  That will change in 2019, for this project and for one other.

Personally, the biggest decision I made was to talk freely about my journey with PTSD a few years ago; to feel comfortable discussing it on this site, on podcasts, in social media, in interviews… wherever it was appropriate or valuable to do so.  

The truth is that PTSD changed the trajectory of my life, ending a career as a paramedic that I loved.  In hindsight, however, it also freed me to pursue something I love even more (full time photography).  After a lot of soul searching I made the conscious decision to be vulnerable and open about my experience, because I know there are people in this community who are also suffering and I want them to know that they are not alone.  I have dedicated my entire adult life to helping others; as a paramedic, as an educator, as a photographer, and if my honesty and openness can help just one person find their way out of a dark place then I consider that a win.

What did come as a surprise to me, as I reflected on my journey, was the realization that my photography changed significantly as I healed from my PTSD.  It goes without saying that photography helped heal me, but I didn’t expect the inverse to happen and to have my photography change so much too.  This realization became the foundation of a presentation I have delivered 4 times now entitled “Finding Creativity: What PTSD Taught Me About Photography”.  

The response to this presentation has been overwhelming.  Countless people have thanked me for sharing my story.  So many people have bravely shared their story with me.  We have all talked about how important photography is to us and about how much it helps us.

These conversations have helped people.  They have helped me too, and I have large plans for all of this in 2019.

And now we are just days before Christmas and the end of another year.  With that, some thanks are definitely due:

To my family:  You always support me; without question, without hesitation.  That can’t be easy and I will always love you for it.

To my students:  Thank you.  You are wonderful.  All of you.  You help support my family but, much more importantly, you inspire me as an educator and artist to serve you as best as I can.  I have enjoyed every minute of every workshop this year.  

For those who are interested, I have six new workshops scheduled in 2019:

 I would love to see you there!

To my photography clients:  Thank you for trusting me with your important images.  Whether you hired me for a wedding, a portrait session or to do product photography, it was an absolute pleasure being a part of your world for a short period of time.

To my Official Fujifilm X Photographer peers:  You are all amazing, and your work inspires me daily.  Thank you for that, and for the wonderful friendships as well.

To Fujifilm Canada:  What can I say?  Your cameras changed my life, a refrain I hear daily from people within the Fujifilm community, and my relationship with the company is something I am very proud of.  I look forward to representing Fujifilm for many years to come.  

To my friends in the photography community and anyone else whom I may have forgotten:  Thank you.  I wish you all the best for the holiday season.

In Summary…

I entered 2018 full of plans and ideas, some which worked out well and others that didn’t.  I can say with absolute certainty that I am entering 2019 with fewer defined plans, but also with a much greater sense of purpose.  I am eagerly looking forward to teaching more workshops and photographing more work for my amazing clients in 2019.  I WILL publish books.  Perhaps most importantly, I will continue to use my voice and love of photography to inspire and help those who are struggling in their own lives.  

It is only fitting that I end this post with a few more of my favourite images from 2018.  I love these images because of the story they tell, because of their visual interest and because of how I felt when I took them.  I will see all of you in 2019, fresh out of the gate with a new post about my updated Fujifilm gear pack.  

I wish you and your families all the best for the holiday season.  Thank you for a wonderful year!



9 thoughts on “2018 | Reflections of a Photographic Year

    • Ian says:

      Thank you James, I really appreciate that. If you want to come hang out at the next TO workshop, and make up that day, you are more than welcome.

      Have a great Christmas!



      • James says:

        Thanks, Ian! I was very depressed that morning and it was the one thing last summer that I absolutely regretted letting it have the better of me. But I’m so glad many people in the group have stayed in touch. Merry Christmas!

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