I released the latest issue of my newsletter this past weekend after a several month hiatus- and took the opportunity to kind of explain to new readers what it's all about. My approach to this is probably different than a lot of photography newsletters you'll find. It's not meant to be promotional, but instead more of a look at my life, travels, and pursuits in photography behind the scenes. I think it will be very relatable to other photographers and working artists (especially those on the festival circuit or who are curious about art shows) and also to those who enjoy nature photography and care about our wild places.
I do plan to start writing this regularly again in 2023 (not excessively though... it will likely be a new issue released every three weeks to a month- so I won't flood your inbox.) I'll also be placing greater emphasis on my website and blog in the coming year. I share updates to all of my new posts and images with links in the newsletter too, so it's a great way to find direct access to my latest work without relying on social media.
If interested, please read more about my approach to the newsletter in that latest issue, which I've copied below. If you think you'd enjoy reading more, you'll find a link to subscribe by email at the bottom of this page. It's absolutely free and I'll never share your information with others. I'd love to have you sign up and follow along!
Well, it’s been a while since my last true newsletter, and I apologize for the hiatus. Life has been hectic and challenging the past several months (when isn’t it, right?) and finding the time, focus and ambition to put a new issue together just hasn’t aligned. I do plan to continue writing these, and hopefully get back to doing so on a more regular basis- but thought first this might be a good time to reintroduce what this newsletter is all about. Or what you can expect. I’ve had a lot of new subscribers sign up at art shows this year, and even more unsubscribes following the last few issues I released over the summer. And that’s fine. I’ve said all along that I actually encourage people to unsubscribe if and when they realize that this isn’t their cup of tea. I hate the idea of being an annoyance or bothering somebody, and of course understand that we are all inundated and overwhelmed by so much being thrown at us these days- email and otherwise. We only have so much attention to give, and I certainly don’t want to intrude unwelcome on yours.
Further, I know that sometimes when people sign up for something like this- jotting their name down on a random clipboard in a festival booth- their interest is in show information, discounts, workshops- things of a more promotional business nature. I do put those out occasionally- and it’s infrequent because heavy marketing isn’t my cup of tea- but that’s never the focus of my newsletters. I have a separate larger mailing list that includes all my business contacts, ranging from newsletter subscribers to past clients for that purpose, and will send that type of email out only a handful of times a year. If you’d like to continue to receive those mailings, but not the newsletter, just send me a message and I can take you off this list. If you don’t want to receive anything, there’s an unsubscribe button at the bottom of every email that will remove you permanently from all the above. Again, I get it- so no hard feelings.
Now for those of you still hanging on despite my inept business savvy- what is this newsletter all about? For me, it’s about connection. While I started my photography business back in 2010, I made the decision to try and go full time and really throw my entire life behind it in late 2019. And… pretty much nothing has gone as hoped or planned since. But what I said at that time, the ethos that I decided I would live or die by, was that no matter what, I was going to be real. Whatever it is that I create and put out into this world, whether that’s photo, video or written word is going to have my heart and soul behind it. For better or worse, it’s going to be an authentic reflection of who I am.
I was visiting with an artist friend this fall- we were in my booth talking shop and she noticed the bio displayed on my information table.
“This…” she said, “this is what you need to be putting out there. People need to know YOU.”
And that’s been my approach with this newsletter all along. Because let’s face it. There are thousands and thousands of people out there taking pretty pictures. Everybody has a camera on their phone, and if you’ve ever exhibited photography in a public space, you soon learn that 98% of those people believe they’re on the verge of going pro too. Fine art nature photography is a very crowded and competitive field with a lot of hacks. A lot of software manipulation and AI created scenes, a lot of people who only shoot tried and true trophy locations and a lot of people who do whatever it takes to sell prints while putting very little skin in the game. (There are also hundreds of very talented and creative photographers out there who I’ll probably never hold a candle to, so I’m in no way trying to discount them either.)
It's frequently been debated, since the days of Ansel Adams and long before, if photography, and in particular nature photography, is really even an art form. One reason being that it can admittedly be reproduced without a lot of skill. People can get lucky with a snapshot. And honestly “artist” is a title that I still cringe at anyway because I’ve never thought that of myself; but since I’ve literally chosen to devote my life to this craft, I am trying to shift from denial to instead focus on what it means to be an artist. Within that, I believe, is an unavoidable desire for expression. It’s the ancient pull to record our ideas, experiences and view of the world, and to do so in a unique way that makes us feel worthy ourselves of being seen or heard. It’s our deepest internal voice manifest in a variety of mediums. Poetry, painting, music, dance. Metal work, drawing, leather, wood- whatever way we can find to channel our creative vision and do so with passion and depth.
That’s art. And in the case of photography, for me, it’s that depth that sets individual photographers apart. Passion is also a requirement, and creativity often comes about through a mix of talent and stages of growth, but depth is revealed in story and reason. What is the motivation behind a photograph? Is it to document and share something of substance- or is it simply to attract attention and accolades on social media? -And to be clear, I’m not knocking those who share photos or video on social media. I’ve seen lots of wonderful moments, oftentimes impromptu captures, posted across social platforms. And while the people behind them would cringe and deny it too, that act of expression- recognizing and celebrating the sanctity of those moments- IS artistic and beautiful… It doesn’t get much purer than that. What I’m talking about is those who pass themselves off as visionary photographers and amass huge followings by incessantly copying the work of others- “comp stomping” as we call it in the business. Or those who heavily manipulate a scene in Photoshop and try to pass it off as authentic. Just to get views or sell prints. If someone wants to do that and be honest in labeling their creation as digital artwork that’s fine- but don’t call it photography if it depicts a scene that never happened. And back to the point, the motivation should be about more than can be materially or egotistically gained through the end-product. In my mind, art isn’t that shallow.
With that, this newsletter is meant to provide further depth to my collective body of work. It’s the story of my journey as a photographer. I often bill it as a behind the scenes look- and on the surface it is- but I hope it also provides insight to my motivation. I want my photography to do exactly what I said above- celebrate the sanctity of special moments that I encounter in life. I want it to inspire others. I want to share my view of how beautiful this world can be and have that encourage people to both protect it and enhance their own life experiences. Sometimes that might come in prompting them to get out and explore nature for themselves, and sometimes it shows them places they might otherwise never get to see.
And other times still, it can be a reminder. Because the thing in all of this is a photograph only depicts a split-second view. While it is capturing those moments of beauty for these reasons that is at the core the sentiment I want to convey- there’s always more going on. Which brings us to the connection I spoke of. Because the art in photography isn’t just about showing off pretty pictures. Anyone can do that. It’s about emotion, kinship and understanding. It’s sharing the beauty I see and find in this world with those whom it will resonate, but with added depth in the context of life. The beauty and pain of navigating such, which we all endure.
So, I share my photos here, but also the stories behind them. The act of getting to that place in time, or what the image represents to me. And I talk about other things. The ups and downs of trying to survive as a working artist. The prolonged challenges, and simple breaths of joy. I talk about life. Philosophies and fatherhood; memories and misadventures. I’ve had some ongoing struggles with mental health- depression and anxiety (and a pretty heavy relapse of this has had a lot to do with the long break since my last issue.) I’ve taken some criticism for writing about that here, with the implication that it’s not the appropriate platform, and unprofessional. But I don’t care. Because I think it’s important to speak openly about these things and try to end that stigma. My humor and language aren’t always businesslike or appropriate either- but it’s real. It’s honest. It’s me.
This newsletter provides all of this as a backdrop to those pretty pictures- a raw and genuine look at the guy who- sometimes despite all of this, and others in concert with- still looked up long enough to recognize something bigger; and takes photos to remember that there is something special in every moment of life.
Art is our expression of humanness. Being human. Trying to convey our experience, our voice, our needs and gratitude in whatever way we can. The images make me a photographer, but it’s in the journey that I’ll become an artist. And this newsletter is where I’ll share that with you all.
Once again, I know that this isn’t for everybody. We live in a world of quick hit information. And a lot of people are content to drift through a very compartmentalized and regimented life of routine and consumption; distracted by sports and reality television or whatever is trending on their platform of choice. And that’s fine. For them. But I write this for those who appreciate things that go a bit deeper. For those who believe we should approach life with passion. For those who like to slow down and take the time to ponder. For those who know that life isn’t always a pretty picture, but who still look up and recognize the beauty in it all.
That’s the other layer of the connection that I’m seeking here. Though it’s not usually a two-way dialogue, it’s a place of mutual understanding. I hope that those of you who read this find it relatable. I hope that it provides some shared humanity. Even if our opinions or situations aren’t always the same, for those of you who do seek more depth and substance, in this world that can feel so lacking, I hope you find a sense of communion here. I hope you can read this and find things that resonate with your own experiences, parallels in your own unique hopes or dreams or fears, and the highs and lows of your own journey through life. Because let’s face it. If any of what I’ve written here is making sense to you, the collective norms, interests and values of an often-superficial society probably leaves you feeling like an outcast at times. It does me. But knowing that there are others who share your perspective can at least help to not feel so alone.
So, I hope you’ll receive these like a letter from a friend that whispers, “Hey… I don’t really care about the latest water cooler buzz either… Did you see the moon last night?”
And if nothing else, it’s probably entertaining for those who enjoy watching a good old fashioned train wreck too…
Anyway, that’s it in a nutshell. What I’d like to do now is play a little catch up to sort of review my 2022 season and pick up from where I left off with the last issue, and I plan to do that in what I think will be an upcoming three-part series. My goal is to try and get those out in the next few weeks, then back up to speed as we enter the new year. So, apologies for the long gap of silence, and apologies for the upcoming frequency.
Before I end here though, one of the other things that I try to do in each issue is provide links to recent blog posts, or new work that I’ve published. It’s getting harder and harder to be seen on social media, so this is the one reliable way I have of getting that stuff out there.
I do have a few newer posts that I’ll share with you real quick. The first two are summaries of my 2023 Calendars, with a closer look at each of the monthly images, and their stories or the reasons I chose to include the photos that I did. You can view the Iowa Edition Here and the U.S. Edition Here.
I’ve also organized a fundraiser for the family of my childhood best friend, John, who suffered a stroke and fell into a coma in late October. You can find more written on his situation in the U.S. Calendar description above (July image) and the fundraiser is at the link HERE.
The fundraiser is centered around the college football bowl season- which has already begun- but we are still welcoming entries and/or donations through Saturday, December 24 if anyone would like to join in.
Finally, I also want to say thank you to everyone who has signed up for this newsletter, and especially the long-time subscribers. One thing that I didn't really elaborate on above, but can't be stressed enough, is how much of an outlet this has been for me too. That gift of understanding, connection, and not feeling so alone really is felt when I know that there are people out there who choose to read and follow along. And in the three years now that I've been writing this there have been times when this has been really, really needed. My sincere gratitude goes out to you all.
Have a great week, everybody. More to come soon.
©2022 Josh Meier Photography Volume 3: Issue 8 December 18, 2022