Discover: John Francis Peters
How did you discover photography?
I guess technically I first discovered photography in maybe 1989 when I went on a cross country road trip with my grandmother. We drove from Saugerties, NY to Los Angeles in her pickup truck, to get me away from some rough times at home. I brought along one of those toy point and shoot film cameras that she gave to me just to snap along the way. I shot mostly landscape stuff once we got out west and that experience really stuck with me, making images just to remember the amazing journey we took together. Those photos mean a great deal to me now that she’s gone.
After that trip I didn’t make a photo until I started college 10 years later in NYC at The School of Visual Arts. I had a mandatory basic photo class and my mother got me a simple 35mm camera for it. The first day I went out with it and explored the streets of Chinatown, then walked into a rowdy protest on Broadway in support of affordable housing. I was seriously hooked after that day. The camera gave me this new outlook on everything. It was a way to gain access to and better understand things foreign and familiar while embracing what I felt was this larger reality I could only understand thru the photographic medium.
What equipment do you use?
At this point I mainly shoot digital but still use a Mamiya 7 for most film stuff. Im kind of over the film vs digital conversation and now for me its about the physical dimensions/agility of cameras. I’m really hoping one of these exciting companies will come out with a digital, high quality, less bulky, well designed camera that is more affordable than the current selection.
Who/what inspires you?
I’ve been greatly inspired by the community of photographers whom I’ve been getting to know and share ideas with over the past few years. They’re an incredibly talented group that are focused on supporting each others ideas and the mediums progression at such a complicated time. I feel lucky to have contact with such pure and focused colleagues.
Traveling is always a major source of inspiration for me as well. Leaving my comfort zone and becoming immersed in another culture or environment is what I live for. When you spend time in another part of the world or America, you slowly build a new relationship, make a new friend. Over time you share and absorb a great deal with the place, and when you return home you have a fresh outlook and exciting stories to tell. I also believe as an American, having the ability to travel to most countries is not to be taken for granted. That freedom is an unbelievably powerful tool to better understand the scope of our human existence.
How would you describe your photographic style?
Style is a tricky thing for me because I view it as something which can help thoroughly explore subjects or might also become a form of great stagnation. I think style or “vision” should begin in a basic concept or approach to start, which later translates into aesthetic decisions that will help to realize the idea in a fresh and truthful way. So in terms of my style, I hope no matter what the pallet I ultimately choose is, the viewer will always get some sense of my voice, sense of humor, dreams, curiosity.. but more importantly absorb the broader scope of what it is Im trying to communicate about the subject. In many ways I feel like my “style” is always in collaboration with that which I cannot fully understand, a dimension or form of consciousness which consistently informs the process throughout the projects progression.
What do you hope your photography communicates?
Well again I aim to fully collaborate with the subject and certainly realize a project which may be engaging. I hope my work communicates a form of truth about the subject and the relationship that is formed during the works progression. I think the world is infinitely complicated and I do not intend to make sense of anything in some sort of objective nor highly personalized way. The successful photograph or project in my opinion is a place for conversation to begin, a meeting point. From that unfinished point, new ideas can be shared, a conversation or relationship might begin leading a solution or new outlook.
What projects are you currently working on?
Well I just returned from 5 weeks in Morocco working on a project with a group of artists and musicians called Beyond Digital. The projects conception was centered around the use of digital technologies in the production of traditional and contemporary Moroccan music. From that music based starting point each artist interpreted the project in their own organic way. I used the music’s rhythms and lyrics as a personal guide to start discovering the spirit of the new land we found ourselves in.
I plan to use a mixture of the poetry, music and ambient audio recordings we discovered in collaboration with the images. I’ve also been working on a project in Upstate NY which focuses on a good friend who is a young Iraq War veteran, father, and amazing musician. Its been a slow project, one which I will continue for as long as Im up here in the Hudson Valley and hopefully beyond. This project has been teaching me so much about what it means to collaborate with a subject.. and about the reality so many veterans face after serving their countries war agenda. His music a great source of inspiration and his wisdom is beyond words.