reflections one year of my photographic journey by milmon f. harrison


This is a little story about a few of the photographs I created over the past year. In my photography practice I try to always bring my heart as well as my head to the work. To do what photographer, teacher, and author David DuChemin describes as making photographic art, an aesthetic craft "accomplished through technical means." I hold to my faith that with time and practice the technique will come and will improve; in the meantime, my job is to make pictures, lots of them. I think of myself as "just an ordinary man striving to do extraordinary work." That is the guiding principle behind my work as a photographer and artist. That is my mission statement and North Star. I want to do work that transcends myself and my own experience, tapping into something universally relatable, while fully expressing my own vision, or intention, as an individual. No more, no less. So simple, yet so hard.

"Mr. Hitchcock" - Taken December 13, 2016. Marin Headlands National Park. Marin County, CA


In the past year I found myself greatly challenged, especially in terms of finding time to learn more about the art and craft of photography and in finding time to practice. Job and everyday life demands made it hard to stop and go shooting any time I felt the pull or happened upon a potentially great image as I walked or drove around. I did manage, however, to carve out a bit of time here and there for myself to pursue this passion of mine. It was hard but I got it done.

I learned

I learned some things about myself, though. For example, I learned just how much I am committed to this practice and process of art making; it's not just a passing fancy but something I actually needed to do for my own well-being, sense of completeness, and survival. I found I needed to create, especially in times when words failed me as they often did in light of so many of the events and experiences of 2016. Another thing I learned was how much photography has helped me to think about and express my appreciation for my environment, where I live, rather than romanticizing and longing for far-off places. It's amazing how I realized my love for Northern California through photographing sites and things I've come to take for granted because I see them every day. There's definitely something more profound to be said about this part of the process, but I'm not able to put it into words just yet. I do think this is an extension of my academic training as a sociologist who appreciates everyday interaction and shared meanings as the basis for human societies. I have a fascination with "vernacular" structures, such as ordinary bridges, fields, and highways, and not just big-name tourist attractions as my subjects. I think observation and the search for deep meaning in the mundane has shaped my photography as it has shaped my education, my research, and my teaching all these years. At least I hope it has.

"No. 4" - Taken September 17, 2016. County Rd. 22, Between Sacramento and Woodland, CA.

new forms

In 2016 I embraced a few photographic forms that I have come to really like: Monochromatic (Black & White and Sepia), Still Life, and Portraiture. Several of the photos below are examples of more than one of these forms.

A few examples of black & white, still life, and/or portrait photography


Some of my favorite photos of the year were what I would refer to as "impressionistic." That is they are images that evoked something–a thought, a feeling, a concept–beyond what is represented literally. I am drawn to what some people call "contemplative" photography: a kind of meditative practice in which the photographer is encouraged to try to capture a flash of perception, being less concerned with traditional rules and constraints of the discipline of photography and going for a representation of the truth of the situation as he/she experienced it. The photo below of petals floating on my swimming pool one afternoon is an example of something that just caught my eye and spoke to me, called to me as it were. This is where I find the most joy in my photographic practice and want to find my way back to this more meditative way of expressing what I see and feel.

"Petals" - Taken February 26, 2016 (my back yard pool)

The images below are some of my favorites taken in 2016 because of what they meant to me. Although I think that there are always places I might have made better technical decisions, these were images that spoke to me in some way or another.

A few of my favorite images from 2016

Come, 2017

I look forward to continuing on this journey of discovery and creativity. It is vitally important that I hang on to my conviction that my photos have to mean something to me, not just receive "likes" on social media. I struggle with keeping what followers will or will not find interesting or good out of my thoughts and artistic decisions. Instead, I go about the work of seeing and trying to capture the truth of what I'm experiencing so I can share that clearly and honestly. In the new year I am renewing my challenge to myself to hold on to my own vision, even if my photos are not as technically faultless as I would have them be. That is my promise to myself and to those who view my work.

"Last Shot of the Day" - Taken December 13, 2016. Fort Baker, Sausalito, CA.
"Boats, Night, Sky" - Taken December 30, 2016. Lake Merritt Boathouse, Oakland, CA.
"Lone Tree, Fields, and Mountains" - Taken January 6, 2017. California State Highway 113 (Between Woodland and Davis)

thank you!

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Created By
Milmon Harrison


All photographs were taken by Milmon F. Harrison. Please do not use without permission.

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