People sometimes ask me why my projects don’t all look the same.

I take it they mean they are a bit perplexed when my projects go from (for example) drug addicts to federal infrastructure to the suburbs.

Well, I only photograph what I’m interested in learning about and I believe that you don’t learn that much by just plugging some preordained approach or style into what you’re photographing. That’d be called consistency. And while certain consistencies are important in photography, other consistencies are just a way of going through the motions without really thinking (too much). The world is so complex, so multifaceted, that looking at it from just one angle really doesn’t do it justice.

Of course it goes without saying that the stress of our years since birth boxes us in, creates our biases and informs how we see and understand the world. But within that box (which is always reinforced by the powers that be) there is a lot (or, maybe, some) wiggle room.

I bring this up because I’ve been looking at Bryan Schutmaat’s new book, Good Goddamn.


Bryan’s first book, Grays the Mountain Sends, is a classic. One of those rare beasts that is easy to like, popular and worthwhile. A beautiful collection of Western landscapes, interiors and portraits of men (except for the very last image, a photograph of a woman), all shot in atmospheric light. It’s impossible not to sense the feelings accrued in this book: lonesome, desolate, lovelorn, melancholy.

His subsequent book, Good Goddamn, is different in a few ways:
• The images here were shot “in Leon County, Texas, over the course of a few unseasonably warm days in February, 2017”.
• Those images show us one thing: a slowly (but not too slowly) unrolling event (or what many, especially those not connected to it, might consider to be a non-event).
• The photos are black and white and not always entirely sharp.

But Good Goddamn only looks different from Grays the Mountain Sends. The underlying feelings remain the same: mystery and melancholy, lonesomeness and desolation. They (those feelings) are just rendered in a different way, using a different approach. And in Good Goddamn the approach feels right and honest.

It’s great to come across photographers who don’t always fall back on the tried and true. Because so often what is tried and true for one thing, for one subject, for one time of your life, will not be true for another. It’s only by trying (present tense, as opposed to “tried”, past tense) that you have a chance of approaching some truth.  When you try instead of settling, that’s when honesty has a chance.

Bryan Schutmaat
A couple of actual reviews of Good Goddamn:
1000 Words
PhotoBook Store

“‘Comparisons are odious . . . . It don’t make a damn frigging difference whether you’re in The Place or hiking up the Matterhorn, it’s all the same old void, boy.'” ~Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums


Finally back to the edit/sequence of my project. There was some delay because my printer broke. Had to drag my sorry ass down to the store to get a new one. (P800, in case you’re interested.)

But enough about that . . . what about the edit?

I spent the last year and a half shooting this project. It began with a broad conception and I photographed all sorts of things that felt like they might work, fit. Now, seven weeks into the edit/sequence, I’m beginning to hone it, to zero in. And, as I thought, as I wanted, it seems to be about (for lack of a better word) some dark shit: the potential (maybe even the propensity) of homo sapiens to fuck things up. (Or something like that. I don’t know. In the end it’ll be up to you to decide, if you see it.)

In the meantime . . .

One of the things I’ve been thinking about, as I look at what I’ve done, study these photos and try to shape them, is, what if things get better? What if the First World isn’t as broken as it seems, what if the premise of this project is wrong?

But if you look at, study, history, if you consider the long view, it’s kind of obvious that the “prosperity” and “progress” of the last half of the 2oth Century (the era we’re familiar with and, so, think of as normal) was an aberration. Planet Earth has always been a tough place. Yes, homo sapiens have mostly progressed, but that progression always comes with, is situated within, a background of violence and repression. And often that background becomes foreground.

So I suppose I needn’t worry too much that things will get better in the short run. And, man, how perverted does that sound? Worrying that things will get better because it might fuck up my project, my projection? That’s just weird, right?

I mean, of course I hope things get better. But, to quote Robert Frank: “Look out for hope”. The beauty of that sentence being that it cuts both ways.

And, anyway, hoping ain’t worth shit. Kinda like thoughts and prayers.

So here I am, in the dark place this work is taking me. Not that I don’t find joy in the small things: walking the dog, cooking dinner, working and learning, trying. But I’ll leave changing the world, and hoping, to someone else.

Finally, here are some words I found when I was well into the shooting for this project. They seem to sum up what I’m working towards . . .

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”
-Bertolt Brecht


This post is reprinted (and slightly modified, with lots of extra photos) from the original Medium article. It is a continuation of a previous drool. article which outlined my first five years as a photographer. This is the next four years . . .


I wanted to shoot my life. That included my home life and the small circle of friends Cin and I had gathered. But I also wanted to shoot a larger life: sex and the body, violence and life in the city.

I finally figured out, too, that if you shoot with an open mind, let the camera do the work while your brain is somewhere in the background, you end up with what I call “piles of data”. That data can later be mined; you will find rich seams that run through it and, by carefully editing and sequencing, by arranging images into arcs of non-verbal narrative, you can define something.

I felt I had gone from emulating Robert Frank, from shooting the expected point of view (expected, if you have studied the history of photography), and was moving towards using photography to define my own intelligence, my own point of view, my own politics.


In love, like life, you go through phases. Passions fade and shift, what was once new turns into the dull routine of existence. One way to combat this is to try to live and learn in the subtle shifts and textures of a long-term thing. That is what Cin and I decided to do. Without much discussion, it just seemed like us. Determined.

We had a small circle of friends in Toronto, we’d go out, do stuff. Cin was working in kitchens, being a receptionist, making art. I was working on production lines, taking photos. We were both still interested and figuring things out. Things like what did we have to say and how can we express it, how can we get along, what do we want to do? You know, the standard stuff.

Cin and I never really had 2 nickels to rub together. End of the month we’d be rolling quarters to make the rent. One time we were so broke I had to sell the gold ring my grandfather had left me. We were approaching 30 and getting tired of what we were doing and where we were going in Toronto. So we decided, without much discussion, to move to England. Before we met Cin had lived there for a year, I had spent 4 months in London. Let’s go back, we thought.

Problem is, as we were soon to discover, you can’t go back . . .

To be continued at a later date . . .