The Photographer Interviews - John Wells

What drew you to photography?

I conspicuously started off like many other people do; as a tourist. Growing up in rural Selma, AL, I never thought much about other places, but that changed in January 2012. I was planning my first international trip (Paris, France) and my mother was nice enough to gift me a Canon Rebel T3 (at the time I worked as a Civil Engineer, I had no camera equipment). I took that camera to Paris and was blown away...by how awful my photos were.

I thought about all of the iconic photographs of Paris and how photogenic everything seemed, but nevertheless, my photos were garbage. From that day forward I thought of photography as a challenge and not as a hobby or skill.

Six years later, and now working as a full-time photographer, I still think of photography in the same way. If I have to decide on one factor that drew me to photography, it's the challenge.

John Wells Photograph of Dog

Where do you look for inspiration?

I look for inspiration in the strangest places, and when I say strange, I mean it literally. Anywhere I'm unfamiliar with, any environment that I'm uncomfortable in, any action that surprises me, that's where I find inspiration.

I once heard a photographer say something along the lines of "If you're ever out shooting and you see a scene that makes you uncomfortable, not only should you photograph that scene, you must photograph it" and it really stuck with me. I'm still not a great street photographer, but street photography in strange environments is where I draw my inspiration.

John wells photo NYC

Are there any photography projects you are especially proud of?

My favorite photography project was more of a personal experiment than a project. In 2015 I was unhappy with my career, my life, and my environment, so I decided to do something rather cavalier. I quit my career, sold most of my possessions, packed my camera gear and started backpacking.

I shot and edited every day for 16 months. I camped, bused, hitchhiked, scootered, and couch-surfed my way across 40 countries with the goal of developing my photography enough to become a professional. If it weren't for this personal project I probably wouldn't be writing this today.

What type of cameras do you use/ Which is your favorite?

I mainly shoot with a Sony A7iii, Fuji x100t, Canon 6D, and iPhone X. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but my favorite camera is the one I have on me when I need it most, and that's usually the iPhone or Fuji.

How is print part of your creative process?

Print is more on my mind now than it ever has been. I shoot 99% digital and do absolutely nothing with 99% of my images except put them on Instagram/in my portfolio. This has recently started to weigh on me. I now have a personal goal to pare down all of my photos to my favorite thousand or so (*this goal will probably never be met). After that I plan to print them in photobooks and large scale prints.

John Wells photography

What has been your biggest challenge pursuing a career in photography?

The constant internal struggle of whether or not my work has any merit.

What advice would you give to someone starting a career in photography?

If your technical skills are already adequate, my advice would be to network. In today's world cameras and photographers are everywhere; there are expected to be 45 billion cameras on the earth by 2022 (and 12 on the moon, thanks NASA). If you want to make a living doing photography networking is paramount. This is sort of a you-can-lead-a-horse-to-water scenario though, because I detest and often do not network; I'm sure it has cost me many jobs.

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