Yesterday, I found myself thinking about an essay from "Why people photograph" by Robert Adams. The piece was about Paul Strand and how, according to Adams, he never achieved the excellence he showed previously after he moved to France, where he lived for more than 25 years.
Paul Strand never learned French, which didn't help his work. Adams also adds some other interesting factors that might have affected Strand's work, like not knowing the laws or the unfamiliarity with some customs in a different country than his own.
This essay resonated with me in many ways. I was born in Spain, and even though I speak English, I'm an American citizen and I'm used to the customs and laws of this land, there's always that feeling that people will look at you as a stranger that doesn't belong here. Of course, this is mostly in my head and not necessarily in everyone else's. But it is there.
How much this affects my work, I don't know.
Unlike Paul Strand, who practiced multiple genres but whose work mostly includes people, I shoot "person-less scenes". And nature doesn't understand borders and countries. Maybe this is why I love landscape photography so much.
I can't compare my experience between countries, either. Photography was a passion that I discovered relatively late in life, so I don't have much work from the other side of the ocean (just a couple images I made a few years ago). I only know photography from my experience here in the US (and Canada).
But in little more than a month from now, we'll be moving overseas. After 5 years in America, we are ready for the next adventure and that will be Europe.
This will change my work. How, is yet to be seen.
Then, and with the experience of shooting in my country of birth, I might finally know what being a photographer in a foreign country felt like.