Copyright © Johann Kwan

A look back at 2014

It’s officially 2015, I’m over the New Years hangover, I’ve had my requisite greasy food for the day, and spent the evening with friends playing with their baby and chatting the night away before reality sets back in with the end of the holiday season. 2014 was a pretty damned good year.

Photographically, it been a year of 35mm and no autofocus. I’ve never been more pleased with my work, and I’ve settled really nicely into using a fixed 35 to do pretty much 90% of my photos. The other 10% I have my 90mm for, but I so rarely break it out I’m shocked that I actually have to bother cleaning my sensor from time to time, that dust actually manages to get in. I don’t miss autofocus anymore… the pleasure of manual operation is enormous, and not having to rely on another system that might fail (say, grab the wrong eye for focus) is beyond fantastic. My keepers from any shoot have gone up so dramatically, I’m churning out my best work ever.


Work’s been solid and steady, but addition to the usual portraits and other things I’ve gotten back into doing a bit of news. Not much… I never ended up chasing news earlier on in my career because the money just wasn’t there, but it does make me incredibly happy to be doing news again. Having my photo under the headline “Toronto replaces crack-smoking mayor Rob Ford” was an unexpected bonus to my year (Thanks, Australian Associated Press!). It’s nice to be doing news again, especially after being away from it so long.

I think I’m proudest of that development, really. For a news addict like myself who once dreamed of pursuing photojournalism it’s nice to be able to pick up news work in between gigs. (Thanks, Newzulu, and the awesome editors Allendria and Courtney!)


It’s not all been work though. My friend Jack and I finally put together a vacation that has been talked about for years, and made the trip to Scotland, driving from Edinburgh up into the Speyside region, over to the Hebrides and back. Two and a bit weeks of driving, whisky, and the most jaw-droppingly beautiful landscapes I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. People following my leisure photography will probably have some of my photos from Scotland. It’s a raw, wild, beautiful place, and the people are genuinely the nicest people ever. And this is coming from a red to the core Canadian. They’ve got us beat. Oh and the whisky. Oh lord, the whisky.


I’ve tried to spend as much time with friends as possible this year, which… admittedly, is still not really enough. Life keeps me busy, which is great. The recovery of my father from cancer has taught me to spend more time with the people I care about, though, so I do my humble best. I got to go to some of your weddings this year, not as a photographer but as a guest, so that’s been super nice. If I haven’t seen you recently, please, please give me a shout. Work can always wait a day, or be done in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep.

Outside of all that I’ve continued volunteering for the Liberal Party when time permits, of course. Most of you know my reasons by now. This country isn’t the same country I moved to years ago. Our commitments to things like peacekeeping and the environment have all gone by the wayside to a party uninterested in the Canada I hold dear. I’d like to change that… and I’m eagerly anticipating the federal election this year. Finally winning some elections that I volunteered for (Helena Jaczek, Adam Vaughan) feels pretty good, the last few years I’ve been too used to losing (by the narrowest margins, sometimes). I feel pretty good about 2015.

The plan for 2015. Well, I’ll be hopping off to Hong Kong for a bit this month and early February, visiting family and doing some street photography (no place like Hong Kong to shoot street, really) and then it’s back to work. I plan on working my butt off until I hear back from law schools, and, if I’m lucky enough to get into one, I might do some travelling. God knows I won’t have a chance while I’m in school. I have a good feeling about this year.

With that thought, I’m off.

– Johann


Cover photo courtesy of Jack Wang.

Oh and thanks to Katerina Lyadova for posting a great 2014 update that inspired me to finally finish my own.