Introducing Peter Earl McCollough: LOOK3 Guest Series

Join us in following Peter Earl McCollough’s project as it unfolds this year with the M9, his first time using not only a Leica camera but also using manual focus. Peter is bringing us along this journey as he familiarizes himself with the camera, immerses himself in his work and lets the pieces unravel…

This summer I was invited to participate in LOOKbetween, an event created by Andrew Owen and Jenna Pirog from the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph. The idea behind the gathering was to bring emerging photographers together and let them share their ideas and show their work while the elders and the masters of the industry listened. Several awards were open to the photographers invited, including an award offered by Leica. I submitted a collection of my street work and, to my honest surprise, I was chosen as one of the winners. Leica has given me an M9 to complete a project of my choosing over the course of the next year. The company understands the creative process well, and is giving me all the freedom in the world, which I’m very grateful for. It’s not everyday that someone hands you a beautiful camera and says, “go make pictures of whatever you want, we trust you.”

I received the camera towards the end of last year when I was driving back to San Francisco from Los Angeles and, to be honest, I am still familiarizing myself with it. I expected it would take a month or two for me to have seamless and spontaneous control of the camera, and I think that prediction was right. I literally had never touched a Leica camera before I received the M9 and after being used to the comforts of a DSLR, as well as never using a manual focus system before, a lot of patience and re-wiring has been necessary. I had some pretty high expectations for myself with this project, and I’m realizing that I might need to take it down a notch and work on my manual skills before I get into the heart of the project. With a couple weeks of hard work, I’m hoping to build something of a symbiotic relationship with the camera. As I’ve learned before, the freedom to photograph whatever I please can be both exciting and paralyzing. With my regular guest posts on the Leica blog, I know that I’ll have even more incentive to give this project my focus and best effort.

What will I spend a year photographing with this camera? I don’t know yet; all I really know is that its foundation will be in street photography. Yet I hope it will not fit entirely within the mainstream concept of street photography. I’ve always thought of street photography as the most democratic genre of photography, as well as the most subconscious of the visual languages. The power of street photography exists, for me, in its ability to weave back and forth, from professional to vernacular, documentary to art, personal to public, and from the literal to the mythological. For now, the only expectation I have for this project is that it will be a process of unraveling my subconscious, working toward a non-linear, non-literal collection of images that unveils an underlying personal mythology.

-Peter Earl McCollough

Peter Earl McCollough was born in Billings, Montana, in 1982 and grew up in Davis, California. Shortly after turning 18, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where he served from 2000-2004. After being honorably discharged he began studying photography in Sacramento. In 2008, after transferring to Ohio University, he received a Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication with an emphasis in Photojournalism.

He is currently a freelance photographer and aspiring cinematographer based in San Francisco. In his off time he likes to paint, especially watercolors, and work on his street photography. More photos can be seen on his website: http://www.petermccollough.com/.