“The Journey of a Lifetime: How Persistence Shaped My Photography Career”, by John Ferguson

As a professional photographer for over thirty years, I assert that persistence is one of the keys to anyone’s success, no matter what business you might be in. Even during lean years, when the thought of giving up loomed large, I stuck with it. Innately, I knew that persistence was essential for realizing our dreams. Through failure and persistence, we understand the actual value of success and appreciate the importance of time, effort, and sacrifice.

John Ferguson – Black Britannia – English National Ballet’s first black dancer

Photography will never make me rich, but it has provided me with a good living and allowed me to travel the world with my cameras.

During times when I considered leaving photography for something less stressful, I realized there wasn’t anything else I would rather do.

I photographed sailor H.E. Ross on his houseboat in Woodbridge, Suffolk. The images are part of a 20-picture-led story project showcasing individuals from the Black community and their experiences living in a predominantly white rural county in East England. The Ipswich Museum acquired the project to become part of its permanent collection.

I’ve always wanted to be a photographer, and I still love what I do. Through my work, I meet some wonderful, extraordinary people. Photography has served me well. Having traveled to nearly 60 countries, my camera has served as a passport to a world I might never have experienced otherwise. Along the journey, I’ve witnessed unique events and photographed many incredible people.

John Ferguson – Hurricane Katrina
A resident of Klin in Mississippi sits guard outside his home a couple of days after Hurricane Katrina had swept through his small town. Many of the town’s houses were looted after the waters subsided.

Despite the occasional financial challenges, my persistence has led to some big paydays, great commissions, and occasional awards.

Last year, I sold an extensive series of environmental portraits for a community project to my local museum. The images purchased were added to their permanent collection.

John Ferguson – Liberation Day
Liberation Day in South Sudan; men standing in 100-degree plus heat for hours on end, in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan. This very special day marked the birth of a new nation, newly separated from North Sudan.

A week later, I received an unexpected call from the museum’s head curator, offering me an exhibition at Christchurch Mansion. Initially, I thought it must be a small display of my work, but no – they wanted to produce a significant perspective from my last 30 years. Their only proviso was to keep their Constable’s original painting in place. I could live with that.

John Ferguson – Living with Albinism
My three-year project focused on individuals living with albinism. One memorable subject was 14-year-old Victoria (wearing dark sunglasses to shield her eyes from the midday sun). The Sunday Times magazine purchased the project and ran the feature over five pages.

This retrospective of my work from over 35 years of photography is an honor, and I feel very privileged to have my adoptive hometown celebrate my photography in this way. The museum has pulled out all the stops by facilitating the event. This includes involving the participation of local schools, colleges, and Universities with workshops and talks.

My start in photography came through press photography and photojournalism. I began my journey as a black-and-white printer, then became a junior photographer, before becoming a staff photographer for my Press Agency near London’s national newspapers district on Fleet Street.  In the 1980s, I spent many years as a newspaper photographer before securing a full-time staff position at the National Daily Mirror newspaper. My work caught the eye of then-editor Piers Morgan.

John Ferguson – Matt -Suicide Note
I was recently approached to work with a gambling addiction charity. I was to produce a series of visual stories and interviews with the charity’s past clients, telling their stories and talking about their issues and dangers of online gambling. This photograph is of Matt in his bedroom. He reached a very low point in his life when his gambling spiraled out of control; his written suicide note to his daughter can be seen behind him on his bedroom wall. Luckily for Matt, the charity helped him overcome his issues with therapy and support. Matt is still in recovery.

While at the Mirror, I covered many significant stories, from British royalty and government to international entertainment events and significant world conflicts. I was also fortunate to cover many major sporting events worldwide.

However, working with international NGOs gave my work more meaning and showed me how my photography could speak louder and be more effective. I learned to interact differently and reflect on situations using my camera to create and share experiences, issues, and stories.

John Ferguson – Michael Jackson in London
A photo opportunity organized by the then Harrods’ department store owner, Mohammad Al-Fayed. Before photographing Michael, I was fortunate to enjoy a chat and pot of tea with him.

This experience, along with many others over the last twenty-five years, has shaped my work towards a more cultural and community-focused approach.

The exhibition will run for ten months, with opportunities to display other images from my archive and a fantastic new commission awarded as part of the exhibition.

John Ferguson – Pele – the world’s greatest soccer player
I photographed Pele for an interview article in Geneva, Switzerland. This is one of my favorite pictures. At the time of this picture, he was being measured for a new soccer boot, and the manufacturer’s marketing and promotional team was there to talk with him and measure his feet.

Persistence truly pays off. Keep your vision and work on your goals, and the harder you work at your passion, the luckier you’ll become.

Follow this link for more info; I’d love to see you there sometime.

John Ferguson – Poverty in America
My image shows Clarence in his beat-up old Cadillac, which he found abandoned and then ‘hot-wired’. He uses the car as an unofficial taxi, ferrying people around a small town in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. I visited six of America’s poorest states to report on life below the poverty line in America.

Every year we release four quarterly printed editions of FRAMES Magazine. Each issue contains 112 pages printed on the highest quality 140g uncoated paper. You receive the magazine delivered straight to your doorstep. We feature both established and emerging photographers of different genres. We pay very close attention to new, visually striking, thought-provoking imagery, while respecting the long-lasting tradition of photography in its purest incarnation. Learn more >>>

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