The past couple of months has been flat and lacking inspiration, once again my cameras are sitting gathering dust. A change of job has been the main mover behind this; however, this was unexpected, and the original plan was to give up my job and work to become a professional self-supporting photographer. What went wrong?
I have been, over the past couple of days, been trying to find the same level of inspiration that I had 4 months ago. This has had little effect even a trip to the photography show did not help. The inspiration has not been coming.
Where do we get inspiration from? It’s not simple bullets that come cascading through the atmosphere illuminating a light bulb as it hits us. That would be too easy although from time to time it does happen.
Sitting and Thinking
No this is more a sitting down and thinking slowly and feeling, well inspired, Part of this is getting out with my camera and just taking an image or 2 the rest sort of follows. But in the same way, we can get into the habit of eating too much chocolate we can also get out of the habit of taking images and the longer this goes on the less inspired we feel. It’s like writing. I write about what I know and feel at the time but from having 6 weeks of posts I now find that on a Monday night once more I am desperately seeking the inspiration to write about something, Anything.
Finally having an idea, we must follow through. This is a habit or should be. We, or rather I should set off with my gear in hand and make some images. Let’s go back a bit first. This bout of inspiration gave me a project to do. Let’s say water in the fens, so we can have some sort of continuity from last week, grab my gear and off I go to do what exactly? Stop. What story am I going to tell? How long will the project last one, 2 or 3 years maybe longer. It was, it is, a good idea. Let’s develop it a bit though.
A recent TV program I watched about the fens mentioned the constant battle with water. How do you show this is in an image? In what way do you tell the story of what could be, one-minute floods the next drought? Where and how do you find the diggers and excavators dredging the ditches to ensure the fens drain away? How does the water affect the crops that are growing and once again how can you show this?
Yet more inspiration is needed to flesh out the idea a little more. I know of some photographers that have little books in which they write or draw their ideas down. I have never had that attention to detail.
Another issue and this is a problem for a lot of people, is time. Time to get out and take images, to travel to places that could be a couple of hours away. Just to stop the world, get off and clear your head of all the rubbish that circles around inside it. Give some space to make some connections and come up with some ideas. Some say make time. Give something up and go out. As Arnold Schwarzenegger would say “shleep faster” you only need 6 hours a night. Plenty of extra time to do more stuff. More time for inspiration to come flooding in…. If only.
The connections should, hopefully, show the world in a slightly different way. Something that no one has seen before, or not seen in this particular way. An interesting way of doing this is to get words associated with your project and draw them out of a bag at random 2 or 3 at a time.
Reeds, death, bird. Wet, wind, clouds. Tree, car, hoarfrost. Grass, windmills, River. See how it goes? Now make an idea from one of those 3 sets of 3 words. A variation on this could be looking at all the things that you relate to the fens, not just objects but seasons, feelings, memories it stirs. The time of day. The list of this sort of thing is long and can be exhaustive. In the end, it is sometimes just better to get out there with a crude idea and see what happens.
One of the more bizarre things I have tried is putting some classical or new age music on and letting my mind drift. Having images flash across my mind. Seeing what they are and trying to form some sort of pattern when the music finishes. What I am normally left with are images that I can not reproduce, not because they aren’t possible but simply because I can not travel to NZ or the USA tomorrrow. But for more off the wall ideas its brilliant.
Moving from the what onto the why. Why do we take the images we do? To evoke a feeling, stir those aforementioned memories in the viewer. Satisfy our own need for storytelling. There is a narrative within an image that we put into it. It comes from all our experiences our perspectives, prejudices, likes, dislikes, phobias and values. We put in little signs and signals that other people pick up on and relate to their set of values. This makes the image relatable.
This can make finding inspiration burdensome. We suddenly feel we must make images for other people. While this is true, it is not the only reason. If it were then we would not see so many coastal rocky sunsets. With all the stresses of going out making images now to make images for other people. This must be left out of the equation. These are our own images and we tell our own stories.
However, you chose to get your inspiration to go out to make images I hope that you do not face the same drought I have felt. In an attempt to get over this lull I have purchased a notebook and all the random ideas that come up I am now noting down. The good, the bad, the downright stupid all are going in and all will be in the mix.
I think some of this may be a lack of passion for photography. I have found that talking about it and getting back involved helps with reinvigorating this passion
Thank you for reading this if you want to see some of my work when I make it, you can find it by clicking HERE