In many ways this is a companion piece to making things with meaning while at the same time was written as a kick in the pants for me – to have something to remind me that pursuing the things in life that seem to create their own energy to pull you forward is much better than chasing after something in a lackluster fashion. Anyway here goes…
Once you’ve found the thing or things that resonate with you and not only want to photograph but can’t help but photograph it seems like all issues with writers block, resistance or what have you should evaporate.
It doesn’t though does it? Here’s the deal, if you’re struggling with the resistance, writers block or whatever people are calling it this week you’re either working on the wrong thing – something that doesn’t raise you to the level of white hot and passionate and cause you to become an unstoppable force – or you’re thinking too much about the product, the audience and how will this thing that your pouring your soul into be recieved.
In both cases stop right now.
Stop working on things that you aren’t deeply commited to, that don’t pull you forward into action and more action. Time is short you need to put your energy, and I mean all of your energy, into those few things that you are truly passionate about.
I don’t think that there’s a place for audience while you’re creating the work. Shut out the chatter. In fact my experience is that if you’re truly working on the things that you’re passionate about you won’t have space to think about your audience.
You can figure out the role of audience later – in many ways this is a separate creative act. It’s called marketing.
Your goal initially is to make a lot of work and to do that as best as you’re able. Does this mean that everything that you make will be wonderful? Of course not. By cultivating a circle of friends that you trust to give you straightforward feedback on your work you can get a second and third opinions to help sort the wheat from the chaff after the fact. The more you make the better what you make will become. Keep at it, keep making. This is not a theoretical pursuit.
“If you want to make more interesting pictures, become a more interesting person.” – Jay Maisel
If part one of making things with meaning is to learn more about yourself then part two has to be all about leaning in and connecting with the world.
For me a deeper understanding of what resonates with me helps me get myself into situations that I more likely connect with. Even then I feel that the camera can be a barrier which makes me more an observer, rather than a participant in the world.
The answer to the question of ‘how to break down that barrier’ is seemingly obvious. Take time to experience the place and people that you’re going to photograph and build a relationship before rushing to grab a few shots.
Michael Kenna says that he takes time to talk to the land before he photographs, I suspect that this is his way of ensuring that barrier is broken down. It’s a good practice to take time to wander around with out the camera and see what’s grabbing your attention before racing in to photograph. Not advice I always follow myself and I can tell when I do and when I don’t.
The same goes for people too. I can’t imagine why you would want to photograph people, to make their portraits, if you’re not genuinely interested in who they are and what’s their story. Again, I think that you can tell when you look at the work from people who ‘stole’ the portraits and those who really took the time to engage.
Make photographs about things you care about and make me care too.
“Inspiration Is for Amateurs—The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get to Work”
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how small changes in habits can have a profound impact in what we are able to achieve across all aspects of our lives.
Mason Currey‘s book ‘Daily Rituals‘ is an interesting collection of observations of the daily routines of many of the great creators and provides an interesting insight into the lives of people who need to develop a body of work. What is apparent across almost all of these examples is commitment to showing up and getting to work. Not too much lolling around waiting for the muse to visit, just simply a matter of putting in the time whether they feel like it or not.
This attitude of ‘show up and do the work’ makes me realize that doing something every day, regardless of how small it is will could eventually yield substantial results. The simple act of writing 500 words everyday will mean that you will have written over 25,000 words for the year. Not too shabby.
A photo a day projects were very popular a year or two ago and seem to be unsustainable to me but doable for a month or one photo shoot a week for a year would both result in a body of work that you could do something useful with.
Changes in other parts of your life would also mean potentially useful changes. 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up had a big impact on my weight loss. Meditating before your day gets going or journaling at the end of the day could lead to more positive changes in your outlook and getting more done.
What small change could you incorporate on a daily basis that would move you in the direction of your goals?
Jump to minute 19:00 of the video below to hear Mason Currey talking about his book ‘Daily Rituals’