Being a creative photographer is easy
Lately I’ve been having some trouble with creativity. A writer’s block, if you like. It happens.
And that’s the thing: it DOES happen, and when it does it’s a few days of having a bad day. It’s annoying, but ‘being creative’ isn’t something that you can force. Every artist, and every photographer hits this wall at some time or another, and it will happen more than once.
How you deal with it is what counts. It can be the difference between sink or swim.
Due to some personal stuff I’ve been going through I’ve found that…. wait!
It’s easy to pass the buck here and blame SOMETHING for getting in the way of your muse. Once you hit this target then you’ve got all the excuses you need to not have to do anything about your block. The self indulgence kills off anything that might have been left of your creative push.
Anything after that appears to be lacklustre or fake, but it’s life’s fault for getting in the way, right?
But that’s actually your golden ticket. That insight, that realisation that you have stopped trusting your mistakes points to the source of the virus: My expectations of grandeur are closing the doors on any creative ideas and I’m not allowing myself the space to see the tiny spark that becomes the flame. The seed that an idea can grow from.
Instead of letting an idea happen, I’ve been hoping that something I already know, my safe option, can develop into something better, and as is often the case, some threads just have to come to an end. Sometimes you have to cut that loose and give up the space to make room for the new.
Once you’ve given yourself some room, what you need to be able to do is play. Try stuff out, make mistakes, change your approach. It’s impossible to see things differently if you don’t change the way you look at it. It’s impossible to create something new if all you’re doing is continuing with the thing you know.
At some point I realised that a disciplined approach to the creative process is the only way of positively moving forwards. Being successful, creatively speaking, is rooted in this understanding, and trusting the process itself exposes new ways of challenging a concept or creating one.
If you can disregard the part of your ego which is really an obstruction to ‘being creative’ then you’ll have more chance of creating something original, authentic, and worthy.
Working with other people, and learning from others is a great way of trying things out and working through ideas, some of which might be good, some of which will be awful. I tend to read a lot when I’m here, or I have a friend whom I love and trust who I can turn to to talk through unfinished stories, or abandon sinking conceptual ships with. It’s invaluable to be able to dig up inspiration from others.
It’s also worth writing to somebody you don’t know for advice. I recently heard back from Nadav Kander after I suggested that I’d hit a wall. I never expected to hear anything back from one of the world’s most respected and brilliant photographers, but he sent through a few words which really flipped a switch in me.
That’s great, but the act of contacting him was enough of a charge to get my mind to snap back into gear. It’s worth doing.
For me it’s about changing something. That might be something technical (shoot only on Polaroid for one week, for example), or it might be abandoning a way of working to make way for a different approach. The important thing is that I always remember that trying too hard will suffocate me and it’s a harder barrier to get through.
When I remember that the block is not the big deal I’m making it out to be, it might just become the catalyst that produces enough of a spark to light up a whole new direction for me.