When it comes to personal photography projects my creativity and output comes in waves, I wish I could produce a consistent flow of work but sometimes life gets in the way. It's no excuse and it's not a complaint... at the risk of sounding like one of those annoyingly optimistic people I actually love my life! But I also love photography for reasons I will try to express another time. So why do I get frustrated with my inconsistent lack of output and why does creativity seem to happen effortlessly one moment and not the next?
I'm certain I'm not alone in this sentiment, creative block haunts us all. I'm writing this now because I'm in the middle of a creative drought... standing parched and thirsty in the middle of dusty landscape where ideas are but a shimmering mirage on the horizon. I can barely make them out through my squinting bleary eyes let alone grasp them with my hands. As I move toward them the ideas move further away and suddenly on the ground before me is a baby crying to be fed and put to bed. When I look up the mirage is gone and I wake up to another busy day.
ONLY MYSELF TO BLAME
I'm not blaming the baby, as you might have seen my little one has been the inspiration for many of my shots but as much as I love fatherhood it does require considerable time and dedication to do it well and she will always come first, alongside my wife. I also don't work full time as a photographer, it's a hobby with some commercial work being done in my spare time and at times that spare time is not very spare. The more time I spend with a camera in my hands the more I know what to do with it creatively. When commercial jobs come in it actually sparks my creativity because I have a purpose, a brief to focus on and deliver.
They say if you need something done give it to a busy person and I understand that, the more creative work I do the more inspired I feel... one thing leads to another and suddenly I'm on a roll. It just takes a push to get that dusty rock rolling. That's where a creative challenge can really help, one of my favourites is the Instagram Weekend Hashtag Project, where the Instagram community team post a weekend challenge based on a specific theme using it's challenge specific hashtag i.e. #WHPlifeinmotion
You can't enter old work, you have to get out and shoot something new, create something that fits the theme and hashtag it to enter by the end of the weekend. The prize being the glory of a feature to the millions of @Instagram followers if you get picked as one of about 5 weekly winners. But what I love is that it gives you a focus and a platform to showcase it where people are actually really engaged, through the WHP people tend to scroll through to see others entries and you'll often get more comments and likes from others who have entered.
That's all good as a way to kick start creativity but despite best intentions I haven't entered it for ages... because I simply haven't made the time. Notice I don't say I haven't GOT the time because that's just excuses. You have to make it for yourself. I used to post a cinemagraph almost every day on my Instagram, how on earth did I do that I ask myself! I was getting in the garden at home and shooting insects and flower cinemagraphs on macro lenses, I was popping up to the park at sunset or finding all sorts of opportunities along the path of everyday life. For some reason lately I'm just not seeing those opportunities! I'm pretty sure I didn't exhaust them all... there are no doubt infinite little moments in every day that would suit a cinemagraph but it's not until I get away from everyday routine that I see those moments again.
I think I know what has become my barrier. The more I push my creativity to new heights through different techniques and in more advanced work, the more I feel I have to live up to those and improve with every single shot! I know I don't have to but it's hard to shake that feeling. Instagram is a great testing ground, it doesn't need to be the perfectly curated portfolio of your best work as some will have you believe, it's a place for me to experiment for better or worse. Some of the my absolute favourite cinemagraphs are the most basic and unplanned moments but I can be my own worst critic. Even worse than a critic, who simply pokes the judgement stick at what you've already done... the devil on my shoulder is the one criticizing what I've not even started!
GET OUT AND SHOOT
So the best way to oversome self doubt if that's what we call is to pick up that judgement stick and whack the little critic square in the butt... get back on the horse and ride right out of that damn wasteland. Stop chasing that mirage on the horizon and just pick up the camera and shoot the shit out of it with my 400mm lens! Treat every day like it's a holiday... like you've woken up in this amazing new world full of wonder, full of stunning detail and infinite loops.