I’ve been fussing and moaning about the lack of space in my life for photography at present. Although my estrangement from the camera continues (and is still wearing on me), today I’d like to be a bit more proactive and share with you a little trick I’ve developed to reboot my vision when it crashes.
Whenever I set out to shoot, I need to warm-up. Depending on my mood, my environs, and the amount of time that has elapsed since my last effort, this preliminary phase of firing off a bunch of shots that just-ain’t-quite- right can last for a few moments or a few hours. If I’ve got the time, I have to give myself a little grace and know that eventually I will wander into the zone. However, when I’m pressed and in desperate need of a creative release, I’ve got to accelerate the process. To do so, I try to put myself in an “overload space” — a place with too much to see and sort through, a location that defies conventional presentation. Think thrift stores, dollar stores, street fairs and flea markets. In these spaces, visual eclecticism prevails. Things that don’t belong together are nestled into nooks and spread out ironically across every available surface. Eras and styles merge. Art, history, and consumerism clash. Odds are ends and ends are odd. It’s difficult not to see some kind of story in these places. What’s more, the images usually present themselves in fairly short order.
A few weeks ago I did just that. I set out to do some street shooting, but it had been too long since my last serious effort and I felt clumsy. Other things were weighing on my mind, and I felt the acute pressure of very limited time. The light was gray and poor. I had the “wrong” lens. I felt myself cramping. But just as I was about to give up and give in to defeat, I dragged my feet past a thrift shop. My little trick came to mind, so I spun around and went inside.
No, these not are revelatory images. But they got me shooting and, more importantly, composing. For that reason alone, I appreciate them.
Think this is the photographic equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel? You might be right. But you probably shouldn’t sweat it. When you need to jump start your creativity, don’t be picky. Don’t burden yourself with exacting standards. Give yourself a little boost and a free pass. Don’t waste time searching for the key to a locked door — just find an open one and walk on through. Once you’re on the other side of your own resistance and you’ve built some momentum, you can travel into less charted territory. Build your confidence before building your masterpiece. And even if you don’t turn out a portfolio-worthy image, you’ll at least have practiced your craft and maybe even found a treasure among the trash.