Authors call it “writer’s block”. I don’t know a good term for the photographic equivalent, but I have had it in spades the last few weeks. I shouldn’t be surprised — after all, no matter what creative outlet you choose to pursue, there will always be times when you just aren’t making it happen the way you want.
My photography has been on a steady decline since January. January was a month where I was really starting to push my limits as a photographer. I was taking advantage of some warmer weather and the long evenings to get out and do a lot of long exposure work and try and get a little more creative. The results weren’t spectacular, but they were workable. They certainly were better than the images I was producing even a year earlier after just purchasing my dSLR.
Then something happened. Like the hands on a clock, some things happen so slow, so subtly that you don’t even notice they are taking place until after they have already happened. My ideas slowed. I was no longer seeing every day objects and locations as places where I could do something creative with light. Sure, I was still snapping away on road trips and doing lots of “snapshots”, but I wasn’t producing “photographs” — and in my mind there is a real distinction. I was still recording the places and events of my life through the lens, but I wasn’t producing anything that I would add to my photographic legacy — those images that you just KNOW will last throughout the years.
The road trip to Alderson was OK. The night shoot in Priddis produced at least one serviceable image, but there wasn’t that special something that was driving me any longer. I slumped. That slump lasted an entire month. And, much like a professional athlete, the more I tried to force it the worse it got. Ideas weren’t coming, the creative juices weren’t flowing, and my enjoyment level stopped.
Then, something happened — a simple throwaway shot taken with my crappy iPhone camera. I didn’t think anything of it at first. I came home from work, opened the garage door and discovered Shirley had piled two bags of garbage on the trunk of the car. I sort of chuckled to myself, and pulled out my phone to snap a shot as I am prone to doing. I still didn’t really think much of it until I posted it to my Facebook profile with a caption along the lines of “Things Wives Do That Should Be Against the Law.”
Well, almost immediately something happened. One comment came in. Then another comment came in. I would respond and then another would come in. It’s been nearly 24 hours since the original posting and things are just settling down now. I believe this has generated the most discussion of any posting I have ever put on a social networking site.
Much like my style of comedy, I can’t plan for it — I just go with the flow and react to the current situation and run with it. When I try to be “on” it doesn’t happen. I need to realize that perhaps my photography should be the same way. Don’t take it seriously and remember it is supposed to be fun. Does this mean my creative slump is over? I don’t know about that, but I do know this:
It’s not about the image with the perfect composition and blend of colours. It’s not about capturing things at the highest resolution with great lighting. Like any creative outlet, it is about the reaction you generate. That being the case, this simple throwaway snapshot might be the best photograph I have taken in a long time.