When I think that I have it well in hand, something always comes up and bites me. When I feel complacent about the work that I am doing something, there is always something that lets me know that I am not as in control of things as I wish I were. When it starts to break down there is a period where I feel an empty place in my creative soul. I feel unsure, and when I go out to make a photograph a hole in your soul is not what you want to feel. Writers call it “Writer’s Block,” but artists of all bents have periods of doubt. Why do I have these periods of down time? Who knows, and it is not really important. Regardless, of the reason, that feeling that I cannot just go out and make a decent photograph is not a happy time for me.
For me the solution is work. I often joke to myself, and maybe there is some truth to it, but I say that there are a certain number of bad photographs manufactured into any camera and the only way to get to the good ones is to make photographs. It channels the reasons for my lack of productivity to the camera and not my heart and mind, but that is OK as long as I don’t really believe it, but use it to get me going again. During these times, I will look back at a list of quotes that I have on my I-Pad from books that I read. These quotes often jerk my thinking in a direction that is more productive.
In his book, Imagine, Jonah Lehrer made a passing comment that resonated with me at the time and also now at a time that I can really use it. He wrote, “We need to leave behind the safety of our expertise.” Ah ha, the value of risk! All of my better images have to some element of risk. The funny thing is that one area of risk that I think about is telling the truth. I can make a photograph that follows convention all day, and I might even be able to make a decent photograph that way. However, at the end of the day, the images that speak to me the most, and that often speak to an audience the most, are those where I took a chance. It is difficult to explain, but taking a chance leads to images that expose a personal truth that makes my images stronger. Along that line, I am also drawn to what Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” To me, prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness exist when there is an absence of truth. I do not have to travel far, but the act of traveling, if even for half a day, allows me to see and think more clearly.
Maybe now with a clear head, and good light, I will be able to make a worthwhile photograph. I will let you know what I find.