Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Inspiration and Work

Two related things I see people talking about. The first is inspiration and where to find it, the second is projects 52 or 365.

Frequently the answer proposed for a lack of the former is the latter.

I am wonderfully unsympathetic all around, as I have kids and therefore very little time to work on photographic projects. I am generating ideas for projects faster than I can execute them and therefore always have a deep backlog of things to be shooting. I never ever ever have to just wander around waiting for something to catch my eye.

When you say you're lacking inspiration, I simply don't believe you. What you are lacking is work ethic. A gram of inspiration can be turned into a tonne of work, and arguably should be.

A problem with p365s and the like is that they are not actually a single large project. A p365 is 365 tiny projects, each of which goes nowhere. In the same way when someone goes seeking 'inspiration' all too often he is asking to be told some thing to shoot. Given a solution, he shoots the thing, and then it's over and he's back to asking people on the internet for inspiration.

Don't waste inspiration. Use work to expand it into something that will sustain you. No, it's not all fun. There's a lot of 'oh crap it's raining, time to go shoot that God Damned tulip again.' But if you're serious, you do that.

If you're some 500px landscape guy shooting vibrant colorful sunsets, maybe you drove two hours to a new beach. WOW! You are so inspired! Do not spend an hour setting up and testing and screwing on your thrice cursed Lee Big Stopper all to make a set of the bracketed exposures which you will HDR together into the usual candy-coated mess.

Just don't.

You've spent two hours driving, you're going to spend two more getting home. There is no prize for driving the most miles for the fewest pictures.

Shoot and keep shooting. You came here for inspiration. Now it's time to work. So, work.

Open. Your. Eyes.

What do you see? Shoot it. What do you love? What makes you feel, or react, or think? You're on the seashore two hours from home, do NOT tell me that the only thing you love is that one crappy sunset, the only thing you feel is the same shitty picture of the big rock in the foreground and the promontory curving around and jutting out into the frame exactly 2/3 of the way up, with the sun setting just off where the lend ends.

Look at that rock, that shell, that flotsam. What about those pebbles? The way the waves break around that point.

If you're paying attention to you'll shoot a bunch of different things. Maybe you'll get your sunset too. If you're doing it right you'll find a bunch of things you need to come back again for, in the morning, or the fog, or the rain, or all three, or some other reason entirely.

Much of it will be crap, but there should be more than one thing that's not, or at least more than one thing that has the potential to be something.

Now you're turning your inspiration into something. You're turning it in to work, and a lot of it. Ideally, that work will turn in to some pictures that express something.

How many pictures are you going to need to express your reaction to this special place? Plan it out. You'll look at the pictures you took over and over, the plan will change, but your job is to force it to converge on some goal, done final result other than 'stick them on flickr and wait for the faves to roll in.'

Ultimately, it's about having some goddamned respect for your subject, and not reducing it to a single stupid frame that could have been shot anyways.

Work. Just work.

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