|For this blog, I thought I would add only images I have never shown before and have hesitated to get out there.|
"Social media has colonized what was once a sacred space occupied by emptiness: the space reserved for thought and creativity." Mahershala Ali
The human body is fabulously equipped to respond and adapt to all types of stresses. It is designed with primal signals that tell us when to eat, drink, eliminate waste or sleep. These signals alert us to impending physical danger, they tell us when the body has been exposed to a foreign agent and they let us know when the body needs rest. Without any outside influences, we could probably survive quite well by just listening to our bodies. In a way, athletes and wilderness trekkers have learned to do that. Those who refuse to listen to their bodies end up in some kind of trouble, be it injury or sickness.
What does any of that have to do with photography? If you are a photographer, have you ever wondered what your photos would look like if you were totally insulated from outside influences? Imagine your work if you were never exposed to another photographer's work or never read an ad for camera equipment? Imagine it being just you and your camera. Think about that for a minute.
No doubt, your photography (your art) has been influenced by others. Indeed, sometimes we catch ourselves wanting to emulate another's style or go to that iconic place where so many others have photographed. When we are feeling dull, it can be difficult to avoid falling into the habit of repeating someone else's work. It is especially at this time when listening to your inner photographer's voice becomes so essential. We hear it all the time from other photographers giving advice - "find your uniqueness - set yourself apart from the rest". Easy to say, but kind of hard to do, if you do not remove the clutter of outside influences. To get to the heart of your photography, you must listen to your inner photographer for the sake of creativity. And in order to do that, you have to believe in it enough so that you don't allow outside influences to smother it to death. And you have to nourish it.
Are outside influences always bad? Or can they be useful to grow your unique creativity? Absolutely they can! Just like the information we get about nutrition and exercise, we can make use of much of it to help us stay healthy and live a long life. We learned that smoking is bad for our health. Likewise, we learned that hand-holding a camera during long exposure is bad when we want a sharp image. As with nutrition and exercise, in photography we learn so much from other photographers who are willing to teach and share their expertise, which makes us better photographers.
Regarding nutrition and exercise, I see others who live their lives with robust health and strong bodies. You think, "Wow, what are they doing to be so healthy?" These people inspire us to eat well and be physically active. Likewise, I view hundreds of images, sometimes in one day. And there are dozens of photographers whose work is just so amazingly stunning and high quality. I figure they must be doing something right and I'd like to know how they do it.
The difficult task comes when envious thoughts get in the way. Sometimes I find myself feeling totally inadequate because I believe I do not have the experience, skills or camera equipment to be that good. Nor do I have the money or capacity to travel to all these iconic locations. These are the negative thoughts that smother our creativity.
Fact is, each of us has a unique creativity, it's just a matter of paying attention to it and believing in it. The more you photograph, the more confidence you gain in your own creativity. And this in turn allows you to use those outside influences to feed, not starve that creativity. Instead of viewing the photographer whose iconic shots are always eye popping and who seems to always be in the right place at the right time as someone you want to be, study his or her images and learn lighting and composition that can be applied to your own work. Instead of dwelling on the fact you don't have the latest camera that everyone seems to be using and costs three times as much as the one you currently own, think about how you can make the most from the camera you have at hand to nourish your creativity.
As a final thought, good health is basic and does not have to cost a lot of money; but to have it, you need to filter out the misinformation and more importantly, listen to your body. Unique creativity is basic and does not have to cost a lot of money; but to have it, you need to filter out the misinformation and more importantly, listen to your inner photographer.
By the way, if you enjoyed this article, I have a post from several years ago that is very relevant to this topic and may be of interest to you. Check it out!