A friend of mine came to stay not long ago. I hadn’t seen in her in about 18 months so we had plenty to catch up on. In between visiting Bennetts of Mangawhai (our local boutique chocolate shop), coffees and wine we managed to walk the Mangawhai Coastal Clifftop walk. The walk has some magnificent sea views spanning across to the Hen and Chicken islands and if you time the tide right you can walk back along the beach.
We reached the northern point of the coastal track and the tide had not receded as much as we needed to get through. So we pulled up a rock each, sat in the sunshine, had a snack and started chatting.
Eventually we got on to the topic of my photography. I explained that I had been struggling for a while and not finding any joy in even picking up the camera. When I did, it was always in fits and starts and with no real purpose - I felt like I should be taking photos but I really didn’t see the point anymore.
We discussed the role of social media, the ‘likes’ and ‘hearts’ that are chased these days to validate someone’s worth and how my mindset was such that I had pigeon holed myself as a landscape photographer that should only take photos of specific things, because that was what people wanted. My passion was gone!
My wonderful friend then asked me, what I would do if I could photograph whatever I wanted to, not just what I thought everyone expected. Then the ‘likes’ and ‘hearts’ wouldn’t matter, they would be just an added bonus, because I was doing what I enjoyed. Was that it? Was that all I needed to do? Just photography what I enjoyed?
By this stage the tide had receded enough for us to continue our journey along the beach. As I walked, I began ruminating over what I wanted to do and promised myself that I would work on discovering just what it was that I enjoyed photographing!
Over the following weeks, I scoured the Internet for inspiration and ended up ordering a book 'The Soul of the Camera' by David duChemin, a Vancouver based photographer. The book’s arrival coincided with a weekend on my own. It was just the cats, the book and me!
Within the first 30 minutes I was excited. The table of contents lists topics like The Discovery of Vision, Respect for the Creative Process, Abandon Perfection, The Rejection of Comparisons, Authenticity and The Role of the Audience. This last topic was one that resonated strongly with my current state of mind. DuChemin talks about understanding your audience, communicating their language but keeping in mind that you can’t communicate with everyone. He discusses the idea that the audience has minimal input on what photographers/artists want to say but that it still is an important consideration. He explained that, “
The moment I decide to create my work first for your approval, and not because it scratches some creative itch within me, I have lost!”
This is exactly how I had become lost. I had not been creating for me but instead for external approval. This awareness is liberating. Knowing this now, I can begin to photograph what I enjoy!
Now, where's my camera?
Have you ever fallen into this trap? Are you in this trap at the moment or do you have other types of creative blocks? I would love to hear your thoughts.