The Blank Page
We have all been there: staring at the blank page, toying with the lens cap, and not feeling the impulse to pick up the kit bag. Hence, I wanted to share techniques and ideas for photography that I have used to become inspired – as well as some that I would like to try.
Writers Block by Vince Kusters, 2008.
Any low point will pass, but it's worthwhile to have ideas to kick-start your imagination and take you out of your slump.
I believe that there are two ways to overcome your creative block. One can be characterised by focusing inward, narrowing and becoming more profound, and the other by opening out, exploring in a more expansive and outward-facing way. Here are some techniques that will hopefully offer relief in moments when you lack inspiration.
This is a way of stripping everything back and building it up again.- One-minute meditation
Go into detail. Look at what's happening on a micro level. Take time to think about one of your past works or a subject matter you often photograph by staring at it for one minute. Every time your mind strays, bring it back. You can also start to analyse the photo and the object together: one minute on each. Then think about the feelings, essence and characteristics of each. Do they have the same presence? If not, try to work out how to make your next photograph depict that essence more.
Limestone Statue of Scribe by Boston Public Library, William Vaughan Tupper Scrapbooks Collection, Volume 26: Lower Egypt. Pyramids, c 1860-1890.
- Rules and limitations
Set yourself some parameters. Doing so will challenge you and eliminate many decisions. You could look for photos relating to one particular colour or focus purely on representing a pattern. My series The colours of Emotion deals only with colour fields, and I've found it an excellent way to focus down compositionally. Many of the images in that series are quite maximalist, even though they have limited subject matter.
- Sensuality and simplicity
Lose yourself in something simple but tactile or sensual in another way. Follow in the footsteps of the Old Master painters: Challenge yourself to photograph white linen, compose the folds over light, and embark on a journey through a fabric landscape. I applied a similar approach when thinking about my Illusion series. It used totally different subject matter but was equally a journey into seeing the extraordinary within the ordinary objects and scenarios around me.
Linen Duvet and Pom Pom Pillow Detail Texture by Lynn Friedman, 2013.
This is a way of working under another sort of control. Set out to photograph only one type of object or scene, and do it in the same methodical way each time. Bernd and Hilla Becher's photos of pitheads and water towers impacted contemporary art and changed perceptions of built landscapes. The Bechers were also influential as professors, counting Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth among their students. There is a good chance of humour in this approach, as you can see in these beautifully shot images of faces in things by brothers Francios and Jean Robert's Instagram.
Installation shot of the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition showing a series of photographs by Bernd and Hilla Becher by Allan Harris, 2016.
- Don't blame the tools
We can become a bit too embroiled in the tech collection, and sometimes – if things are not going great inspiration-wise – you start to feel that the tools are not working so well for you anymore. Counteract this by going back to basics; Go out with an old camera (your original camera if you still have it) or a simple piece of kit rather than your normal one. Take joy in making the photo work within your means.
This is a chance to step outside your norm and introduce difference and risk.
- Introducing chance
Stand at your front door and take a photo. This is the first in a series. Toss a coin, and if it's heads, go left; if it's tails, go right. Depending on your environment and how much you want to stretch your legs, you can decide on an appropriate distance interval for continuing. I suggest you try taking 30 paces, stopping, tossing the coin, and finding a shot to take to the left or the right, depending on how it falls. Take your time to look around and compose yourself. This is the second image in your series. Carry on. See where your trip and coin toss will take you and build a series of images as you go. Suppose you want to read more about chance in art and see examples of exercises and artworks. In that case, this is a beautiful post on the Photo Pedagogy website, entitled Searching for the miraculous: Serious Play.
Coin Toss by Grant Tarrant, 2007.
- Opening up
Tell someone you lack inspiration. What's the worst that could happen? Do they share their stories of trying to get motivated? Have a conversation and rig it so something will float your boat. Think about calling a fellow photographer, asking how everything is going, and listening to what they have been working on lately. Or get in touch with someone who isn't artsy and ask what they are excited about this week to get your thoughts going.- The wealth of resources
Take time for yourself to explore the digital corridors, display cases and archive boxes of museums. Through this Google platform, you can visit the Uffizi in Florence and the Guggenheim in New York – their photography collection is brilliant and includes some really exciting photos by artist and teacher Josef Albers.- How far can a photo go?
What could be more inspiring than thinking about how a photograph could change the world? In a previous blog, I spoke about images that were the iconic communication of their time. These images changed the world to some extent because they drew attention to important subject matter. But photography is changing and shaping the world every second of every day. Check out these posts from Getty Images, which got me thinking about the responsibility and potential of an image and how its use interacts with our society. They focus on representations of the Black community and discuss how the archives can be used to take more control of history in a project led by FKA Twigs and how the contribution of transgender people has been depicted and should be shown in the future. There is so much to cherish in these photo archives and so much to learn from.- Offer something
You have the ability to take photographs. Offer that to the world, and you never know where the interaction could lead. You could make a charity's day by offering a shoot or asking them what image they need for their marketing this month, or you could get in touch with friends and family and ask them if they have anything they would like to capture. It could be a chance to learn why your neighbours are so delighted by their newly blooming flowers that they want a record of them. This is also a good way of building artistic friendships by exchanging photographs and telling each other the images' stories.
Photographer and visual storyteller based in Bangkok
BRYCE Watanasoponwong is a Thai-Australian photographer and visual storyteller. He is interested in producing a narrative series that evoke emotion and make a personal impact. Becoming more involved in how is photography is... read on