I have a lot of respect for the power of words. As the year comes to an end I’ve been thinking a lot about what comes next. Both personally, for the blog and my own creative life. Like many of the readers of this blog I struggle with keeping my creativity going. I appreciate posts like the one from James on using art books to stimulate creativity.
One of my favorite books to stimulate my own creativity is The Photographer’s Playbook. I’ve been feeling lost lately so I turned to this trusty book of photography assignments. I wanted to revisit an earlier exercise by Cig Harvey: Ideas into pictures, a two part assignment. Because I believe in the power of words, I really enjoyed this task when I first completed it in March 2016. It reminds me of the surrealists use of automatic writing to unlock the subconscious. The other reason I wanted to revisit this assignment was to see if anything had changed in my perspective in the intervening two years.
I’m Still a Seeker
Honestly, I wasn’t surprised to find out that I am still a seeker. I always seem to be asking questions. There are more questions than answers in my world. The biggest difference this time was the nature of the questions. They were much more specific. Change is a big part of my world right now. There are outside forces combining to rock my world and push me outside my comfort zone. Decisions need to be made. Ones that will have huge, long term impact on my day to day life. Needless to say, I’m looking for answers.
So I turned to words, because like I said earlier, there is power in words.
“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it until it begins to shine.” Emily Dickinson
The first part of the assignment is to sit down and start writing. Write whatever comes into your head. If you don’t know where to start, start by describing what you’re doing and simply see where it goes. Let the words flow. Keep writing even if you get stuck. Write fast and don’t worry about spelling or sentence structure or what you’re saying. Let the words spill out. Keep writing until there are no words left.
After you complete this task, take a five minute break. Once you’re ready, read over your words and see if a concept, a theme, or an idea jumps out at you. Try to be specific about the word that you choose. This word will anchor your photographic journey.
Once you have your word grab a large sheet of paper and start free associating words that relate to your chosen word. Do this for at least 20 minutes. Choose words that fall under the following categories: metaphors, symbols, gestures, weather, animals, landscapes, emotions, light, depth of field, palette, frame, format and motion.
“At the end of our session you will have an unconventional shooting map – a place to begin if you are a constructor of pictures, or a heightened -awareness list of what to be searching for if you are a finder of pictures. ” – Cig Harvey
Since I began selling my art I’ve been getting more and more confused about what I should be photographing. The types of photos that play well on social media are not necessarily the ones that people want to hang on the walls of their homes. Or at least not the customers I’ve been attracting. As I look through my past images I discard 95% of them as not having anything to say. With seeker as my word, I’m not just on a journey, I’m on a journey for knowledge and meaning. Now I need to create work that reflects this deep desire.
I’ve been toying with an idea for a grand project. A year long project not unlike Kristina’s 52 weeks of reflections. This project will either be a stepping stone to something larger or it may be the end of my time as a toy photographer. Only time will tell.
If you’re find yourself stuck or in need of inspiration, I highly recommend this assignment. If you’re short on photography time, but still want to move your work forward, I highly recommend this assignment. It doesn’t take nearly as long as setting up a studio photo. This is the kind of assignment that can be done in between those pesky adult responsibilities. In addition, with 2018 looming large on the horizon, wouldn’t it be nice to start out the year with a shooting map? Who knows where you might end up!
Yes, there is magic and power in words.
“Words create worlds.” Pierre du Plessis