View Full Version : How to keep the love of photography burning
As much as all of us love cameras and photography most of us have had creative slumps when the thought of picking up a camera seems like a tedious task and it's left on the shelf for days, weeks, months - or in some cases years.
I went through such a slump myself and mine lasted for about two years.
[Stepping back in time to 1997]
In 1997-98 I bought my first 'real' camera and started taking a lot of photos. Things went really 'well' for me - within a year or so I was invited to exhibits, sold prints, was featured on a number of online sites - even had a spread in a photo magazine and a contact with a curator about a gallery exhibit.
But - for some reason that took the 'fun' out of photography for me. Sure it was thrilling and a huge ego boost but suddenly I felt that I was taking photos for 'an audience' and not for myself.
So I stopped taking photos.
Didn't take a single photo apart from family snaps for about two years. Then for some reason or the other I caught 'the bug' again in about 2001-02 but had a really hard time finding what I would consider the ability to 'see' again. So - I bought myself a new camera. For me it was a Hasselblad. It was 'different' enough so that I didn't feel that I was 'competing' with the old me and I fell in love with the technical aspects of the camera as well.
I also started reading and looking at photography again. The only "negative" thing is that I found rangefinders and started to acquire a number of them ;-) (Looking back and trying to be somewhat analytical I think my 'camera collecting' is a way to move the focus away from the creative aspects of my photography which I am still not overly happy about :-)).
So - back to the original topic: How does one go about keeping the love of photography burning?.
I personally managed to get excited about photography by two main changes;
a) Getting a new camera.
I know it sounds stupid and probably something many people would take offense to recommending. But - it worked for me.
A new 'toy' is always exciting and if you're able to use that excitement and transform it into using the camera on a more regular basis you're halfway there.
b) Reading and looking
Read magazines, books - and online photoforums. Look at photos at exhibits, books and online. See what others have seen. Borrow other people's eyes by studying their photos and become critical of your own work.
Once again a recommendation that some people would argue with as photography is also 'to have fun' and 'be happy with what YOU accomplish'. Personally I thrive on challenging myself and I find many others with that same drive. To NOT be happy with your work is sometimes just what you need to go out there again and again and again - and loving every minute of it.
I would also like to thank members on this forum for such a friendly and informal place to hang out, talk cameras and photos and see some great images.
I hope that photography in some way, shape or form will be part of my life for the rest of my life.
Would be interested in hearing other people's stories about slumps they've had and how/if they got out of it and back to photography.
How to get out of a slump...
Being a sufferer of eternal equipment envy, I feel like I've been cycling through gear faster than through rolls of film in the last couple of years. But in my case this perpetual gear change drew my attention away from what photography is all about. To such an extent even, that I've gotten to a point where I thought 'why bother?'
About half a year ago, when everybody around me seemed to be moving to digital SLRs, I decided for once not to buy new stuff, but instead to puff these buying urges away by doing a small project.
Pictures didn't have to be perfect: I restricted myself to a single lens, and I didn't worry too much about focus, sharpness and exposure. The only important thing was to create a short story and to find images that go along with it.
For me, this was what worked, topic first, minimal gear and a challenge..
If you're interested (which you're probably not) the result is here:
That night they landed (http://www.photo.net/photodb/presentation.tcl?presentation_id=226996)
Peter, I like the project a lot - would like to see even more :-)
I also spent a year just using one 50mm fixed lens. I think it's good for your 'photographic soul' to do so :-)
Thanks for sharing
I think the beneficial effect of "new toys" is that in exploring their nature, we may find new ways to see; hopefully we'll find that they help us do whatever we've been trying to do...
There are also some unusual technical tricks you can try with photograpy to sort of shock yourself out of the rut... Diana camera, fisheye lens, radical filters, multiple exposures, deliberate motion blur, etc etc.
But ultimately I think we need to develop a message, an attitude that comes through, a theme. If we have nothing to say, the pics won't "speak" coherently.
I think that's been my problem all along. Too comfortable and rational a lifestyle! Artists of whatever media seem to have a compulsion to create, a message is burning within them, often born of a troubled life. Unbalanced priorities lead to further poor life decisions, for a continued messed-up life that seems to feed back into the creative process.
So what was Ansel Adams's problem? Ya got me! But consider Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, even Edward Weston.
I seem to get into a rut when I haven't been able to explore new places for some time. I'm exhausting my terra incognito here in my hometown (at least in the districts that I find appealing and feel happy shooting in) and it's becoming boring to see and shoot the same old things. I now have to expand my range further and further around my hometown, which takes more time and more resources. I shoot photos only when I'm taking a walk; the walk is the means to my photography. I can't set myself to do an assignment and focus solely on that. I need variation and another activity to push me on with my photography, and when I get bored with shooting I still have the walking as activity. Shooting gives me an excuse to rest once in a while, linger a bit longer here and there, and often dictates where my feet will go).
In the past few years I've been fortunate to be able to get out of the country 3 or 4 times a year for up to a month. As I was going to the same places each time I had time and opportunity to explore these places in much more detail than would be possible on a regular holiday. In the last year I've been prevented from going away much and it is having its effect on my shooting. The nice thing for me about going away is the new opportunities these places offer, but also that I come back home with a new spirit and renewed energy.
I never stopped taking photos, but as rsilverberg said, for some time it has been little more than family. Recently, after getting another of a camera I used years ago, it has started getting intrigueing again. I purchased a nice little Welta Welti off ebay. It is small and folds up even smaller. It has good optics. A Gossen Luna Pro isn't too difficult to carry around with it. It is fun to use. I also just purchased a Welta 645 folder. It looks like fun also. I am starting to just take photos because I can and a particular photo "looks" like fun.
Yeah, I can see where getting a "new" camera could help.
It is almost impossible to shoot continuously and not run into a wall at some point , :bang:
I've wanting to use this little guy for a long time :D
For some people buying a new camera works, for others a chance of scenery is enough.
I have a small business doing wedding, where all my cameras are "the latest, greatest super auto do everything super duper models", can you spell "mental atrophy", so what I do to keep my mind sharp is to step back and use the oldest simples cameras that I can find, let that be a view camera, a Twin Lens Yashica 124G or my newest acquisition a Polaroid 195 with a Rodestock lens, a Polaroid rangefinder.
The thing that I like about that camera is that I get to make the decisions as oppose to the camera, so there is a challenge and I can truly demonstrate my ability, secondly old cameras are a conduit to social interaction, if you do street photography and pull a Polaroid, you can always give the picture to the person, or if you take someone's portrait with their permission get their name and address and send them a print, they will be grateful and you will get a lot of satisfaction being able to share your work.
Right now I'm working on a number of project, none of which are on my website (eventually will) and take on projects all the time, and complete them as time goes by, and don't try to rush anything otherwise they become work.
Look around you'll be surprise at all the possibilities that are just beyond your door.
I have been engaged with photography since the late 1950s and since then have always loved cameras and the creative processes of photography. Over time I believe I have developed considerable knowledge and skill as a photographer. But I have never taken pictures as a daily or weekly routine. I take pictures when I am inspired to take them. When I am conducting anthropological research in Latin America I shoot many rolls a week. When I am at home teaching classes, grading exams and term papers, and tending to the bureaucratic demands of the university, I can go for months without taking a single photograph. My mood also affects my photography. When I am sad or depressed I don't take pictures. For me, the act of taking pictures is an act of optimism, a reaffirmation of one's interest in life. And I have to feel that way to photograph.
i couldn't have said it better richard.
i have slumps that are scary, seem to last forever and make me want to quit shooting altogether.
at best i have a hard time convincing myself that i have any talent at all and that the world would be a better place if i sold all my equipment and bought a colouring book or two.
i find the worst times are when i can't remember why i like to photograph in the first place or i can't remember if i ever had anything to 'say'. i fear getting into the 'pretty picture' way of seeing.
part of my problem lately is that i have become obsessive about a particular part of town and that's the only place i go to shoot. i have been returning there for 20 years but i used to mix it up and try other areas of town too. i think i need to move around again.
buying a new camera has helped me too. i'm excited about learning to use it and enjoy the feel of something new in my hands. unfortunately, i am part of the working poor and need to sell old stuff in order to buy new stuff. it would be nice to have some of that old stuff still.
i too enjoy this forum, knowing that there are others out there that enjoy rf cameras and are not in need of every new slr or lens thats comes along. i like that people here also enjoy the feel and look of old rf cams and actually use them too. i'm not knocking slrs but i also don't need them for what and how i like to shoot.
anyway - i seem to be rambling...
My best to Nikki, I'm sure that she will treasure her pictures.
As far as your question about my new "mint" camera, let me put it this way, the other day I was trying the camera out and one guy told me that the last time he saw a camera like mine was in a museum, :( then I asked him if I could take his picture along with his family ;) , the print blew him away, is a very nice camera but I'm going through some growing pains with the negatives.
Is actually a 195 modified, it has a Rodestock lens which can render an incredible sharp image, and a Leica finder, is similar to the newer 195 that retail for close to 800 bucks and a lot of fun to use it, Ill post some images when I get the hang of it.
Attached is a picture of what the model, I grabbed that one from the net, mine looks a noth different.
I've gone into slumps... and only came out of them by traveling abroad. New equipment only holds some appeal when I'm going to get it for a particular purpose.
Right now, I'm in a kind of "creative" slump... so I turned to scanning old slides and looking at prints I need to file. It kind of helps to get your critical juices flowing again! Oddly enough, rolls last a lot longer in my cameras now. :)
There you go Brian, as requested, note that the lens has the shutter build on it, on the picture of the camera you will notice that the back shutter has been removed.
The complete setup loaded with 665 Polaroid
Change is good.
I got into slumps. Photography is sensitive to where I spend my time, because everywhere I go I take pictures, and if I'm poor (sadly, I own a house, so I've been poor OFTEN as of late) I don't get to do much outside my rut.
Last year I decided to change that, though, and have made projects- lists of things I want, and any "spare time" I have that I dedicate to photography can be for a specific purpose, or it can be off the list of projects.
Nice day for motorcycling and I vaguely feel like taking pictures for an hour? Fine! Bring along the Leica or Kiev and do some street shooting in Chagrin Falls, paying attention to something obvious out there, like other bikers or attractive people.
Nasty day and a strong desire to take pictures? Close-up lenses on the Universal and grab some macro (or more than macro) shots of something interesting around the house- engine parts work well, anything that wears out also wears in character.
Evening with friends demand cameras.
I've discovered that with a lack of money, I'm far more likely to spend what I have on film and processing, rather than new equipment. A new camera can certainly increase my interest for a while, but I got into a cycle where I was getting new equipment just to get it, and never fully played with it. I've made a pledge to buy nothing new, or nothing outside what I have (I've already one Kiev body, I'm getting another from Oleg for the Gelios 103 lens and to have a "wide" body around my neck instead of having to change and store lenses)
It's all good. I've two rolls of IR in the 'fridge I'm dying to try out. This Fourth of July might be a good time for them.
New (old) equipment may help, yes. Auto assignments may work also, yes. But in the end I think it's all about going out there and doing something.
My favorite shots have almost always come from occasions when I've 'broken the rules' doing something I usually don't do (or going somewhere I usually don't go).
Once something falls into a routine, the magic is gone. My last weeks have been a routine, so I've just got some junk rolls :rolleyes:
PS: and my best to Nikki too.
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