Photographer's block

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by brYan, Jan 9, 2003.

  1. brYan

    brYan Subscriber

    Messages:
    79
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2002
    Location:
    Georgia
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    For the last couple of months I have been uninspired to photograph anything. Once in a while unusual subjects will pop up or unusual lighting may appear, but nothing that really inspires me to get the camera out of the bag! If only I could focus on a subject or theme, I might be able to photograph something worthwhile. Anybody else been in this state of mind? How do you get past it?
     
  2. bmac

    bmac Member

    Messages:
    2,156
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2002
    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    I suffered through a block for over six months... what did I do? I stopped photographing for a while, and stopped reading photo magazines and concentrated on playing the guitar. I came back refreshed and did some fun self assignments. it works.
     
  3. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

    Messages:
    4,532
    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Some times I force myslef to get off my butt and go take pictures. But I agree with Brian, to just stop and let all the buld up drain away works better for me. I found those times I forced myself to photograph only produced mediocre negatives, which in turned depressed me more and made me want to take less pics.
    Sometimes the frustration of "seeing" the image in your mind and then looking and the god awful negative you just made builds up in me and I find I really need to get away to just build enthusiasm and forget all those missed opportunities.
     
  4. Aggie

    Aggie Member

    Messages:
    4,925
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2003
    Location:
    So. Utah
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    ..
     
  5. LFGuy

    LFGuy Member

    Messages:
    129
    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2002
    Wait for springtime... or, try something new like learning an alternative process or something.
     
  6. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    17,919
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I'll usually try a different format, or do something I just wouldn't normally do, if I think I'm getting stagnant.

    If large format is becoming repetitive, for instance, I'll dust off the 35mm camera and set it on automatic or load up with high-speed film and put on a pinhole lenscap, just to remind myself of what it feels like to work more spontaneously.

    Or I'll experiment with a new film. Lately I've been playing with some mystery film--35mm XX movie stock that must be at least 30 years old. It seems to do well in Dektol and has a pretty good density range despite the high base fog.

    Or if I'm just not seeing opportunities outside, I'll retreat into the darkroom and catch up on the endless printing backlog or go back over old negatives and see if I can print them better or I might find a negative that I didn't originally like but that has become more interesting in retrospect.
     
  7. LFGuy

    LFGuy Member

    Messages:
    129
    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2002
    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (David A. Goldfarb @ Jan 10 2003, 08:10 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>Or if I'm just not seeing opportunities outside, I'll retreat into the darkroom and catch up on the endless printing backlog or go back over old negatives and see if I can print them better or I might find a negative that I didn't originally like but that has become more interesting in retrospect.</td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    Indeed. As I shoot nearly all my stuff outdoors, when the weather does not cooperate and I really want to do something, I end up pulling out old negatives and usually find something interesting I missed in the past or I try those "unworkable" negatives that's easier for me to print now that I have a bit more experience doing it.

    Also, because I do landscapes, I'll sometimes try some architectural or studio shots for fun, which helps me learn.
     
  8. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,609
    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2002
    Location:
    Northern Eng
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Brian,

    I think the advice offered by Aggie is good and worth following. Perhaps you are putting to much pressure on yourself and consequently taking away the joy of making photographs. Weston was right, there are photographs to be seen all around us. His thinking inspired me to think of the following assignment to photographers attending a workshop that I do called Seeing and Using Light. On the first day I give each student 1 roll of film and ask them to use only one fixed focal length lens, go for a walk and make a photograph every 25 steps. They can walk in any direction and they can photograph in any direction each time they stop. This assignment is always met with some scepticism but after it is completed the students generally tell me how it has helped them look and see photographs. You might like to try it.

    Photographers block happens to us all so please don't despair you will overcome it.
     
  9. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,376
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2002
    Location:
    Calgary AB,
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Here is a letter from Michael Smith sent to a young photographer. I find it inspirational and touching. I had a dry spell (artistic juices just dried up) that lasted about 3 years once. Bearly took my cameras out at all. And the sad thing was I was living in a location that was photographically beautiful - the Atlantic maritimes in Canada. What I found was the pervasive atmosphere of depression from the locals finally got to me. I moved across Canada back to the west and settled in the BC interior. Well the flood gates opened!

    Generally I'm not that influenced by other peoples malase (sp), but this time I was. I will have to go back and visit during the fall and get some of those brillant colors I missed.

    Here is the link: http://www.michaelandpaula.com/letyoung.html

    Eric
     
  10. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

    Messages:
    809
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2002
    Location:
    Cary, North
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    From ridiculous to sublime. Assign yourself a subject and a deadline. If you come up dry in the idea department go to www.usefilm.com. they have a whole list of photographic assignments. It's kind of an on line camera club. You don't have to buy into the whole club thing, but they do have assignments spelled out to complete. Take what you wish and do what you wish.

    Take some time and read. Three books for you. "Art and Fear" by Ted Orland and David Bayles. Two photographers tackle the whole subject of making personal art. "Mastery. The keys to success and long-term fulfillment." by George Leonard. Sounds like a self help book. It is. Of interest to artists is the explanation of the process of learning skills complete with plateaus and dry periods. Last one is "Writing Down the Bones", by an author whose name I just can't remember right now. Its focus is writing, but if you can substitute "photography" for "writing" it still makes sense.

    You will get through this. We all do.
     
  11. brYan

    brYan Subscriber

    Messages:
    79
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2002
    Location:
    Georgia
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Thanks to everyone for the kind replys and helpful suggestions!

    I love this time of the year because of the low sun. And it's been very disheartening not being fully able to take advantage of it.

    With a planned trip to the Georgia coast very soon, let's see what tomorrow will bring.

    Thanks again!
     
  12. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

    Messages:
    3,221
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2002
    Location:
    S.E. New Yor
    Hey! What happened to my post in this thread? I posted it last night, it was here this morning, and now it's gone.

    Was I censored because I mentioned that I use Lomography as one method to overcome Photographer' block? Boy, you guys are strict! [​IMG]
     
  13. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    17,919
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I doubt it was censored unless there was something else wrong with it. Are you sure you hit the "add reply" button and not the "preview" button?
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

    Messages:
    3,221
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2002
    Location:
    S.E. New Yor
    Yes, it was definitely posted in the thread this morning. Even listed as the last post on the main Forums page.

    I'm just kidding about the censorship. I was reading the thread on photo.net censorship and figured I'd rib our apug hosts just a bit.[​IMG]
     
  16. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,102
    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2002
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm sure there's a valid reason.. but I did have a little giggle considering the topic you mention [​IMG]
     
  17. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    9,281
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2002
    Location:
    Bergen, Norw
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I set myself challenges when this happens...

    Last time I ended up shooting landscapes with a hand-held 5x7 Linhof Technika and 300mm/f:4,5 lens. That's heavy work!

    Next time I think I'll try using a disposable camera [​IMG]
     
  18. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

    Messages:
    9,157
    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2002
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Flotsam @ Jan 13 2003, 08:19 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> Yes, it was definitely posted in the thread this morning. Even listed as the last post on the main Forums page.

    I'm just kidding about the censorship. I was reading the thread on photo.net censorship and figured I'd rib our apug hosts just a bit.[​IMG] </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    Hi Flotsam, this link should explain your missing post. Was an isp thing (they moved the site to a new server but obviously not fast enough and a few posts went missing at that time -sorry):
    http://www.apug.org/forum/index.php?act=ST...iew=getlastpost
     
  19. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

    Messages:
    3,221
    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2002
    Location:
    S.E. New Yor
    No prob. I assumed that it was a technical glitch rather than the repressive, iron fist of the APUG moderators stifling my freedom of expression.

    However I would like to voice a complaint about your choice of a "wink" emoticon. It's just weird. I mean, what the heck is this? ------> [​IMG]
     
  20. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

    Messages:
    4,532
    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    You think the wink emoticon is weird? go to the chatroom and see the one giving you the finger...lol....
     
  21. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

    Messages:
    9,157
    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2002
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (Jorge @ Jan 15 2003, 09:33 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> You think the wink emoticon is weird? go to the chatroom and see the one giving you the finger...lol.... </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>

    Hey! Don't you make fun of the chatroom!
     
  22. Mark in SD

    Mark in SD Member

    Messages:
    105
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2003
    Location:
    San Diego, C
    Leave your camera(s) at home and go for a walk. Don't even think about taking pictures. Keep doing this until suddenly you find yourself wishing you had your camera with you because you found the perfect shot.

    As an alternate, try to explore the nature of marshmellows, or snails. Somthing that is so unserious that it forces you to just have fun.

    Both of the above work for me.
     
  23. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

    Messages:
    4,519
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2002
    Location:
    Ipswich, Mas
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (brYan @ Jan 9 2003, 07:29 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>For the last couple of months I have been uninspired to photograph anything.&nbsp; Once in a while unusual subjects will pop up or unusual lighting may appear, but nothing that really inspires me to get the camera out of the bag!&nbsp; If only I could focus on a subject or theme, I might be able to photograph something worthwhile.&nbsp; Anybody else been in this state of mind?&nbsp; How do you get past it?</td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    Have I ever been blocked?

    Nah ... not me. At least not more than 60 or 70 times a day.

    The only way that seems to work for me to counteract "blocking" is to put myself into a position where I can't get out of it. Schedule a model .... you know you HAVE to do photography when s/he arrives. I will force myself to load film into the magazines - I have never liked the idea of a loaded magazine lying around idle.

    I think there is some measure of fear involved in the most "blockage". Fear of failure; fear of success (the "No Worlds Left To Conquer" syndrome; fear that there will be too much work to do in the future (WHEN will I get caught up with my darkroom work?).

    Come to think of it .... from Julia Cameron's "The Artisit's Way":

    "Do not be afraid that the work will not be GOOD - the real fear is that it will not BE."
     
  24. Aggie

    Aggie Member

    Messages:
    4,925
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2003
    Location:
    So. Utah
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    bump......any new solutions to this problem?
     
  25. bjorke

    bjorke Member

    Messages:
    2,032
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2003
    Location:
    SF & Surroun
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    If you have clients, they will tell you. If you do not, then the right thing is to follow your heart. To find a subject and to photograph it with feeling is like being in love -- with a thing, a person, or an idea (this love can also be shown tragically, through its absence).

    Art, if it is anything above a technical exercise (which is also useful as a regimen), if a reflection of life. If you are honest with yourself about the things that are meaningful to you, you will find a way to chip away at them and explore them with the camera.

    If the water still seems murky, it's time to just work on your chops -- you capacity to make meaningful pictures. Go outside and shoot passing cars and birds. Be rapid until your hands move without conscious planning. Perfect your usage of the meter, so that you do not need to use it. Find out how quickly you can be out the door to shoot. Do it at 6AM, at your front step. See where you go from there.
     
  26. FrankB

    FrankB Member

    Messages:
    2,147
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2003
    Location:
    Northwest UK
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I'm struggling with this a bit myself at the moment.

    My (not very original) plan is to set myself a project or two and then stick a deadline on them to make them actually happen (I'm thinking of Waterfalls for one).

    Best I can come up with...