as someone pointed out before me, the answer is within yourself. this matter is one of the most personal aspects of all creative endeavours. your instincts are fine - you admit to yourself when you feel that you took the wrong turn. just keep on looking and listen to your inner voice, glide on the stream of consciousness.
for myself, it took me some time, but finally i found out i'm interested in the connections between land, mythology and the apocalypse - as strange as it all sound, i embrace these ideas with my heart an soul, because they are truly mine.
It's a two step program.
1. Stop looking at other people's work.
2. Put your camera away until your inner self sends you in the right direction, and it will.
Your mind has been bombarded with the irrelevance of other peoples images and too much internal chatter and navel gazing.
Pick a subject, then photograph it from every concievable angle. Move in close, far away, bottom to top. Then pick which shots work best for you.
clive and blansky hit the nail on the head
As stated by a couple previously, photography is about light. If the light is right, any subject can be interesting whether landscape, cityscape, or whatever. Try getting out early or late in the day when the sun is lower. Side lighting creates powerful images with shadow and light perfect for B/W photography. Then look for strong compositions that compliment the lighting. You don't have to have a subject in mind when you go out to shoot. Your eye will see if the lighting is interesting and that's what you shoot. Good luck.
It's tough if you live in an uninteresting place. I know, I did for a number of years, and it's hard to motivate yourself and take pictures.
Pictures of what?
I started doing some still life and really enjoyed it, but it's not the answer for me.
To be honest, I think if possible, you're going to have to plan a day or a weekend away on a fairly regular basis. It's what worked for me, and it was a feeling of freedom, and encouraging to be in a situation that was almost purely for photography. Not to visit cousin Agnes and squeeze in a few minutes if you can, but to go somewhere just to explore it photographically. I used to go in the off seasons, because the place is probably very much the same in appearance, with lower prices and less crowds.
It doesn't have to be a trans-Atlantic flight, you'll be amazed at what you'll find a couple of hours down the road.
Originally Posted by blansky
To expand on the above, I suggest that you bring a notebook and pencil/pen with you at all times and try to take note on every occasion that your minds eye/intuition actually "sees" a photo especially when just going about your daily business. A pattern will eventually emerge and that will serve as a creative starting point when you finally decide to start using your camera again.
Welcome to the reboot and reset club, good luck! :)
I find that if I dwell too much on weighty issues like what my primary subject is or what I’m trying to say with my photography it all gets too serious and frustrating. I just grab my camera and shoot whatever it is I feel like exploring that day. Just my opinion, I like good photography but I do it for fun so having serious or specific artistic goals tends to inhibit my creativity.
Giggled when I read this. To me in a sense you have described commercial photographic work, what you call composition, versus art, which you are calling photographs.
Originally Posted by batwister
For me photography is a bit of both.
I do find that two things trigger my interest. Fresh/foreign (to me) subject matter, things of man, and people.
I do believe that for art experimentation is truly important, you gotta be willing the burn and print a bunch of film and paper knowing most shots won't be art that meets your standards and then ask yourself afterwords "what worked, what didn't, and how do I make it what I want. For me this process has helped define the destination, not just the process.
People and things of man are fun for me because they change, unlike the landscape around me. There is always fresh content and inspiration in the people around me. That is true of my family and friends, but it is also true of the people literally anywhere near me, there's lots of interesting characters in the world.
Thanks for the suggestions, all are of value to me. Blanksy, hdeyong and markbarendt hit it home especially.
This isn't necessarily about making 'good art', but just finding a comfortable area (mental and physical) to work in, that keeps us charged and motivated.
It's probably about simply being honest with myself too. As has been suggested about looking at the work of others (which I think is important), in the end, it's true that you have no idea where it came from - internally. You can perhaps only ever 'take' from the surface of other work.
A break to just experience/see and a change of scene are what I need. What Mark says about fresh subject matter makes a lot of sense, but I still wonder how so many of our revered photographers worked in a single location for years and years on end, producing such animated and spirited work. HOW does it remain fresh to them, really? I need to know this. Robert Adams and Denver, Colorado for instance - one of the happiest couplings in photographic history. This is a common theme with the great photographers of course, which can't be ignored - breathtaking work produced in otherwise banal places. I just feel like I'm punishing myself when I do it in my area. But it feels like an important challenge - one that I can't let go of; "if I can make good pictures here, I can anywhere, but if I can't, I'll produce shit wherever I go."
What would really help me is getting inside another photographers head, someone who works within the same square mileage producing great work. I'd ask them how they remain, without being nagged constantly by that thought of "what if?" about another place. Which comes back to Mark's point about needing foreign subject matter and new experiences - does this just mean you're flighty? Short attention span? Isn't singular focus integral to producing meaningful work? The idea of giving up on my fine art fantasy and trying to get into travel photography is increasingly appealing to me, for the reasons you suggested. Maybe some of us just fundamentally aren't cut out for art photography, which in the current art world climate, requires a certain monotony to have any success. I'll say that some success is important to me at this moment in my life, for my age, but also the fact that I'm consumed by photography - it needs to be substantiated. I actually studied music, but have abandoned this pursuit completely for photography.
I'm very aware of how self-absorbed this thread is, don't get me wrong, but I truly hope it will be of value to others facing similar existential crisis with photography.
I very much appreciate your thoughts and time.