I haven’t picked up my camera since I returned home from my trip to Death Valley three weeks ago. Everything around me looks so mundane in comparison to the magical sights I saw there. So, for the past week or so I have been in a funk. And then I read a recent blog post by Cole Thompson, a photographer whose work I have long admired (www.colethompsonphotography.com) and whose thoughts on photography are very inspiring. In his post, Cole listed five places he would like to visit and named photographers whose work inspired him to choose these locations. But he went on to question whether or not you really had to visit such places to create great images and wondered if great images could be created from our ordinary, everyday surroundings such as the home, the garden or the many places we visit during our daily routine. Cole concluded his post with images created from ordinary, familiar places. Of course, they were stunning images.
I commented that his post was good therapy for me and we talked by email over the next few days. In addition to agreeing that it was impossible to only wait for those few opportunities when we do get to travel to the locations on our bucket list, we talked about how you can’t force creativity – it is either there or it isn’t. But one thing we can do is prepare ourselves for those moments when creativity kicks in. Cole came up with an analogy that I think is very useful. He compared creativity to growing crops in a field. After preparing the ground in the winter and sowing the seeds in the spring, you must sit back and wait for the crops to grow in the summer and only when they are ripe should they be harvested. Forcing any aspect will likely result in a failure of the crops and the resulting fruit will either be tasteless or ruined. Creativity is the same. We must give it time and it will return. And since it is unrealistic to only pick up the camera when we go to exotic locations, we need to train our eyes by searching in the mundane, readying ourselves for the moment when everything aligns and creativity returns.