Every creative person hits a lull now and then. I recently was looking out the window of my studio and thinking: “Everything’s been photographed before. There’s nothing original left to do.” Reading photography magazines and books didn’t help with inspiration. I was stuck.
This thought is as absurd as it is persistent. Of course there are new avenues for visual exploration, even as musicians (well, some musicians) still find original ways of creating music, and writers still find original ways to tell stories.
So I decided to go spend time in my garden. I should not need this motivation to get my hands dirty; the abundant weeds should be compelling, since they’re threatening to consume some newly transplanted shrubs and flowers. But on this day, it was the motivation I needed.
I banished thoughts of photography for a while, my bare knees on the ground and my gloved fingers digging into the dirt, pulling dandelions and buttercups and other unwanted guests for which I have no names. And of course, I started seeing things again. No, not garden sprites, but colors and shadows and light and texture — the very things I love photographing. I picked some spring flowers and set them aside.
And then I hit the jackpot. Pulling weeds beneath the raspberries, I found a strange roundish rock. No, not a rock…a piece of glass. A marble! A giant, abused, forgotten, abandoned glass marble. Filthy but fascinating.
I finished the weeding, brought my flowers and the marble inside, and rushed to my studio. I was once again eager to pick up the camera, to use it as a tool to explore these wonderful products of dirt and time and weather.
If there’s a moral to this story for me, it’s the need to change gears, to get away from something in order to get back to it, to take a creative time out. Every creative person I know needs to do this now and then. It’s not an original thought, but it took some dirt under the fingernails for me to remember. Now I’ve got some great new images that capture something of my renewed, colorful creative vitality.