I listen to a lot of podcasts. I like them because I can listen and learn while I do the mundane things in life. Things like folding laundry, waiting in line, driving to the post office, tending to yard work, and so on. A few of the podcasts I frequent are photography related. Many others aren't. I find I gravitate to conversational interviews that feature creatives. Sure, there's an agenda, a reason a guest is on a show. But the agenda is subtle and the conversations often turn to the inspiring, insightful, and entertaining.
A byproduct of listening to various creatives across a variety of industries is their stories make me see things differently. Both in life and in photography. A phrase I heard in one of these conversations is "prisons or doorways" – a way of describing how we view situations in our lives. These situations can be pivotal or (seemingly) small. Anything from personal successes or failures, our jobs, our health... anytime our boundaries change. Any change in our lives can be seen as a prison or a doorway.
Here's an example from my life. I have very little time to dedicate to photography. I work full time (not in photography), assist my wife with a home-based business (not photography related), and have two children in grade school (read as: a major time sink :-). I could look at this as a prison - a cage that keeps me from being able to shoot.
I look at it differently. These are all doorways to something else.
Let's talk employment. My job occupies a good chunk of every weekday. I'll squeeze in a little photo-related stuff over a lunch break. My job also requires me to travel from time to time - and my camera goes along. I'll get an evening alone in a location I'd otherwise probably not have been able to go to. Also, since I don't solely rely on photography to pay the bills, I get to shoot the subjects I want to shoot, process photos that are interesting to me, and so on. My job is freeing. I don't have to shoot what a client wants. (And no, there's nothing wrong with client work. My situation is different than your situation.)
Time constraints have also become a doorway to efficiency. My photo sorting and culling is ruthlessly efficient. I will only spent time on the good shots, discarding the rest. Limited time has also made me a better planner. Since I know my time behind the lens will be limited, I will have a plan when going to a location.
Here's another thought? Ever feel dismayed with your gear? At one point or another we all suffer a degree of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). Take a moment and think about it. Think about the great photographs of the last 50 years. The bulk of them taken on cameras that are on a technical level inferior to the smartphone most of us carry in our pockets. Creativity and art is not defined by megapixels, focus points, and high ISO values.
A limit on gear isn't a prison. It's a doorway. Unless it's broken, the camera you own today is capable of taking a great photo. Embrace it's limits. Channel those limits to be more creative with what you have in your hands. How often do you read about photographers challenging themselves to shoot only prime lenses? Or use only a smartphone or point-and-shoot? It's the challenge to be more creative. Take a photo. Share it with the world. And no matter how "bad" you think your camera is, I'll bet there's someone else that sees your kit as the stuff of dreams.
Here's one more example. I had planned on going out for a shoot today. I pulled a muscle in my calf. Nasty one, too, still hurting. Rather than mope around and lament about not being able to shoot, I took a few moments and asked myself "What I can do photographically?" And here I am writing this story. Next, I'll process a few photos from the backlog. Or work on a video. Maybe after that spend more time on my migration from Aperture to Lightroom. Time is a precious commodity. I don't want to spend it locked in a self-imposed prison.
My photography is always changing. My boundaries change. Sometimes they grow, sometimes they shrink. And sometimes it's unpleasant, tough, grueling even. When they change – and they will change – I always try to see the doorway. More often than not, it leads to a good place.
/ July 2015 /