"My friend has a problem. He seems only to be able to make crap photos at the moment even though he is a good photographer. Does this happen to you ever? I do hope that you can help him!" A reader (name & address withheld)
This is a common problem amongst men and women of a certain age and I certainly do have periods when I don't take any good images. Such dry periods may last for a few days or even weeks. The image at left was made last summer after a week or so of not being able to see a single decent composition. But, quite suddenly, when I had almost given up hope of seeing anything worth photographing I saw this composition. I was walking along a beach without my camera and had to rush back to the vehicle to get my gear (N.B. no rocks were moved during the making of this image!)
More often than not this lack of vision is just a result of not being in the right frame of mind. I find that I need to empty my mind of other distractions – like how I can possibly afford to pay the gas bill or which colour shirt goes best with my eyes (puce) – before I can hope to see anything. I know that for many of us finding the time to make images is hard enough, never mind finding the time to get in the right frame of mind but this step is crucial if we want to make original photographs and not just revisit old ground. It's better to take one's time rather than rush and peak too soon (another common male problem...)
I used to feel very frustrated when I couldn't see, blaming myself for a lack of ability or insight, but I've since realised that I usually just need to clear my mind and relax into picture making. Getting frustrated just makes it worse! OK, I'm not perfect and I do still get frustrated sometimes.
Sometimes this dry period indicates a forthcoming change in my photography. I think that what's happening is a shift in my perception, a reassessment of my work that has gone before or, most excitingly, it might signal my turning onto a completely different artistic heading.
So, I've now begun to see this lack of image making as a positive thing. I know it can be frustrating and depressing but I can assure you that your "friend" hasn't lost the ability to make images. You are probably – sorry I mean he is probably beginning to see things differently and this will eventually work its way through to making new and exciting images.
Workshop at Linhof & Studio
Paula and I will be running another LF workshop in Leigh on Sea in spring 2008. Details will be posted on the Linhof website in due course or if you just can't wait contact Paula on +44(0)1702 716116 for further details and to reserve a place.