This is the third piece that I contributed to the APS Focus page in Australian Photography magazine, It was published in the September 2017 issue.
We often hear about “writer’s block”; a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown. There is less use of the term “photographer’s block”, but I have heard of many people who have experienced the phenomenon of going through a creative rut or, even worse, not coming out of such a rut.
I haven’t personally suffered from photographer’s block. I’ve never had a problem finding something to photograph in all the years I have been a passionate enthusiast amateur photographer. Perhaps that is why, when people learn that I am a photographer and ask what I take photos of, my response nowadays tends to be along the lines “anything in front of me that moves, or that doesn’t move”.
Many of us shoot substantially more images when we go on holidays to a new and exciting destination, but we don’t have to wait for such an event in our lives. I haven’t been on a holiday away from home for more than a year, but I have continued to take many images during that time. There is always something if we use our eyes and look for the possibilities.
Earlier this year I sold my home of 23 years and bought a new place in a new suburb. Documenting some of the action involved in preparing the old home for sale, then moving out, provided a few photo opportunities. Documenting the new place being built and, after moving in, looking at the nearby surrounds provided further opportunities. Time has not permitted it just yet but I will be embarking on an exploration of the rest of the new suburb seeking more shots. I already have my eyes on a single tree at the top of a nearby hill with good views in all directions. I am sure there is a project there to capture that tree in a whole variety of ways in diverse light at different times of day.
I have recently been invited to be part of a small group exhibition that will require me to get out and shoot images in my city from a different perspective to what I have done in the past. That means I will be seeking to find new shots in very familiar locations.
I find projects very good for stimulating the visual senses. We don’t need to be working towards an exhibition or entering a particular category of a competition. We just need to set ourselves a challenge. The Friends of APS Contemporary Group’s Facebook page, and its folio groups, set themes for participants to address if they wish. Some recent ones have been Blue Sky Day, Shadowlands, Connections, and In Between. Each of those themes have challenged various participants in various ways – some have interpreted the themes literally; others have explored them much more by thinking outside the square about what the theme might mean.
I find it useful to use the Internet to locate definitions of the themes. For example, doing that for Shadowlands told me they are lands or regions of shadows, phantoms, unrealities, or uncertainties: the shadowlands of imagination. I also learned that in his book, The Electronic Mind Reader, John Blaine writes “He was neither asleep nor awake, but in the shadowland somewhere between”.
My mother died earlier this year and, in the weeks prior to that, as she was deteriorating, she spent a lot of time in the Shadowlands. I took a few images of mum asleep and combined them with images of dead or decaying grass, leaves and objects to try and portray a sense of that Shadowland between life and death – all in tones of grey. They ae, of course, very personal images.
One definition of Blue Sky Day is “using the imagination to think of ideas that do not yet have practical uses or make money”. Another speaks of a blue-sky project being one that is “of or denoting theoretical research without regard to any future application of its result”. Well, there you are. You don’t need any particular reason to capture a particular image. So, go ahead and use your imagination to think of ideas for photos that you might take that may have no practical use and will not make you any money, but will nevertheless be great shots that will keep you enthusiastic and prevent any risk of you suffering from photographer’s block.
“Blue Sky Day” portrays a section of a blue car parked near a blue wall under a blue sky.
You never know, one of those photos that you took for no particular reason may end up being the best image you ever made, winning a big competition or making the cover of your next book (when you get over your writer’s block) – or just giving yourself and your friends enormous pleasure.