That is a very common email I get!
“I’ve done street, I’ve done macro, I’ve done landscape, I’ve done portraits, I’ve done children, I’ve done animals..there’s nothing else left..”
The first thing i do when I receive an email such as this, is to take a slow, relaxed intake of breath to calm myself down for the storm of ideas that are about to come forth from my head in answer.
Maybe I’m a weirdo, maybe I’m mad or something, but I’ve been shooting things since I was barely 10 years old, and even now in middle age, I still haven’t had enough. In fact, I keep thinking what if I were to fall down dead tomorrow, what then? I’d be missing so many years of wonderful things to record by way of my cameras.
So, for the life of me, I just can’t understand how these people who send me emails complaining about what to shoot, have somehow magically run out of subjects.
I’ll give a you a simple example of how things all around us are just waiting to be recorded on film or digital.
There’s a guy in the USA who has just published a book about photography. Ok, before you all click off this page thinking “Oh, god..not another plug for yet another photography book..”, let me explain please.
This guy is commuter, like so many millions of workers all around the globe, and every morning he drove to work past some fields, in which he’d noticed a huge, old oak tree growing. We all see something like that everyday. It may not be a tree..it may be a vintage car, a nice house, or a nice shop sign etc…you get the idea.
Soon, this guy dumped his old cellphone for a brand spanking new smartphone with a camera in it. He liked the phone and showed it to his friends, who asked him to take some photos of something for next time they met.
At that, he was stumped….what could he take shots of? Here I’d like to take this discussion off at a tangent slightly in order to add a little of my own experiences.
At times like this, like when the guy was stumped, wondering what he should take shots of, if one is in the right mood, things start happening very soon. Not immediately..maybe the next day, or a few days later or even months later. This has happened to me…..just out of the blue, there comes a rush of ideas, suggestions or whatever, and you’re in business! Call it providence, call it synchronicity, call it coincidence, call it what-you-will, but it happens.
So they guy thought he’d start taking shots of that tree he drove past every morning. He took a couple of photos, then a few more and after a week or so, he got very frustrated, thinking what else he could show of the tree…he’d covered every angle?
Overnight, the answer flashed up in his mind…why not do a documentary-style shoot of that same tree, but over a span of 1 year? Showing the life of an oak tree through the seasons.
That gave birth to his book on the life of the tree, which shows how it survived drought, dismal winter, burning summer.
But even after showing these, he was running out of ideas. So instead of showing the whole tree, he decided to go in closer, and concentrate only on the very small changes in its condition through that time, changes he or anybody else would never normally notice. Stuff like changes in the bark, type of insects living in it at different times, the leaves, colours etc.
The essence of the tale is that no matter where we are, where we look, where we live, there is always something to shoot.
We need to get away from the common barriers to being creative, like what camera we should use, what lens, digital or film, what f-stop, what shutter speed, or a thousand other things.
Open our minds, relax, pour yourself a hot drink, a cool Martini, or whichever poison you choose, and let the magic of your mind work things out for you, and let it suggest what you should do!
Hey, it works for me…and it worked for that guy, who by the way, has now learnt so much during his experiment, that he now looks at the world with a new vision.
That’s what I call photography!