Thursday, November 15, 2012

Portland Fashion Photographer: Staying Inspired

I had a fellow photographer write me today, asking how to get out of a "creative slump". Now, this is something that most artists are familiar with. Or maybe I should just speak for myself? Either way, this is familiar territory for me, so I thought I would do a post on what keeps me inspired.

The first and obvious response is: I am not always inspired.

With that said, I don't stay in slumps for very long. Slumps hit me about three to four times a year, usually in the aftermath of a busy season* (busy season does not refer to the "gold four" here, but rather the chaotic slam of work that happens to the self-employed at any given time of year).

It's almost like coming down from a high. The work, the creating, the orchestrated chaos of photoshoots; They're all weaved into this beautiful high and when it's all over, when I've edited that last photo and emailed that last client, I am washed over with a sense of loneliness. I've poured every last drop of myself into my work and then suddenly there's this nothingness. It's just me and whatever last scrap of editorials litter my desktop.
It's overwhelming to be left alone with yourself, when you've been diving down the waterfall for weeks or months straight.
For me, after a couple days of quiet, I'll begin to feel overwhelmed by self-doubt, laziness and fear. I doubt the quality of my most recent work, I resent needing rest and I always, always fear that I am "stuck" in my very last gear. I can't shift or go any faster, produce better work. It's legit fear.

Dramatic? Yes. Of course it is. I am an artist. I spend most of my life in my own head.


Excerpts from "FIRST TIME" magazine.

But the trick is not to stay here. Not to stay in that place of wallowing and bullshit artistic narcissism.
For me, being a mom helps and having a house to clean and chores to catch up on are all motivating to keep truckin along. But as for my art and the fear and self-doubt. How do I get over that? Well...

A. I Keep shooting. I have to. Even if it's a really loose concept and I am shooting portraits in a damn park... I will find that beautiful stream of light. I will pull that one amazing dress. I'll connect with the model and hell- I'll create something that mirrors my own desperation and fears. Something always clicks. It has to. You can't be in your artistic element and feel nothing...
Something will click and I'll be reminded what I love about shooting.  It stops being about the client. It stops being about the deadline, that concept I just can't wrap my head around, that annoying designer who wants bullshit edits. Whatever. It's just me... a camera... some light. It's simple again. I can see clearly again.

B. I Play. This part is something I learned years ago. Someone once told me to have fun. They told me that I'm entitled to enjoy what I do. And I kind of ran with it. I made the idea my own and it's been imperative to my business model. It's become my default of sorts.
When I say play, I mean, play. I mean, waste time. I mean try something you know you're gonna be really shitty at. Youtube a new way to edit. Use a different lighting method. Make time to make mistakes, where there's no external pressures. It's another way of saying "experiment" which is what kids do everyday of their lives. And as artists, we have to remain connected to that fresh perspective.

C. I Rest. Sometimes riding through the "slump" for a week is what it takes to get to the other side of it. Sometimes my brain needs to remember what it's like to not see a photo prop down every isle of Safeway. Let's let the toilet paper be toilet paper, you know? And giving myself permission to rest makes it real rest, instead of this guilt ridden waste of time. This is probably the hardest step for me, but when I do this I can get through a whole year without feeling the pains of burnout.

This is what I've found to work for myself, just a few things.
And to be honest, I had a really crappy three, four week slump just this winter.  I had to work in the midst of it and hit deadlines and I totally missed some too. It was shitty.
I don't think the point is to totally numb out the natural wave of our emotional lives anyhow, but the second half of my slump I watched a lot of TV. I gave myself permission to rest. I bought a sun lamp. (Don't judge. I live in the Northwest). And it worked eventually. I came out of it and took a few more photos....


Sidney Son said...

I really appreciate this blog post. it is definitely the truth! Again thanks for posting it Lavender! :)

Lavenda Memory said...

You are so, so welcome! I was just reading a bunch of inspiration quotes last night to pep myself up. It always helps to share struggles and inspirations with each other... Thanks for reading!