The art of photography can become rather lonely at times. Hours upon hours spent honing your skills, is often done so without the distraction of others. I myself, can become so channelled in my methods of working and creating, that I feel like the only person in the world who practices the craft. As a Street Photographer the last thing I need is to be followed around by someone who does not have the same desire and enthusiasm for street work as I do.
Whilst it may be useful to work without distractions, it can sometimes be difficult to find inspiration and drive when the only person you have to deliver it, is yourself. Of course we live in the era of social media, where there are countless numbers of groups to discuss photography, share photography and tear people a new one whilst comfortably sat in your chair at home. However, even in a world where our faces are more often in our phones rather than the eyes of another person, I am firm believer that physical interaction (meeting in person) is far more beneficial to our all round growth.
If you are as serious about photography as I am, then you will understand that it is more than just making photos. It is building a profile, making contacts, going to events that you are not interested in with the goal of raising your profile. It is trial and error, failure, success, excitement and boredom all rolled into one. Managing that all on your own is no easy task, and it is easy to become disillusioned and you can find yourself asking “Am I doing the right thing?”. You risk becoming stale and repetitive, lost in your own thoughts, without anyone really challenging you and your direction. This can make your work become toxic, which in turn runs the risk of time going by without you really making any progression.
Start a photographic society.
Frustrated with doing this on my own, a friend and I decided to start of our photographic society in London. The plan is to meet on a weekly basis to discuss, practise and challenge each other in photography. It is a great way to bring people together, people who share the same drive and passion as you do and a way to work with each other with the goal of improving your skills. Again, this isn’t just about making photos. Challenges may include; gaining more followers on your social media pages, selling a print, getting a new client or starting a new project and seeing it through to completion. Since starting two weeks ago, we have seen the society start with 0 members and rapidly grow to 2; them being my friend and I. Hey, Rome was not built in a day! In all honesty we are not to focused on growing the society. Of course we welcome anyone who is like-minded to join us but really the motive is to go out and enjoy the craft.
From a practical standpoint, the premise is to set ourselves a challenge each week, split up for 90 minutes, go make our photos, then regroup and compare and share whilst we edit our final images. Of course, whilst this is all nice and friendly - there is an element of competition lurking in the background. Competition is healthy, it makes you want to do better and be better. We have done this for two weeks now, and already my energy has dramatically increased. My brain is buzzing with photographic ideas and concepts and my resilience to push through the (boring) admin side of things has grown also.
It is also useful to have one or more people to discuss photography with. You can introduce each other to different photographic content and then take it as a source of inspiration. It is always fun telling the story of Vivian Maier to someone who has not heard it before - “They made how much!?! Lucky….”.
Emulating Film Photography
I do not own a film camera, nor do I have any interest in doing so. However, back in the day of film with the option of only having 36 frames - a lot can be taken from it as a way to improve your content. Back then photographers had to really take their time when making the shot. Today, many just “spray and pray” in the hope that the shot will be in there somewhere. Digital, for all its advantages, is also responsible for the copious amounts of terrible photography that is out there for all to (unfortunately) see.
A challenge I like to call “36 no preview” is a great way to improve your photography. Admittedly it was a concept that has been used many times, but for those of you who are not familiar with it - allow me to explain. Firstly, go into your camera settings and turn off the option for your camera to automatically preview the image on the display screen as soon as you have taken the shot. Once you have done this, go out and shoot for 90 minutes, only allowing yourself to take 36 shots. The point of this is that you brain will automatically slow down and you will be more mindful of your surroundings. The option of “well if it doesn't work I can just delete it” will be minimised because you run the risk of coming home with nothing to show. You will take more time assessing your frame when looking through your viewfinder, asking yourself “is this really worth one of my 36 shots?”. Of course, if you have a Film Camera sitting on the shelf, go out and use that instead. I have used this approach several times, it can be frustrating but it pushes you to do better. It is even more effective when doing the challenge with someone else, so you can see who can come back with the best shot!
Here is mine from earlier this week...
Surround yourself with like-minded people.
There are many ways to connect with other photographers, other than setting up your own group. There are already many groups established on sites like Meetup.com. Also, look at your local arts centres, where many of them put on various photography talks that you can attend for little to no cost.
The point is that it is better to bounce off other peoples’ vibe rather than just getting lost in your own thoughts and creative world.
What keeps you inspired? How do you keep the energy going? I would love to hear your feedback and suggestions. You are always welcome to contact me through my site or the social media platforms below.
Thanks for reading
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