Sunday, September 17, 2017

What to Do when You'Re Bored to Take Pictures

Note: I am going through a very busy period, with a lot of personal & other obligations. The frequency of articles might suffer a bit for the next couple of months or so, but I expect to be back on a quasi-weekly form by Christmas. Thanks! 

I had an interesting online discussion a couple of days ago. Someone was asking for advice from the photographers' community, saying that he wanted to take photos but that he was bored and didn't know what to photograph. I decided to write an article about this because, it seems, this might be a more generalized issue than it might initially appear.

You must feel and experience before you can take photos

To state the obvious: photography is a form of art. You're supposed to create something that conveys your emotions, thoughts, or states of mind (in other words: affect) to other people, that is, your audience. Or, to put a different spin on it, you're supposed to inspire a reaction to your audience - in other words, the affect they "read" might not necessarily be the same you're "writing".

In any case, there is a crucial element here: there has to be an exchange of some sort; a translation of your emotions/thoughts/states of mind into whatever the viewer decides to see. In order for this to happen, you, the artist, must have the experience.

Can you imagine an iconic artist saying they want to create something but they don't know what? Can you imagine, say, Mozart sulking in the corner of his conservatory saying that he'd like to write some music but he is bored and doesn't know what to write? Unthinkable!

This is the same with photography. You can't force it. First you must have the experience, and only then should you attempt to make an image of it.

So, what should you do when you feel like taking (making?) pictures but have no inspiration? It's so simple it's almost funny. Allow me to quote an excerpt from my SWAGO article (which, if I may say so myself, you should learn by heart if you want to make great pictures):
Get out of the house, see the world
Get out of the house, travel, experience
Get out of the house and find wonderful scenes you can photograph
The operative sentence here is "get out of the house". And you can extend it to "get out of the neighborhood", "go and see things you haven't seen before". If you want to make great photos, you must experience great things. Don't feel bored, don't be lazy. Take a bus ride to a side of the city you haven't been before. Go to a neighborhood you're unfamiliar with, get lost in the process. See, see, see. Go to a park (preferably one you haven't visited before) and decide to pay attention to a particular thing - notice everything about it. It could be old people: notice the way they walk, the way their lips wobble, the way they adjust their hats or handbags. A great artist (be it a writer, a painter, or a photographer) is first and foremost a great experiencer.

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