Have I created enough?

Warning. You are entering real life post territory. No filters. No sugar coating. No bullshit. It won’t be a post about rainbows and unicorns. It might be a bit rough and harsh. But it WILL be honest and straight from me, a photographer that has been struggling with finding creative inspiration to pick up a camera lately.

I’m not here to whine or seek sympathy or attention.

I write this journal as a way to help me share my photographic journey with anyone that cares to read it. One of those people is actually myself. I like having this history of where I’m at photographically and artistically. Sometimes I even go back and will read through old posts just to see what I was doing a few years back.

As such, I have always done my best to write straight from the heart. There is something I personally appreciate about people that are honest in what they share. Too often we see the internet full of nothing but highlight reels where everyone is doing fantastic and no one ever struggles. It’s so easy to start believing that there is something wrong with yourself if you do struggle. You have to fight that feeling.

Earlier this week I put up this tweet.

Great, so if you want to quit photography just quit. Why post about it?

I TOTALLY get that mindset. I posted it as one of those “note to self” moments that I can remember later. The feedback and conversation that came from it was a surprise. There seemed to be a good number of photographers, whose work I really enjoy and respect, that were saying they too have been in this mindset lately. Some wondered what was in the air, others said it was the full moon. What was clear was that it seemed like a lot of people are struggling creatively right now for some reason, though I suspect that reason is different for each of us.

In my case I don’t quite know WHY I’m feeling this way. I suspect it may be a hectic work schedule right now that just has me feeling a bit drained. But this wasn’t a feeling I’d had before. I’ve been frustrated, feeling my work sucks so why bother shooting anymore, many times before. This was not that same feeling.

It really was a feeling of wondering if maybe I have created enough work. I’ve hit my quota. Now it’s time to just really spend some time distilling all of the thousands of photographs I’ve made over the years into distinct projects. A feeling like I don’t really NEED to make any new photos. As I questioned it I felt nervous, scared, and oddly a little satisfaction or content. What if this really was the end of my photography behind the camera?

Reality check – it was an interesting rabbit hole but let’s call it what it is. I’m in a creative slump.

Plain and simple. For whatever reason I’m just missing that creative inspiration in my photography. I’ve been out shooting some, but I find that I’m bringing the camera to my eye very little. It’s like I’m just not seeing anything I haven’t already photographed a million times over. I’m sick of making the same photos.

Lately it reminds me of when I was a kid and used to collect football cards. The photos feel the same as opening a fresh pack of football cards only to find most of them were duplicates of cards I already had. Sure it was great if the duplicates were for your favorite players or special cards with some value, but most were just common cards. The only thing to do when you hit that point was switch to a different brand of card, look for different years, simply change it up.

Photography is the same…I think. We just can’t be creatively inspired all of the time, it’s not possible to never feel like you’re getting duplicates.

Anyone that says they are always creatively inspired is full of shit.

Ask anyone that pursues any sort of art and they’ll tell you the hardest part is staying creatively inspired. That electric feeling of inspiration running through us is amazing, but it never lasts forever. The high that comes from that wave of creativity today will come crashing down in a low valley in short time. We all stumble creatively and that’s ok.

I don’t have the answer or solution to the problem. Sadly I have no “Five Easy Tricks” to break a creative slump. I’d argue that there may actually be NO simple solution. The key isn’t to eliminate the lows. It’s more about finding a way to smooth out and shorten the low periods without getting lost in them forever.

The creative slumps are needed, it’s how we learn, adapt, and grow as artists. The low points are there to let us enjoy the high points. At least that’s what I keep trying to remind myself. Truthfully it isn’t working and I’m way down deep in the blackness of the caves hidden behind the valley of no inspiration. I’m trying to step outside my comfort zone a bit, try new things artistically, shake things up. But I’m also open to embracing the darkness and as my friend Clay told me on Twitter:

Oddly, I AM curious to see where following the real, raw feelings and doubt about my work take me. Maybe it’ll unearth some dark moody aspect of myself that shines through brilliantly in my work. Then again, maybe it will crash and burn. Time will tell, but I’ll share the journey with you here.

In the meantime I’ve stepped a little outside my comfort zone with some moody black and white images for you to enjoy. Have a great week guys and remember, we all stumble and we face the same creative lows, so don’t give up. I know I’m not.

Gear Notes

All photos were created with a Fuji X Series cameras and lenses.

Images all processed in Lightroom Classic with the Rebecca Lily Premium Color Grading Pro Set V system as my base for all of my custom processing.

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