No matter where we are in our creative journey, there is always room for growth. Lately, I've been mulling over how one grows as a photographer—both in terms of my own path and the ways in which I can help students along theirs.
How do I know whether I've "found my groove" or have become complacent? How can I push beyond my comfort zone to explore new territory, both technically and creatively? How do I know if it’s time to take my work in a bold new direction? I have far more questions about this subject than I do answers, but I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve been doing lately to explore those questions.
JOURNALING. A journal is a wonderful place to acknowledge the questions and explore thoughts around them without censure or judgement. I can also write down the random ideas that come to me in the process, hoping that somewhere among them is a nugget of an idea worth exploring further.
READING.I’m reading about the creative process, alternative photographic processes, artists' lives, nature and landscape. I’m reading artist statements, interviews and introductions to photo books, trying to glean insight into the creative process and inspirations of others.
WATCHING.I’ve stumbled across so many wonderful video interviews with photographers and other artists lately. Each one has something unique and insightful to share, which gives me food for thought and journaling. Or sometimes I see a technique I want to try. (This week, for instance, I learned about free lensing. It’s where you remove your lens from your camera and hold it by hand when shooting. Who knew?)
LEARNING. I love taking workshops as much as I do teaching them. Right now I’m taking an online course that pushes me to think in new ways. I watch something on Creative Live, Lynda.com or LensWork a couple of times of week; the topics vary widely. I’m also watching JulieAnne Kost’s videos on advanced Photoshop techniques, trying to push through a few new barriers.
PRINTING.By printing my images, I can see them more clearly and experience them in a different way. In particular, I love laying out the prints on a table and rearranging them, finding new relationships between them. As a result, I’m playing around with diptychs, triptychs and visual short stories.
SHOOTING.I am trying to photograph something new each week. A new subject, approach, something. Most of it is rough; after all, new techniques take practice. But some of it is intriguing or shows promise and I even managed to get a few shots (like the one above) that I like along the way.
And finally, I think about photography whenever I can, which is most of the time (and which is maybe too much, but it's just how I am) and try to look at things with fresh eyes. At some point, I will take a break from this intense focus and settle back into my work. Hopefully, when I do, I will bring new ideas and energy to my process.
How do you grow as a photographer (or in other creative fields)? How do you know when it’s time to stretch and grow again? In what ways do you most need to grow right now?