I came upon a section of Brooks Jensen’s excellent book “Letting Go of the Camera“* wherein he writes about what he means by being engaged in photography. It speaks to me because I sometimes find myself unable (or incapable) of photographing; of actually getting out and taking photographs. He writes of the period he was holding down a full time job during the day and teaching photography at night, all while raising two kids with his wife. One day he came to a revelation when he took a hard look at his calendar and realized that he could only devote one Saturday a month to photography. He was thinking that he would only have that much time to photograph or work in the darkroom (yes the book was written when he was still using film, but don’t let that dissuade you from reading it), and he felt that just wasn’t a satisfactory situation for him. But after contemplating his plight for a while he realized he was engaged in fuzzy thinking. He realized that to be a photographer as an artist didn’t mean that he was limited in his participation of his art to the time he spent with camera in hand or time spent in the darkroom. He came to realize that a writer doesn’t write only when he/she is at the computer(or typewriter). They also participate in their art while reading, while observing, while listening, and while thinking about writing. A musician isn’t only a musician while performing, but also while practicing or studying music. A painter isn’t only a painter while painting, but also while studying the world around him/her in search of the source of future subjects. He realized that reading about photography, talking about photograph, looking for images in the world around him, and yes, just thinking about photography, all counted. He could “work” at his art/craft without a camera in his hand.
We all go through periods when picking up the camera just doesn’t seem to prime the pump. I know I can’t force myself to be creative, but what I can do is to acknowledge that I can continue to practice my art(or craft if you prefer) by being invested in it. I can read and talk with my fellows, I can visit blog sites where I know creative minds are at work, and I can think about photography. I can make fertile the ground where creativity can grow. I can stop worrying about what I’m going to photograph next; something will turn up. After sixty years I’ve learned it always does.
*Available in print from Lenswork or as an ebook from Amazon. Highly recommended.
Canon G10, processed in Photoshop CS4.