Glass Sculpture Close Up - Boston Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Massachusetts, File # 1333570
Another friend of mine, a painter, also uses pictures as source material for her paintings. Recently she took a slew of images of anything that captured her eye. It was imagination at work. A window caught her eye, she captured a picture. A wall covered with chipped paint, another picture. Dramatic light reaching the top of the building, another capture. The process was raw and mostly without deep thought as considered what she was doing as a form of capturing raw data. The images weren’t worthy stand alone works of art. But, they certainly showed possibility as source data for inspiration to follow.
Later, my friend lamented that her pictures weren’t very useful as none of them seemed to be complete. To me, when I looked at them, they were much more important. They were a raw source of material for the next step. They were a jumping off point.
So many times we don’t know how to start the “process”, the creative process. Lots of times our imaginations are totally blocked not letting us start at all, let alone create something awesome. In many ways, what I’m talking about is not having a point to leap forward from. As a result, frustration.
To me, collecting raw data such as capturing anything my mind finds attractive is precisely that, a jumping off point. The images don’t have to be complete. They don’t have to be finished. They only has to be attractive in the “catch the eye” kind of way. You can not screw this up by not making a final product. You’re only looking for inspiration. Unless there’s a particular direction to go with a scene—i.e. you have a particular vision—simply shoot first then analyze later with what you have. Then, when you review your images do not look at them as completed images. Look at them for inspiration for the next image, then the next, and so on.
Too often I’ve seen budding photographers get frustrated with their work because they didn’t see the final image they thought they’d see. The only problem in this is if they decided to quit before they've used their images as inspiration for what could follow. Avoid this frustration when looking at immature images by only hoping to see something that’ll take them somewhere else—i.e. use them as a jumping off point.
In so many ways, creatives work in an iterative way. At least, I tend to work that way. I rarely am successful I knowing what I want, then single-mindedly pursing that particular image. I am much more successful if I have an idea when I start yet open to the possibilities the world will give. Then, when I’m shooting—i.e. iterating—I’m open to those possibilities as the world presents them. As I said, in a sense, I’m my own source of inspiration during this process.
The key to great imagery is having a vision. The contributor to that is being inspired. Together they help people produce great works of art. If your source data is insufficient, don’t worry. It’s just a step in the process. Keep shooting. Keep imagining. Be open to inspiration even if it’s from your own work. With all that, you will finally create what you want.