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Monday, 16 August 2021


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In my view, trying to force it only makes things worse. Some depends on the kinds of pictures you prefer to take. If you dislike pictures without people, or they make you feel more lonely, don't take them.
But you CAN push yourself to carry a camera to a place where there might be pictures that appeal to you. Being There, and being ready is half the battle. Rather than looking for pictures, I just look....camera dangling in my right hand. If nothing moves you , don't raise the camera to your eye. If you do you will take uninspired pictures.
Wait, look , enjoy the place, because enjoying the place is a good end in itself. It is ok to go out and enjoy a place and take no pictures.
But if something happens, you will be there , ready..... (it might help to set the camera at f8.......
Enjoying a different place is good for you. It helps you enjoy the familiar places more. ....And BTW you already described a great photo op, you need to document Jerry's Last day. No wimpy snaps, a real photograph or sequence of which you are proud, and one which you will be proud to send to Jerry for his new house.-----and publish here with no excuses. This is your life, and your friends, and one is leaving.... no second chances......who needs more motivation than that ?? Good luck. PS there is a great story to be written there too, ,,,maybe a Photo Essay on friendship. I hope you do it.

Creative block of any kind results, at least for me, from too-high expectations. That has led me over the years to avoid commissioned work in any form. I'd rather make photos and then see if people want to buy them than be told what to photograph.

I do know what you mean about the emptiness of walking around with a camera. And yet, walking around our same old woods every day with a camera in hand is my best cure for the occasional paralysis that creeps into all our lives: No goals, no expectations, no idea of using any of the photos that result. Often I just throw them out.

One way for me to break out of the doldrums is simply to go out for the sole purpose of testing something: a lens, a body, a lighting scheme. That takes the aesthetic pressure right off -- and sometimes results in good work on its own, freed of fighting the demons of ambitions and expectations.

In the end, I try to remember photography is really about the joy of taking a picture and then looking at it. Sometimes I have to strip out all the artistic overhead to remind myself of this, and just go out and take some pictures.

Your penultimate paragraph suggests you already have an insight as to what the answer will be: i.e., you can't keep doing the same thing and expect different results. What are you willing and motivated to do to change your shooting routine? It might also help to have a clear sense of what you are literally shooting for. Without a clear sense of what you want, the odds are low that you'll be able to get it. I've already answered these questions for myself, which is why I seldom suffer from photographer's block. To paraphrase the wisdom of rapper Jay Z, "I got 99 problems, but this ain't one."

Projects are my main motivators. Just going out to look for "a good photo" I have found to be less than rewarding. In all respects.

I'm not in it to keep score, but I usually regret it when I don't go out carrying a camera, living as I do in a target-rich environment. Things are better when the sun is out, but overcast Saturday I still got two hits on my way to lunch. No complaints. No forcing. I just wait for it.

If no pho-ops rise up to whack me in the face, I still have fun dodging traffic, or piles of dog crap. Or, even more fun, loose and aggressive actual dogs. But unlike the U.S., no random person here has ever threatened to kill me, so there's that.

Exhibit A: https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51379204614_2e07b8445d_o.jpg

Exhibit B: https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51377696497_3e5727d2cc_o.jpg

Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador

I don't think I've ever had photographer's block, but I think my secret is simply that I have low standards :-) I generally carry my phone plus at least one camera wherever I go, and often get one or two pictures which I'm happy with. Last night I saw some snails in the backyard, grabbed my camera and flash, and took a few quick photos (they're on my blog; in fact I mentioned you in the post). The photos won't win any awards—but I had fun!

Anyway, I don't know a remedy for photographer's block, but I have a small collection of photo-books (really small, less than two dozen). I keep them handy, and when I flip through them, I almost always get the urge to go out and take photos. I'm sure others have had this experience too!

Hi Mike; I hope the pool was good.

You write "The last thing I want to do is go repeatedly shoot in situations where I already know I'm never going to get a shot I care about."

This is one of the reasons I like shooting live music shows (especially in small venues). I always know that even if I end up with garbage on my memory card, I'll still get to hear a good show and I'll get to see friends or even meet interesting new musicians. It's enough to get the camera in my hand and my feet out the door.

Curing photographer's block - my solutions all involve practical means of trying to force myself to think creatively and to see the world differently, and which compel me to produce images, all of which re-enliven my creativity. These solutions work for me, no doubt YMMV.

Solution 1 - new locations (preferably visited for the first time). This always works for me but admittedly it is just not practicable or possible under pandemic conditions (especially as Melbourne Oz just had 2-week curfew reimposed).

Solution 2 - different gear. Set yourself a target of producing (say) a half-dozen exhibition quality images from one piece of equipment you have never used or don't like - I'm a 28mm/50mm equivalent shooter in that 95% of what I print ends up being in that focal length (mostly at or about 40m) or equivalent - so I grab a 12 mm or 75mm or 90 mm or a macro lens or whatever - I sometimes grab an old SX-70 and couple of packs of Impossible Project films (if I'm feeling wealthy that is!)- or if you're stuck inside and are a landscape shooter, produce still life images under artificial lights. The trick is to go out and find enough images to produce the images from that bit of kit you don't ordinarily use, and not stopping until your goal is achieved.

Solution 3. Data mining. This is my curfew solution. I try and find half a dozen exhibition quality images in some sort of stated theme mined from either or both my digital records of negs/slides. Again, don't stop until your goal is achieved.

How about looking at some photo books in the genre of what might spark some motivation? In the pandemic period, I struggled for almost a year because much of my previous work came from travel to international locations in Brazil, Naples, Sicily, and Africa; all off limits. So, I spent considerable time with photographers such as Raymond Meeks, Tim Carpenter, John Gossage, Phil Perkis, ... . Eventually, with a lot of walking in our neighborhoods I have started to photograph again--different from the past for me, but enjoyable.

“what do you do when you've got photographer's block?”

Oh, I think about any ideas from the past I never worked on and spend time figuring out if it is time to put the dedication into them. I also dive deep into my favorite art and photography picture books, and sometimes I might pull a poetry book from the shelves. Also might pull a quick camper van trip to get out and breath some different air if the schedule permits. There are many choices I have, but they may be dependent upon the weather, or the work schedule, or the cash flow. Buying a new-to-me classic camera always works too!

While choking off some photo opportunities, the pandemic has opened up others. Like Stan B., I was motivated to try a self-portrait. After 9 months without a haircut, I might not have been pretty, but I thought my shaggy self at least worthy of documentation. The results were good enough to encourage me to do some portraits of an even shaggier friend, and some of these were really good, at least by my standards. Having been more a photographer of things rather than people in the past. I am now much more interested in the opportunities and challenges of portraiture. Photography is still a great medium for portraits, but what are the qualities that make a good portrait?

As an afterthought, perhaps self-portraits could be the theme of a future Baker's Dozen. As a side benefit, we could also see what some of our Toppers look like.

Jerry will be happy, like really happy in North Carolina. It's a beautiful state with beautiful people. I have worked 3 hurricanes there for Nationwide... and it's still beautiful.

What do to in case of a photographer’s block?

1. Go somewhere you have never been before. Doesn’t have to be Patagonia or the heart of Borneo. Could be just around the corner.
2. Do what professionals do. Define a project. Maybe some more to keep on the shelf for your future blocks. At the moment my list contains twelve subjects that I would like to start with with as soon as I have finished digitizing my slide archive. To name a few: portraits of my family in law (my Irving Penn project), ‘portraits’ of interesting plants (my Karl Blossfeldt project) or a documentary about the rough undefined landscape of the edge of my home town (my Alec Soth Mississippi project). I only use those names to define a problem to solve. Plus a certain attitude and approach. Don’t want to imitate those guys, even if I could.
And yes, all subjects have been done before. Doesn’t matter as long as you’re enjoying it.
3. Grab a book, watch movies, start painting, cook an excellent meal, cuddle your dear ones or whatever. There is so much more in life than photography.

40 was once regarded as middle age!
My experience
50 No problem
60 Starting to feel it
65 Its biting now
70 Getting bad
75 Yep Its here.
When I get jibed about my old age I promise my younger siblings "Its all in front of you"

I used to go chasing after shots. Now legs are not so spritely and I am sitting around more (and sipping coffee) and wait for shots to turn up. The hunter is evolving into a sniper.

This may not help folks who suffer from G.A.S., but I do think that the occasional purchase of a new camera or lens can act as a spark for renewed interest and new creativity. Short of a new purchase, sometimes an artificial limitation like shooting with only one focal length?

I turn 50 next month, and I’m still trying to make peace with my face. My heart quickens when I spot the possibility of a good picture, but it sickens when someone with a camera thinks I’m one.

Stan reminds me of the actor Joe Pantoliano. Pretty cool looking dudes

My fix is simple. I put a different lens on my camera than I'm used to carrying. Suddenly a familiar walk takes on a whole new look. My eyes picture everything at a fresh focal length.

Seems to me that "block" is a catch-all for a multitude of issue than can afflict a creative process, for which there's no one-size-fits-all solution. That said, sometimes there really is a "block" in the sense of an obstruction or seizing-up that could be knocked loose.

For me sometimes all it takes is to shift focus to editing (or reediting) and printing what I've shot before; or in the opposite direction--just seeing or just looking; or looking at other peoples' work (doesn't have to be photographs).

Sometimes just having different tools in my hand or at my eye does the trick. I think this has to do with getting out of mental ruts and habits, or just getting out of my own head, or getting unstuck from unhelpful notions about photography or being a photographer. HCB: "My passion has never been for photography 'in itself,' but for the possibility — through forgetting yourself — of recording in a fraction of a second the emotion of a subject, and the beauty of the form."

Or maybe it's just that we change and the same tools that fit perfectly yesterday, and might again tomorrow, just won't do it today.

Not photographing for a week can do wonders.

Or maybe it's time to get out that list or box of potential photographic projects you've been accumulating. Don't have a list or box? There's your project.

If you can't come up with a good assignment, try "Draw It With Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment" https://smile.amazon.com/dp/0979757541/ or the marvelous "Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings
by Yoko Ono" https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/0743201108

(Do try shooting with your eyes closed, or at least not looking TTL. Mix it up with deliberate picture-making of the same subject. Then look at the results with an open mind.)

When I'm really struggling to come up with anything to shoot, I like when I get the chance to go out when the light is interesting. After all, light is what lets us photograph, right? It doesn't always work, but more often than not, seeing all the familiar scenery that I'm tired of shooting with faded pastel lighting of a sunset reflecting off clouds, or misty light filtering through coastal fog, or late summer sunlight with a golden tint coming from a western angle, lets me find some interest in the scene. Add to that, looking for details instead of the whole scene. Of course, this relies on getting some interesting light and that doesn't always happen - or happens at inconvenient times, but that's just how photography works sometimes, as we all know.

Mike wrote “ Middle age ends and old age starts at 65”. Fairly obviously these arbitrary cutoffs are ridiculous and old age must vary with individuals but it made wonder when I became old as I now accept I am. Looking back over family photos I took and diary dates it seems old age for me began at 82 or possibly 80, defined by when I stopped being able to do more or less everything I wanted to do without any particular consideration.

"When you go out to try to make pictures, it should be a situation where there's a chance of getting a good shot. I hate coming back from a walk not even wanting to look at the pictures I shot because I already know I didn't get anything. The last thing I want to do is go repeatedly shoot in situations where I already know I'm never going to get a shot I care about."

This kind of blows my mind tbh. How could there not be a chance? Photographs are _everywhere_. But then again I don't really "go out to shoot", I just go about my day, and if I had an interesting time then I'm good. I don't expect photos; they just happen, or they don't.

I think we often forget that photography is not about photography, it's actually about everything else.

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