Sometimes, I hit the wall.
I just can’t create anymore. It happens from time to time, usually when I’m not under pressure to get something done or when I have a lull between projects. When I’m writing I can usually push through it; I’ve been doing it long enough and have a few tricks to get through the dry spells. I have enough confidence to work through the blues, toss our the crap that I will invariably generate and forge ahead.
Photography can be different. I haven’t been at it long and shedding the self-doubt that can creep in when I’m unawares takes me longer. Often I’ll feel like I’m never going to produce an image worth looking at again. Often I feel like I’ve never produced an image worth looking at in the first place. It’s tough to pick up a camera on those days. When I do I wonder what I’m going to shoot, how I’m going to shoot it and who (if anyone) is ever going to look at it.
Maybe it’s because my photography is a matter of public record. Of course, my writing is, too. More so, in many ways. I write movies and books and I work for magazines and papers and people are giving me their opinion on what I’ve created all the time. Yet somehow, photography just feels different. I wonder if it’s because I still view it as a hobby? Hobbies are supposed to be fun. When taking pictures starts to feel like work I think I get a little anxious. A little while back I was as anxious as I’ve been with a camera in my hand.
Olympic Park Shootout: Greg James Hanford and the SPC
My second shoot with Greg was doomed from the start. I don’t remember a time I’ve felt so ill prepared and uncertain about a shoot. Maybe it’s because I knew my idea was silly all along; Megan, Damian Tony and all the other folk that came along to pitch in spent a few hours helping me make “puffy clouds” in an attempt to create some surreal environment for Greg’s cover shoot. Pulling out the black spray paint to make “angry puffy clouds” was never going to be a good idea.
Doomed from the start.
I had been doubting myself for a few weeks after a couple particularly uninspired shoots and I hit a new low when the clouds started dangling. They looked stupid, the light was off, the background was terrible. All my fault. I wanted to pack in the whole operation then and there but with 20 people out to help that wasn’t much of an option. Believe me, though, I considered it. To make matters worse we were crunched for time – a few people were late – so one shoot was spilling over into the time we allotted for the other. Not a good scene.
Yes, it was every bit as tragic as it looks to be here.
We were accomplishing less than Jake. I called an end to the foolishness and went about shooting on the hill – another failure – before working a few natural light images with Greg. At the time they seemed just as silly but I don’t despise them as much now.
That’s enough whining. The moral of this story is that no matter how bad things look – and when you’re taking pictures the proof is right there in front of you – better times are but a click and an f/stop away. By the time I got Aaron and the rest of the crew in front of the camera I had zero confidence left in my ability to create an image, but I did it anyway. I kicked down the lightstands (for the most part) kept things as simple as possible and just got the work done (there’s that word again, and perhaps the root of the problem).
Reflecting on the work we put in it’s easy to see what happened; with the help and encouragement of my team and friends I quit second guessing everything I was doing and we were able to get some decent images out of the set. World beaters? No, not really, but a few keeper frames for sure and one or two I’m even proud of. Mostly because The Immortal Incumbent is so handsome, though. Mostly.
A couple of them even made it into Groove Magazine. Imagine that.
Thanks to everyone who came out to the park to help and have a little fun. The best part of the day wasn’t taking pictures but all the fun we had after. Who knew beer went down so smooth at 2am?*