“the other thing about being a songwriter… is that to provide ammo, you start to become an observer, you start to distance yourself. You’re constantly on alert. That faculty gets trained in you over the years, observing people and how they react to one another. Which in a way, makes you weirdly distant. You shouldn’t really be doing it. It’s a little of a Peeping Tom to be a songwriter. You start looking round, and everything’s a subject for a song.”
- Kieth Richards
While in England this past summer, I read Rolling Stones guitarist, Kieth Richards’ auto-biography, Life. While I traveled to different parts of the UK, it was the perfect companion. Richards writes about his early years with the Stones, how he moved from being someone who plays primarily covers to writing his own music and lyrics and his life on the road.
As I have mentioned before, I started taking photography seriously in about 2008, so although I have learned fast, gaining experience, I am still in the early stages of my artistic/professional life. I have felt myself hit that stage where I no longer just want to look at photographs and re-create them; I find myself taking certain pictures because I crave a certain feeling or mood, not just because I have seen something like it before.
In his book, Richards documents his transition from someone who is happy to make the same sound as others who came before, to experimenting and finding a sound that expresses something personal. Reading about his artistic progression made me look at my own;
Have I hit that point where I am no longer merely reproducing the art of those I look up to?
Both personally and professionally, this past fall has been a time of awakening. I have been exposing myself to new books, artists and ideas and many changes have occurred - some a lot harder than others. Through these past months, I have been turning to my photography, both personal and professional, for solance. I have felt a creative energy and have been exploring the medium. Theorist Susan Sontag in her book, On Photography, asserts,
“the very act of taking pictures is soothing, and assuages general feelings of disorientation”
David Lynch, in his book, Catching the Big Fish(which I know I have mentioned on this blog more than once in the past), writes about artistic struggles as something that limits creativity.
“The more an artist is suffering, the less creative he is going to be. It’s less likely that he is going to enjoy his work and less likely that he will be able to do really good work.”
I found Lynch’s assertion interesting, since photography for me has always been a way to help me through times of anxiety, and that it is often considered, as Sontage asserts, a way to feel a sense of control.
But what about expressing disorientation? What about when it is your artistic life that begins to spiral out of control? Does this change the nature of your work?
Over the last half of 2011, I have undergone many changes. I have moved back to my hometown in order to be close to my studio space. My business moved in an unexpected direction, which thus presented new opportunities, which resulted in their own changes . Some of these changes meant saying good-bye to very close connections and completely re-thinking my approach to not only my business, but also how I view myself. I have had to face my (lack of) confidence issues and keep going on my own. Consequently, I have pushed myself more creatively and seen just how much people value my artistic perspective; I really don’t need anyone beside me to succeed.
Through all these transitions, I have had little time for much personal shooting, writing or even reflection. When I think back on the fall, it all seems like a blur. In the past, I turned to photography to ease anxiety about other areas in my life. These months, have been unique for me in that, my photographic life has been through a number of significant transitions. As I reflect;
How have these transitions and change impacted my photographs?
Looking through the personal photographs from July to the past week, I can see differences. Although I have not spent time going out to specific locations to take pictures, I traveled with my camera and grabbed a few shots whenever I had the chance.
Since I have not had time to stage or think about much of what I have personally photographed the past couple of months, to relate to Keith Richards book (which – ironically- was something that I read before a lot of my change occurred), I feel I have not been “re-creating” or referencing other photographs because I simply haven’t had the time to do so. I have just had to take the shot instinctively, looking at every part of my life for inspiration.
Despite my apprehension about all the unexpected change and not having the time to spend “developing” my own unique photographic “vision,” the challenges presented over this time have resulted the perfect environment for fostering artistic and emotional growth. I also have been returning to Yoga and meditation and exploring Buddhist writers, specifically, Alan Watts. I have reflected on much of what he has written about change and have used his words as a sort of mantra when struggling:
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.