[No, I'm not fishing for compliments. I promise. I hate when people do that.]
I'm not very imaginative. I don't have bursts of original ideas. I can't easily envision things that don't exist. My brain just doesn't work that way. I'm definitely a thinker, and I like thinking deeply and excessively, but I just can't do thinking originally.
What I am good at is finding inspiration and then imitating it.
I can look on Pinterest and easily figure out how I'd like to decorate my house, because it's all right there in front of my eyes. Now, my own imitation will probably vary from the original, because I shop at Ikea and Marshall's and not [insert fancy home store here], but there will be a definite flavor that isn't inherently my own. The way I assemble it is mine, but the source of inspiration rarely originates with me.
I've been musing on this idea for awhile now, and truly, I think most of us are in the same boat I am. We find what we like and it inspires us to make our own. There are of course creative geniuses out there, the ones from whom the original ideas flow easily, and their names become synonymous with forward thinking and groundbreaking ideas, but for the rest of us plebians, creativity is drawn about by what others have done before us.
Some might find this discouraging. I know I definitely have. Especially when it comes to artistic endeavors, we want to be The First to attempt an idea. Perhaps because art is so personal, it feels cheapened when we know the creation was born from an outside influence and not our very souls.
But I'm not so sure it's such a bad thing anymore. The last week or so, I've been under the weather with a cold, and therefore I've been immersing myself in documentaries about photographers and photography itself. I've learned more in this last week than I have in long time about this craft. I learned about wet plate collodion photography from the incredible works of Sally Mann (and other artists I found on youtube). I've revisited film photography and developing at home, and daydreamed about having my own darkroom. I've delved into the world of studio photography and lighting. I've learned about how to make 3D images. I've perused just about every niche and technique of photography there is or was. It has been the most glorious cold I've ever had.
And something has happened to me during all this education. I'm feeling inspired. I'm feeling passionate. And I'm feeling a definite push into the art side of photography.
Something that has always felt like a weakness was that I had no desire really to do photography professionally. I don't want to do posed family shots. I don't want to be a wedding photographer. And those are the most obvious ways to make money in photography. It's not that there's anything wrong with those careers, they just aren't my niche. I've been asked to do a wedding and couldn't decline fast enough. I've shot dozens of family portrait sessions, almost all for free and for friends. Those were good experiences, because they taught me how to use my camera, but I never felt a sense of purpose or satisfaction in those shoots. I did them because people asked me to, not because I wanted to. But I think I'm at a place now where I should be more selective in what I shoot. I don't want to spend time running around shooting family portraits, because as a homeschooling mom, there's just not a whole lot of time to spare. I can't really justify finding a babysitter, driving all over town, shooting for an hour, and then spending time post processing for shoots that I have no passion or interest in. It's not fair to my kids, my babysitters, my "clients", or to the many talented portrait photographers who desperately need customers.
So consider this my "resignation" from that area of photography. (Except for that one last shoot I have to do--don't worry Amy, I haven't forgotten! :)
I want to make images you'd find in a gallery rather than a Facebook cover photo or a family album. I want to hire models instead of having clients hire me. I want to tell stories in a way that feels personal to me. I want to learn to speak through my photos. Not for recognition, not for compensation, not really for any other reason than I feel like there are images in me that just have to get out.
And above all, I obviously don't ever want to make any money. ;)
I know this probably seems a little maudlin and perhaps I am taking things a little too seriously. And don't think that I imagine I can accomplish art with the snap of a finger just because I have declared I'll do it. But the way my brain works, when I'm passionate about something, it takes over. I obsess. Like, for real. Every free minute is filled with devotion to the object of my passion. No, I haven't found a niche, and honestly, I probably never will. Because I feel a pull from just about every kind of photography, and I've decided to just embrace that. I have a new project I'm stewing where I'll be able to pursue all kinds of images and techniques in a way that I'm really excited about. It makes me want to not shoot anything else but the project. I'm hoping that it forces me to learn and really tread the deep waters of photography. I feel like for the first time, I have a purpose and a goal, at least for the foreseeable future.
Of course, I still have my year long project and I still need to take pictures of my kids. So hopefully I come up from the euphoria long enough to shoot the things around me too. But that euphoria is such an awesome place to be, where my normally non-imaginative brain keeps having specific photo ideas popping up. And it's not that my work will necessarily be original, but it will be me. It will be my take on art.
And that's something to be excited about.