What is Inspiration?
March 29, 2014
What type of people, places or things inspire us to act on our thoughts and do something? It could be all sorts if things… possibly something we saw or heard. Whatever it is, it has caught our attention and has given us the will power to do something we may have never done before. And I think that for artists, inspiration is the life blood that keeps the art flowing. Motivating us to get off our lazy butts and get out there and do something. Not being afraid that something could go wrong in the process… and understanding it’s OK.
Being that digital imaging has become so easy and convenient to use, most people would wonder why even bother with pinhole photography. Why not use a pinhole body cap on your DSLR and do it that way. Sure, you can do that but I still think that the analog processes of pinhole photography (film, paper, etc.) create a more compelling image in the end. I’m sure technological advancements will take care of this in the near future but until then I’ll continue uses film and photographic paper for my pinholes photos.
Any of you that have done analog processes like pinhole photography before, know that a bit of patience, motivation and inspiration definitely helps. The idea that we could create something new and exciting… a creation that we can look back on and say, “I’m glad I did that”. There’s something mysterious and exciting about not knowing exactly what is being created in the camera when you make the exposure. I think it’s these random mysteries that keep us coming back for me. That anything could happen along the way to alter the outcome of the photograph. That nothing is set in stone until the final image appears in the darkroom.
So why all the talk about inspiration? I mean who cares? If I want to go out and take a pinhole photograph, I will. But will that photograph turn out to be something inspirational? A photo that when you look at it, it makes you and others want to create something like it or similar themselves. Or will it be a photo that inspires people to do random acts of kindness… or worse acts of hatred? This is why I feel as image makers we need to think about the types of art we create. Will my creation be something positive that benefits the people who look at it or will it be something that harms and causes psychological damage? A good friend once told me, “Chris, images, words and sounds are like seeds, be careful what of you look at, read and listen to… if you’re not careful those seeds will grow into something larger.” I think he may be right, if someone is constantly bombarded with violent images, could they be conditioned into being a violent person? Or better yet, if someone where conditioned only to seek out and study images with a positive message, would that person turn around and pay those thoughts forward in a positive actions? Food for thought.
I think as artists we have to understand that a positive cannot exist without a negative. It is within this Yin and Yang of art that we realize that too much of one thing is always bad. That everything in life needs balance.
So what inspires me?
Morning Light. I use to be a night person and would stay up late doing all sorts of things. I liked the night and would get some of my best work done during the evening hours. After I got married I realized that my wife wasn’t a “night person” and so slowly I became a “morning person” so I could spend more time with her. In the process of doing that, I realized that the morning is a beautiful time of the day and worth getting out of bed for. The light is soft, warm and signifies the coming of a brand new day. Sometimes when I get up before the sunrise and I’m out in about in nature, there’s nothing more majestic than watching the world, which was just cloaked in darkness, slowly illuminated with light. Don’t get me wrong, I love afternoon light too, that kinda of light doesn’t require you to get yourself out of bed early in the morning.
Traveling. I don’t know what it is, but when I’m on a trip, either for business or a personal vacation, I always get inspired by the things I see. I have to remind myself not to go “looking” for shots but instead have them “find” me. This way I know it’s not going to be some set-up and contrived shot. I also think that when you’re traveling you need to be ready to open and close the shutter when the moment presents itself. How many times have you seen something that catches your eye and then gone grabbing for your camera (buried deep in a camera bag or backpack) only to see it come and go before you have your camera out.
Other Artists. I remember my art teacher telling me that “Chris, everything has been done before.” I thought, gee thanks, that really makes me want to go out and try and create art knowing that everything has been done before. Thanks. But really, he was kinda right. After you look at art created in the past, you slowing come to understand that art copies life… and other artists copy each other. Maybe it’s not so much that we “copy” each other, instead we are “inspired” by others to give a certain technique or process a shot. And in the process maybe we discover something that we weren’t planning on which leads us down a whole different path that we end up loving. In the past I ran a series of pinhole photographers on my website, but after a few years of doing that I had to stop due to other obligations. I found that by keeping this series alive it inspired me to keep up with my own pinhole photography work. I’ve always thought that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop… so whatever you can do to keep your mind engaged in something positive the better. Music is a big part of my life. Sadly I never learned to play a musical instrument but I enjoy listening to all types of music from all around the world. I listen to music while I work, play and exercise. It motivates me to keep going and inspires me to think different and try new things.
Family, Friends and Pets. I don’t know about you, but I get a lot of inspiration from the people I spend my time with. A good friend of mine a while back got me into crossfit workouts as well as inspiring me to try new exercises and keeping a constant fitness routine going. Family is also another source for inspiration for me. I know my children say and do things that make me stop, think and laugh. I remember reading this quote that said, “there is much to be learned from watching a child at play”. Young children don’t have inhibitions like adults do.
Children are able to see things as they are without being influenced by years of criticisms and judgements made by their peers. If they want to draw a picture of a tree, they do it… they don’t sit there and second guess themselves on the right or wrong way to draw a tree… they just draw a tree and allow the picture to be as it is. Fortunately it’s not until later in life when their peers start telling them that something isn’t not drawn correctly. Sadly that’s when children start to second guess themselves. It’s our friends and family that encourage us to keep creating and not to lose faith in ourselves that we can “do it”.
And of course lets not forget our animal friends we call our pets. We all know how much we love our pet family members and know they lift our spirits when we’re down.
Exercise and Eating Right. We all know that age old saying, “a healthy mind, a healthy body”. Taking care of yourself by eating healthy foods and exercising definitely keeps your mind going strong. I like to mix my workouts with cardiovascular exercises (running, rowing, Stairmaster, bicycle) mixed with lifting weights. I time it for 20 minutes and see how many reps I can do. Each workout I try to reach mast last goal, which in turn motivates/inspires me to beat it. I do find that setting goals in whatever you’re trying to do keeps you focused and on task. It’s easy to wander and get distracted when you don’t have a defined goal that’s important to you. I have learned that keeping your routines mixed up and fun keeps you wanting to come back for more. I have to remind myself this often or else I find myself doing the same things over and over. Be spontaneous and push yourself to keep going when you want to stop. Challenge yourself to do extra reps and feel good about it after you do it. So what does exercise have to do with pinhole photography? I truly feel that when your mind and body is healthy your art improves too. Makes sense right?
Meditation. Having a quiet mind that is able to listen and look without judgment. I find that sometimes my best creative ideas come when the world around me is quiet. Being in quiet open spaces in nature where the sounds of man and machine are churning away. Listening to the birds chirp and the gentle wind blowing through the trees. I think we can get so focused on certain something that we no longer can see what’s around the thing we are focused on. That the creative path is as equally important to what you’re trying to create. This is why I think it’s important for us to “step outside of the circle” every once and a while and see what it is so important about what’s inside the circle.
I have a page on my website that has some inspirational words, quotes and proverbs