Thursday, 10 April 2008

Inspiration all around

How and why are we inspired to do what we do? Do we set out specifically with an end goal in mind and a series of resources to methodically work through? Or do we place ourselves in a situation and faithfully wait for inspiration to come to us?

Sometimes the answer appears out of the 3am darkness of a Friday night, thanks to RSS feeds. Other times, an idle stumble on the internet can set in motion a series of ideas. It can even be a chance meeting in the street which is enough to trigger the imagination.
For me personally, nature is a great grounding zone. It helps me work over ideas without stop-starting for the telephone, email, internet... basically, without interruption from technology. It is where you will often find me jotting down thoughts for these blogs or our newsletter. Free from so many constraints and distractions, this is where I go to think.

Everyone has their own methods. I know people who deliberately have a few beers before settling down to work of an evening, because they feel this opens up their thought processes. Maybe this helps them think more laterally, I don't know. Interaction on forums is also a great way to share ideas; for example, I often post on Strobist, which has an active community and is a great place to discuss creative lighting.

I am always thinking. I cannot simply sit still on the sofa and watch the television - my mind is far too active for that. Even on those occasions when I am technically concentrating on a tv show, chances are it's a documentary from which I am hoping to gain some kind of information which I can incorporate into personal projects or creative commissions. You will also find a magazine or notebook not too far from my side - god forbid an idea should get away!

Whether you are looking for inspiration on a personal or a professional level - look around you... at your location, friends, colleagues, relatives. It can often be such a simple thing that gives you that initial spark. And if you see something you like, don't be afraid to draw on it. I recently came across these thoughts on the blog of Chase Jarvis - a US photographer whose work I admire and who, as far as I can see, has got the right idea. Be sure to have a look at that link - and you might also want to check out his follow-up post, too.

Of course, professionally-speaking, it is important to stay up to speed with what's going on, but never forget what led you to where you are. Especially where technology is involved, I think it is always good to reflect on history and tradition. Even now, I love looking through books of photographs taken by the great pioneering photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron and the members of Magnum Photo. There is such a lovely quality to the images produced by these people and you really get a sense of what photography should be about - the 'being there', the observation, the reaction and interaction, the simplicity and effectiveness of light.

At the end of the day, inspiration is everywhere - you just have to tune in to find it. And keep an open mind. In the same way that there is often 'never a stupid question', there is also never a resource that cannot generate productivity, no matter how random or irrelevant it may seem.

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