Recently, I read an article on a photography website that I frequent, about a photographer who attempts to capture/document the Chicago city-scape as an “urban quilt.”
I thought the images were beautiful, but not necessarily something that I could make use of here in our relatively “short” Tallahassee. Until yesterday.
I was driving home from class, headed north on Monroe Street through downtown, and the sun, shadows, and the appearance of overlapping buildings caught my eye, and I made a mental note to come back with a “real” camera to take a nice picture. Then I said “aw, screw it,” pulled out my phone, and tried to take the best picture I could at the time. I pulled out my phone to edit it this morning, and after a couple tries, ended up with an urban photo of my own town, edited reflecting my own style, but reminiscent of the “urban quilt” photos from the article.
Additionally, I recently purchased a photo book — one of someone else’s images — that I ran across while perusing the interwebs. And I blew through its several-hundred page span in less than a week. The photographer, Gregory Heisler, is a creator of simple awe-inspiring, communicative portraits, and his book was littered with simple tips, thoughts, and methods of image creation that I would probably have never thought of.
Sunday, I was doing a photo shoot, and found myself subtly adjusting my one light to take into account some of Heisler’s tips on illumination, and found myself with a photo that I was quite proud of, although for me, it’s not necessarily portfolio-worthy.
I write this, not to condone copying, fraud, or stealing someone else’s ideas. No. This is about learning from others — observing the techniques and creations of someone else in order to manipulate and change them to apply to and improve your own work.
Few people (and certainly not me!) are blessed with such a creative imagination that we could produce unique and inspiring works in a vacuum from all other art. Rather, most people seek inspiration from the world (including other artists and their art) around them, and use that as a starting point.
Examples of outside art-inspiration are something I’ve not had occur frequently since I started photography, but the past two days, I’ve now realized it’s occurred TWICE, and it’s both interesting, and invigorating, because I know that I’ve learned something from what I read, and it’s inspiring — I want to go read and learn MORE.
I encourage anyone who finds themselves in a creative rut, or bored with what they’re doing, to find a book, or an online article, that you find interesting or intriguing, and just spend a little while digesting it. You might be surprised with how soon a new and novel idea inspired by your reading can strike.