My favorite model, Lou, was in the studio one day during a time when I was working on a video about coffee. It was early times for photo/video adopters. We were using a Canon L2 Hi-8 camera and a couple of Sony EC-M lavalier microphones. Lou wasn't really interested in participating in the video project but we did have fun playing around with our coffee cup props. I used a lower lighting angle on a big, Balcar Zebra Umbrella, with a diffusion cover to light her.
I asked Lou to show me the ennui that comes from "no more coffee." And she gave me this very, very emotionally flat look. I thought it was fun so I snapped the shutter. We were using a Hasselblad Camera and a long lens along with some black and white film.
I posted this to discuss how some artists work. I think that the best work, for me, comes in the moments of play that fall in between the paid work. When we work seriously, for money, we work within boundaries that are established both by the client and by our need to erect a safety net so that we cannot fail. But girding against failure also pins our playful wings and moves us not to risk too much.
When we are carefree and submerged in the process of fun and imagination, and when there are no consequences to failure, we are free to push for what our hearts see. Even if it seems silly and inconsequential at the time.
I've been thinking lately about the process of thinking and I've come to believe that when everything is processed through the thing we call "intellect" it short circuits the process of being in the moment and being unambiguously creative. In the martial arts people practice their moves over and over again so that when they compete or fight their attacks and defenses happen in a space beyond thought. They do it by instinct. The act of playing around with photographs in a carefree way helps to build that same sort of unconscious and unplanned creativity that lets us create work that moves us in a different way than the quantitative process of planning provides.
I know people who plan meticulously and execute their photography exactly according to plan. My feeling is that the planning is valuable, but only if you are willing to throw it all away when instinct, and your heart, over-rule your brain and suggest a different approach, all at faster than the speed of thought.
When I photograph I am not looking for perfection. I am looking for a way to channel a feeling about my subject. I am looking for ways to guide inspiration that comes from an immeasurable place into my camera. I become a conduit.
Sometimes coffee helps.
Making a fun portrait is like a dance where I lead sometimes and I am led at other times and neither of us really know what awaits at the next stanza.