Do you ever hit the wall and feel like you've already done all your good stuff?

Maybe I just need to focus a bit more. Distill things down to their essence. Find the thing that interests me at the core of all mybusy motion. Stop shooting and processing so much and look more. I started a new exercise last week. I do one walk a week where I take no camera. I have no agenda. I walk and I look and I let everything soak in. Sometimes I'll just stop and watch the light reflect off the mirrored surface of one building and paint a brick building across the street in a golden tone.

Rather than concentrate on setting my camera correctly for street photography the whole not having a camera means I spend more time looking at people more deeply. Looking at their eyes. Looking for their human condition. Are they happy or sad. Disturbed or thoughtful. At peace or agitated. Busy to get somewhere or lost in their own world.

I don't think I ever wanted my work to be decorative or totally representational and yet in my quest to stay busy (thanks a lot, my Puritanical fore bearers....) I've spent too much valuable time shooting reflections and coffee cups and random people doing random things.

I've always known that the benefit of walking through my city is two fold: I get some needed exercise and fresh air, and, I know where everything is located. But as far as photography goes it's just another way I've let resistance come between me and what I should be doing with my camera (the one I already own) and what I should be doing with my keyboard.

I'm about to have another birthday. It's coming up next month. On my birthday I'll be in NYC at Photo Plus talking about a new camera. It's a job. And it's another aspect of resistance. I know long term I should be doing the things that will push me relentlessly toward my over riding goals. But I can always justify classes and presenter gigs, blog writing and things like that because I need the income and the cash flow. Just about everybody does.  Gotta put the boy through college. Gotta keep saving for retirement....

And yet there is always the uncomfortable thought that I'll put off the work I really want to do in order to be "productive" and "responsible" and just as I've succeeded in fulfilling my self-imposed obligations, just as I'm ready to do the one big thing I'll get hit by a bus or contract some dreadful disease and the whole house of cards will tumble down.

I think the feeling of hitting the inspirational wall is a signal that you've lost your way or you've surrounded your way with so much fluff that you can no longer clearly see the path on which you want to be.  If that's the case it's time to get the shovel and dig out from under all the meaningless crap so you can see just where to put your feet in order to move yourself forward, in the direction you chose. Toward the goals that you set.

Cameras and busy photography sure have a way of bogging us down. Mastering the discipline to distill everything down until it becomes obvious what you wan to do is the key. Doing it now is the schedule.


ODL Designs said...

Always Kirk, always.

But then I surprise myself and produce a piece I love. It is all swings and roundabouts. Have you ever read Seth Godins "The Dip"? It describes crossing a difficult "dip" to reach the highs at the end of the challenge. Well the better you are at what you do I imagine the dip gets wider to reach the new highs.


Michael Matthews said...

Nothing wrong with earning a living. In fact, it's advisable. Admirable.

As to being blockaded by excess fluff, being kept from the one true path -- ease up.

An unhealthy alternative is to fall into a rut of endless navel-gazing about the essential nature of art. After a while, all one can see is lint. Another form of fluff.

If you really want to clear the way to a new horizon, publish the damned novel. Get past it. Be free to move on.

I'll just have another cup of coffee. No photography, please.

Ron Nabity said...

Hit the wall? Yeah - it only happens once a week, but it lasts for 6.95 days.

Sometimes when I feel blah about photography, I make myself go out and do something random with a camera, like spend an hour photographing an old building. After 5 minutes I want to stop, but keep walking around and looking/shooting anyway. After about 30 minutes I start to like the building and see some things that are interesting. After an hour, I'm feeling recharged.

Until next week, that is.

Kirk Tuck said...

Good advice.

Old Gray Roy said...

With the friendliest of feelings and intentions:

Endless striving muddies the water. Constantly firewalling the accelerator cramps your calf and spins the tires. Being all things to all people............. You have just had a peak experience in Germany; peaks are often followed not by valleys, they are followed by craters. You interface online with a huge number of people of, I am sure, great diversity. This has to be a considerable energy drain.

I am considerably older than you. This does not make me wiser, it does make me wonder who is the wrinkled old geezer staring at me from the mirror. Age, more than anything else, slows a person down and allows time for unhurried thought. From that perspective I offer these thoughts to you.

Claire said...

I agree with Michael, publish the damn book, you know from your blog's readership's curiosity alone that it will sell in thousands, what's the risk ?
And maybe it's about time you realize you hate street photography ? I know I do. I can't really think portraitists at heart (like you, masterfully, and me, humbly) could love street. Portrait is all about engaging with your subject and rapport with one interesting person. Street is a voyeur's genre of flying over places full of people but without truly touching it or connecting with anybody. Think about it. You keep on trying to do street but you don't like it. I'm awed by 95% of your portraits but I've yet to see your talent and eye shine in street pictures. I"m absolutely convinced that if, aside from completing your paid work on whatever projects you're hired for, you concentrated on things you enjoy, portraits, writing, swimming, playing with cameras and letting us know about it, you wouldn't hit that wall.

Anonymous said...

You'll be fine, this kind of questioning is part of the creative process. Who knows where it will lead you. If you never question yourself or your work, you will never go anywhere new. Being content with your art is the path to stagnation. Inspirational walls are just another form of writer's block. This too shall pass.

Bruce Rubenstein said...

"On my birthday I'll be in NYC at Photo Plus talking about a new camera."

I go every year. I'd like to stop by and say Hi and Happy Birthday. When It's appropriate, please mention where and when you'll be there.

Anonymous said...

Photo Plus? I may drop in for the expo on Saturday. Will you be doing a seminar, or a brief gig for Samsung? (Just want to know, so that if chance allows, I can say "Hi") (oops! "Howdy" You are from Texas, after all)

I agree with "Old Gray Roy" - you've just had a blast, and on someone else's dime - I'll hazard a guess that it's like the classic post-vacation let-down.

(By the way, I'd post as something other than "anonymous" if I could figure out what these choices implied.Showing my age, I think)


Old Gray Mike

Kirk Tuck said...

Thank you.

Kirk Tuck said...

To Bruce and Mike, I'll be at the Samsung booth playing around with a Galaxy NX and a bag o' lenses. Come by any time and we'll find coffee.

Carlo Santin said...

I'm still hoping to take an interesting photo. That's my wall.

Corwin Black said...

I hope they will release full frame NEX soon enough, so you had some motivation for taking pics. :)

Seriously future is uncertain. Always. As long as you breathe and move (and see with your own eyes etc.) there is still opportunity to make something good. We never know when and if we will make that "great photo". I just keep believing it will be that next one..

Might never happen ofc, but its good motivation I think.

Craig Yuill said...

I read a piece not that long ago praising down time. That's a time when great ideas can pop up to the surface, or so the article stated. Not carrying a camera with you allows (forces?) you to experience and think your surroundings in a different way. It might just rejuvenate your mind and help you to create that art you so very much want to create.

And I'll also chime in that I also would like to see that unpublished novel of yours.