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September 23, 2009

Seeing your way out of a Rut

- this little boy, yes, it's a boy, has the most wonderful head of hair. He's really young. Maybe 4or 5 and I have no idea why he was wearing these sunglasses backwards but his head looks like the head of a mannequin. Funny.

When you spend a lot of time taking photographs, after some time, you begin to get into a rut. Suddenly you realize that the images you've been taking resemble images that you've taken before in the way you've captured the subject through your choice of angle, distance, light, or well, just pick any aspect really.

I think part of that is related to the fact that like everything you spend a significant amount of time doing, you usually get better at it. And, when you get better at something, your expectations and discrimination levels go way up. Suddenly what you used to think was a good photo is now just pretty ordinary and nothing special. In fact, when you look at it, the little voice in your head is going, " Oh god, can't you come up with something more original than that? Been there. Done that."

In writing, it's a good idea to look at it and ask yourself whether each word you're using (and this is true for poetry) is really of any value. Is it the right word? Does it really add anything to what you're trying to communicate? Would your piece/poem be stronger without that word?

Afterall, I think everyone knows by now that writing isn't about the writing, it's about getting rid of the first thing you wrote which in the end you will inevitably, most often, see as a piece of garbage when you really finish the piece. (Let me just say, having said that, that the Blog is different. For me the Blog is just about BLAH - let it all hang out and don't worry too much about it. Stream of consciousness is fine. Those are my rules. I can live by my own Blog rules. If you don't like 'em, get your own blog! I mean that in the nicest way of course.)

So, I find myself in a photographic rut wondering how to shake myself out of it.
A good photographer/friend of mine wrote to me saying, "Plateaus in photography mean that you can now "see farther, better" and your task is to move from old ways into new ones. Of course, the new is built on the old. So don't fret, just let loose and do some photography that shakes up old patterns and you will discover something new." He makes it sound so easy. Examples of photography that shakes up old patterns. (Hold the camera upside down?) Shoot at night. Force yourself to take photos that are in an area no more than 6 feet in circumference. Ask someone whether they can be your subject?

It helps to look at other people's approaches to photography. Especially I think photographers whose work really appeals to you so that you can try and figure out why their images strike you. It's always, I think, about capturing the universal in the specific. Capturing emotion. Capturing light as close to the way we experience it when our camera is nowhere to be found and how it makes us feel. I can still remember the light in a room I woke up in when I was young and greatly infatuated. I remember the way the light looked on the curtains at The ghost ranch in my cabin. I'll remember the orange coming through the fir bough and the purple mountain against the sky as I sit here and type this looking out my window.

I've been reading this book on Kindness lately and it talks a lot about how being open, trusting, and giving others the benefit of the doubt will change your life because suddenly you will "see" possibilities and instead of shutting out the unknown, if you embrace it, and consciously bring yourself back to the moment by being present for yourself and to others, then you will begin to notice things that otherwise you would have missed. So many of us were raised to be exactly the opposite and it's such a burden to come from that place.

So, my challenge is to figure out how to push myself past my current way of seeing - with and without - my camera.

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