Floundering Around In The Dark

Leicester Guildhall.
Leicester Guildhall.

I’m feeling very frustrated with my photography at the moment. I think I’m going through the equivalent of “writer’s block” and I’ve been suffering from it for several weeks now, possibly months.

The weather doesn’t help. It seems that every time I get a chance to get out with a camera we’re covered in a heavy blanket of grey cloud which doesn’t shift. Photography is all about light, I need light to work with and everything is flat, grey and lifeless. The fact that I really like working with high contrast light just makes it feel worse.

But it goes beyond this. I feel like I’m wandering directionless. I know I need projects to work on and the harder I think about possible projects the less inspiration comes to me. Everything just feels impossible.

Okay so to take photographs we have to go out and shoot. So get the hell out there and shoot! Dull, grey day? Doesn’t matter. There will be photos out there just waiting to be taken. So I go out and it feels like I’m trying too hard. I’m trying to make images out of nothing. And the harder I try the worse it gets.

And then I start to think, “Why the hell am I even bothering? What does any of this matter? Who even looks at any of this rubbish I keep shooting?”.

It matters to me because making photographs is such a key part of who I am. It’s my one form of self expression. I can’t draw, I can’t paint, I can’t sing, I can’t play a musical instrument. I suppose I could write… Yeah I could, but I do it badly.

When I have so little free time to dedicate to taking photos it feels like I have to make the very best use of every moment I get. And yet I struggle to even know where to go to shoot. I’ve lived in the same place all of my life. I feel like I know everything so well. Too well. Seeing a place for the first time seems to open up so many photographic avenues, trying to make images in a place you know like the back of your hand can feel like trying to breath life back into the dead.

St. Martins East.
St. Martins East, Leicester.

I took a walk around the cathedral area of Leicester for a couple of hours or so earlier today. It’s a part of town I like a lot, interesting old buildings and steeped in history. I ended up taking around 90 photos out of which one or two were “meh, sort of ok”. I’m using them in this post.

So what can I do to get my mojo back?

It feels like I’m stuck in a rut and I need to come up with “something new”, approach my photography in a different way. It might not be about going to new places. It certainly isn’t about buying more kit. I think I need to go back to looking at lots of good photography by other people. I need to spend more time reading other people’s photography blogs.I need to think of projects I can work on and I need to actually get out there and shoot the ones I’ve already got in my head.

How can it be that I’ve had an idea for one project in my head for several years now and I’ve never even attempted to go out and shoot a single photo for it? Would it put me too far out of my comfort zone? Yes, I think it probably would. Maybe that would be a good thing?

Video Columns
Video Columns. Highcross, Leicester.

9 thoughts on “Floundering Around In The Dark”

  1. And as Sod’s Law would have it I discovered a problem with my image links right after posting this. I think I’ve got to the bottom of it now. I self host this blog and use the Jetpack plugin to pick up a few features from my Worpress.com account. It turns out that is was the Jetpack “photon” feature which was causing the image problems – breaking the links to my photos.

  2. Really like the video columns, I’ve tried photographing them but without success. I’m a bit inspiration flat at the moment too, not helped this morning when taking a few shots behind the old Charles St police station, and being accosted by a security guard who told me I had to delete my images. I won’t repeat on here what I said !

        1. I had to be quick with my reply earlier as I was at work. I do hope you didn’t give them the satisfaction of deleting anything… Or were you shooting film? I walk by that area most evenings on my walk home from work and I’ve often wanted to shoot a view down Colton Street when the light is right.

          One memorable incident I had with two Special PCs saw me shooting with my Ricoh GR1s around Queens Road. There’s a temple there with a lovely carved stone roof and I was taking a shot of that when these two approached me and flatly told me I had to delete the photo I’d just taken of the temple. “Why are you taking photos of the temple?”, “what are you going to do with that?” followed by “delete it now and show me it’s gone”. My answers were “because I like the carving on the roof”, “take it home, soak it in various chemical baths, scan it in and enjoy looking at it” and “no, this is film and anyway I’m in a public place so arrest me” – or words to that effect. I was rather shocked by the encounter and I wished I’d taken their ID so I could take it up later, I was fuming.

          Also worth noting if you do delete digital photos to get out of an awkward situation (and no, you shouldn’t have to but I can understand why people do when intimidated) then swap the memory card out and continue shooting on another card. When you get home it’s fairly easy to “undelete” even after formatting a card as long as you’ve not overwritten the space. There are plenty of photo recovery packages out there and SanDisk even give away licenses to theirs with their higher end cards ( as do Lexar I think, maybe others),

          1. Thanks again Chris for the information. I was shooting digital, and did not delete the image, I just couldn’t believe being asked to do so. This was the first time, I guess I’ve been lucky in the past. I know the Temple near Queens Rd, not surprised you were fuming considering it’s very much on a public street.

  3. Just don’t stress about it Chris. I’ve never met anyone that calls them self a photographer that has not complained about exactly the problems you describe above. I could have written that same post at any point in the last 6 months too.
    Reading books and looking at other work is always the right thing to do, even if you’re making your own progress.

    Alternatively, just sell everything that you own and travel the world, moving every three months – it worked for Koudelka (https://www.magnumphotos.com/newsroom/society/josef-koudelka-exiles)

    1. Thank you Barnaby, I’m making a point of spending some time each evening now looking at photo blogs, looking at Flickr and trying to relax about it. I’ve been here before, I know it’ll pass. Whilst I’m here I really need to thank you for pointing me in the direction of those old railway sidings in Coalville. I saw your photos of the place on Flickr a while back and visited briefly myself a few weeks ago. I have a very soft spot for decay, abandonment and the the return of nature. I intend to be back there later in the year.

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