"How do you come up with your ideas?" That's a fairly understandable question when your entire body of work is based around the development and creation of imagery that invokes meaning, story, and emotion - and for a long time during the early parts of my career, I didn't have an answer to it. After sitting down and examining my methods of inspiration and concept development, I found a pattern in my method that worked incredibly well for me. While this process isn't the end-all be-all of idea development, it's worth a shot if you're in a rut. I break it down to 3 main pieces:
The first thing I do when I begin to develop a killer idea is not to jump write in, but rather to sit quietly, and reflect. When I'm working on a new photograph, I tend to sit down and take stock of my current emotions, experiences, theories, and ideas about myself, those around me, and the world as a whole. Often times the best way to get in this habit is to just be quiet - you'll notice it happening naturally when you're about to fall asleep, or you take a long shower. Give yourself quiet space to think and step back from the business of daily life. With that in mind, we go to our next step:
Once I've spent some quiet time in consideration of my thoughts, emotions, and theories, I apply them to music. I like to do this most often on a hardwood floor with a pillow, laying with the grain. (I'm a weirdo). Last time, however, I was sitting in a coffee shop with my intern, a few people sprinkled around the shop. I put on some music, close my eyes, and allowed images to form in my imagination. It's a really cool process, and it's a skill, just like any other, that can be learned, applied, and developed as you grow in to it. When images start to form, take note of the ones that stick around. The ones that slip away either aren't ready to be shot, or aren't good enough yet to stay top of mind.
During this process, I also like to keep in mind any photographic projects or undertakings I've committed to, and apply them to the listening process. Right now, I'm working on a series of images for each letter of the alphabet, and a challenge to myself to create a new image for each letter every week for 26 weeks. A good thing to do in general is just list out words that inspire you, which is something I'm doing with this project. Here's what that looks like for me:
When you see a clear image begin to form, take it to the last and final step:
This is the most important part of my entire creative process. A number of studies show that when you actively write something down, it is easier committed to memory and takes deeper root in your mind.
As we write down the information we are receiving from dwelling on our emotions and theories, we are forced to think about them on a deep level. And then we take it a level deeper, and write notes and details alongside them. In my sketch, you can see there are little notes written off to the side - that's a common occurrence, and it helps you to think about what elements are going in to the photograph, and also causes you to remember and apply them when you're shooting.
With all of these steps applied, I come out with a clear and KILLER idea of what I'm going to create. Whether or not that image sees finality is another story, and the topic of the next blog post, coming in just a few days. :-)
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I'm on a mission to show that the light will always pierce through the darkness.