Where does creative inspiration come from in photography?
Updated: Jan 16, 2021
It seems strange that at the moment I am photographing the landscape when in reality the kind of photos I dreaming up and planning are theatrical images containing people and studio lighting. You might well ask, “why are you disappearing into the wilderness then? This isn’t going to make you any money.”
Landscape photography was my first love when I first got into taking pictures, and I’d longingly look at the work of Colin Prior and John Blakemore wondering if I could ever do anything like that. I’m an outdoors boy at heart who loves to be cycling, running, climbing and hiking so naturally I am drawn to the outside world. When you are out in the cold and the wind is blowing against your face, rain looming and not knowing if anything good will come of your trip, it’s reviving, it makes you feel alive, as though something magical might happen.
Technology doesn’t particularly work when you are somewhere remote and so communication with the world of social media is gone. It’s so nice to give your head a break from the constant noise and updates. This is when I feel most creative. Sat in the Welsh landscape with the mountains looking down upon me, knowing that for hundreds of years people have walked these very same hills, people that believed in monsters and Gods. Their worlds were shaped by very different influences and their perception of where the rain came from or who created mountains was vastly different to mine. They believed in women living in lakes with magical powers or how about the war between the white dragon and the red dragon deep in an underground lake and the red dragon was victorious and so the Welsh Flag displays the victory. It just sparks all sorts of vivid imagery in my mind, how can you not be inspired when you are out here?
For a brief moment, the day job is left behind and I can dream of been exactly who I want to be, the kind of photographer I will one day become. I know that in this world landscape photographers are one a penny and I’m not trying to be one. Pretty much all of the locations I am visiting have been photographed thousands of times before, quite often a million times better than I am doing right now, but they haven’t been photographed by me. We each see the world differently and we each perceive it in different ways.
After attending The photography show in Birmingham I went to some fascinating talks and questions often asked by the audience was “Where does your inspiration come from?” The horror in the photographers eyes was apparent. It’s a strange question and one I don’t think anyone can easily answer. It gets asked to authors lots as well and the same fear surges over their faces.
“We don’t Really Know” – Neil Gaiman
For me it comes from experiences, it comes from films and stories, books once read or images that got ingrained in my mind as a child.
As I get older, I look at photographers and artists who I aspire too, but its the quality of their work which drives me not necessarily their ideas, to one day be as good as them, not just recreate what they produce but learn from them and create something new.
We are the sum of our experiences and if we only see the world through Facebook or Instagram, sheltered in our houses, how can you create something new? Stepping outside and getting in touch with the primal world and reconnecting within our own souls is what’s sometimes needed.
Neil Gaiman sums it up beautifully in this video explaining where his ideas come from, and I think the same is applied to art and photography.
I often find myself getting struck by an idea when I least expect it and not knowing where it comes from. I’ll write down the ideas as they are fleeting, like butterflies in my mind, alive for for only a moment before falling to the ground never to reawaken. I’ve note book after note book with ideas I have written down, only to flick through them years later and go, wow I forgot that one. Where did that come from? Ow I could use that!
If inspiration strikes, you need to make sure you are ready and ensure you are receptive to the the strange universe of unknown ideas and don’t be afraid if your idea has already been created by another. It hasn’t been created by you!
Where does your inspiration come from and how do you come up with ideas? I’d love to find out.