There are many paths that can lead us out of The Creative Block. For me, it’s about genuinely wanting to know everything when situations present themselves – it’s wanting to know about people, about cities, about places and about other ways of thinking. That may be the journalist in me speaking, but since the disruptive economy has become the standard, a new thought process, one that focuses on curiosity, has helped me adapt and reinvent.
Thinking with purposeful curiosity has been making it easier to become inspired photographically. It’s also helping me in my quest to figure out how to survive the next 10 years in this business. This new way of thinking is now part of my daily routine. I try to question my assumptions and ask myself a lot of questions such as can I visit old projects that have already been completed and bring new life to them? Can I find ways to monetize them again? My belief is if we go through our backlog and dig up those remnants, we can find unexplored aspects and give them new life.
But, we have to be willing to take a chance. Whether we explore the past or travel in search of a place where we can create great images, the road can seem dangerous. But danger is only a perspective. That sense of danger directly relates to the fear of failure, which is something we must overcome if we wish to stay creative.
Obviously, you can’t afford to fail when shooting for a client, but there are lots of other contexts where it’s necessary. I’m very fortunate to teach photography at a Philadelphia area university. It’s a pass/fail, one-credit workshop for their honors program (there are no photo majors) and the program encourages students to explore and thrive. My “guidelines” for passing are to show up and really try. In the first class each semester, I discuss failures as a necessary step in the process and am careful not to frame them in a negative light. And that’s the challenge I ask of my students – not to necessarily take the best pictures of their lives – but to unlearn the idea that failure must be avoided at all costs and to instead find what inspires.
Previously published on ASMP’s Strictly Business Blog.
John Welsh is a photographer & storyteller from Philadelphia as well as a director on the National Board of ASMP. He’s a refugee from the land of photojournalism and still manages to carve out hopefully some truth for his clients.