This was a real learning for me and once I grasped the importance of it my creative output and quality came on in leaps and bounds.
Knowing how to use the tools, refining our technique and even being able to compose a telling photo all come together much more eloquently once we begin to recognise that perhaps much of this has done before, and better. I’m not saying this to infer that it’s not worth bothering. Quite the opposite in fact.
There’s such value in looking at and studying the work of the masters and seeing what works and what doesn’t. What’s the use of working in a bubble of our own making when there’s so much beautiful work out there that can inspire us, show us what is possible and drive us on to greater things. I’m not talking about the everyday landscapes that flood through Instagram and 500pixels, although there is an element of quality stuff to be found there. I mean the masters, whoever they may be for you. And it’s for you to go and find them. It could be Ansel Adams, Josef Sudek, Minor White, Dorothea Lange or a current worker such as David Ward, Joe Cornish or Jim Brandenburg.
Here I’m naming just a few well known photographers out of a vast ocean who you can set out to discover and then study. By study I mean just that. A cursory glance through their work won’t make any difference to you at all, rather a good hard considered approach should be taken. By doing this we can leapfrog ahead, standing on their shoulders so to speak rather than having to slavishly repeat the mistakes of past generations, mistakes that have long since been overcome if we but care to check.
Develop a Study Practice
I make it a practice to regularly seek out new workers and to revisit the art of the masters, and that includes artists in mediums other than pixels and silver halides! Give it a go, choose a mentor. Maybe even spend some money and accompany one on a shoot!
Secondly, and just as importantly, discover your Muse. How you see your Muse is your business. Like writer Elizabeth Gilbert you may see your Muse as a real being, very much in the way of the ancient Greeks, Romans or Egyptians, or you may see it as your drive, your inner vision. However please just try to know that the Muse exists in some way and if we show up repeatedly we’ll be gifted inspiration more often.
Find Your Muse
Every high level artist acknowledges their Muse. Trust me on this and learn how to connect with yours.
One way is to constantly have something to work towards, developing a project based mindset. This will drive your work and help you see an end result for all your learnings and hard labour. It’s so important that we get out there and create! Images sat on hard drives are not art. Art needs to be witnessed by an audience, it needs to have its message heard and seen.
Give your work it’s voice and watch what happens to your own creative process as a result.