TERROR, PHOTOGRAPHY AND PHOTOGRAPHER’ BLOCK
Three things have happened recently that have helped to focus my mind on where I am with the course. Firstly, I have received feedback on my 2nd Assignment from my tutor and, whilst it was ‘passable’ it was disappointing although probably a fair reflection of where I am. Secondly, this has been reinforced by my experience of trying to start out on Part 3 of the course – Colour – which I have been finding very hard to get to grips with without really understanding why.
My third experience was whilst watching the excellent ‘Masters of Photography’ DVD produced by National Geographic and The Great Courses last night. I was attempting to gain knowledge and inspiration, but what jumped out at me was when Michael Melford, a National Geographic photographer of many years standing, confessed that his over-riding emotion on setting out on a new assignment was terror. It was the fear of not knowing, of the unknown, and the pressure he felt of having to come up with the required results. What caught my attention was not only the strength of the emotion that he was describing (terror is a pretty powerful and often debilitating sensation) but also that even after all his years of experience and successfully delivering high quality images, he was still affected by the weight of the task and meeting other peoples expectations.
Being someone who is deeply affected by the response of others to what I do, particularly when I do not have any confidence in the quality and value of the work I create, I am very aware of my fear of not coming up to the mark. Although terror might be too strong a word, the debilitating effect is still the same. These three events are linked because I now recognise that my difficulty in starting Part 3 of the course is due to my fear / belief that I will again not make the mark and demonstrate my lack of ability. The theme of Part 3 is ‘Colour’ and I am attempting to do it at a time of the year when all we are getting is greyness, rain, and a distinct lack of colour! Yes, I can go out and buy some flowers and do some still lives on the dining table, but I can’t bring myself to do this as I will risk demonstrating a lack of creativity and of playing safe. I feel a pressure from the course to emulate the greats of the photographic world, past and present, and to set them as my standard. No wonder I feel fear, and yes, sometimes terror! It seems that feeling pressure to perform when one has no confidence in ones ability to reach the standard required diminishes any pleasure and incentive in the creative process, so it is little wonder that I am finding it difficult to take the plunge.
The only way that Michael Melford was able to overcome his terror was to start out on the assignment, get caught up in the work, and trust that it would all come together. That clearly is what I need to do and if it involves flowers then so be it! At least I will be doing something instead of spending every waking hour (and many sleeping ones!) turning things over in my mind and getting no inspiration. Hopefully, once I have started and become engaged inspiration will come. And, hopefully, when I have produced something eventually, others will like the results in some way. For now, I had better find a florists and stop drinking interminable coffees for a while!
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