It’s as much a part of being a photographer as clicking the shutter – the ebb. Maybe not exactly an ebb, but a slack tide kind of time. The time between the rushing. When things are still. Calm. I used to resent my ‘photographic funks’, but now I sort of relish them. I think it was when I stopped beating myself up about them that it happened – the allowing. The forgiveness. It used to be a belief of mine that if you were really passionate about something, the passion was constant. Now, I’m not using the word really as in very, I’m using it as in genuine. As in I genuinely believed that if a person had a genuine passion for something the level of that passion stayed the same.
(damn I wish I was English sometimes…they have all the great slang. Oh sorry.)
Ahem. Bullshit. (now that’s American!)
Passion waxes and wanes. It’s natural. It’s normal. Because your enthusiasm for something has gone off the raging boil and into a mellow simmer does not mean you’ve lost it. It doesn’t mean you’re not dedicated. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It doesn’t mean you lack depth. It doesn’t mean you’re a poseur. It means you’re human.
And human passion fluctuates. Can you imagine being a raging photographer all the time? Going out every day to shoot shoot shoot. Filling 16 and 32gb cards. Constant uploading, downloading, processing, printing. Ugh. Yah. I get it now why passions wax and wane. Boring. Uninspiring. Monotonous. Burdensome.
When shit I love becomes a chore, I know it’s time to hang it up for a while. It’s like when you binged on your favorite snack when you were a kid and got your first taste of spending your own money. How fast did that once favorite treat become totally gross and like you’d never want to see it again, ever?
You think that would have taught me. But it didn’t and I used to beat myself up about my periodic low points in photography. This was especially true when I worked in a photo store (remember them???). I thought that I should be carrying a torch. I actually felt bad if I didn’t have a roll of film or two every week to analyze and frustrate myself over. Like I had to show everyone who walked in the store how life-fulfilling and soul-kindlingly awesome photography was and how every minute of every day should be spent in the pursuit of this most amazing art form.
Now I go with the flow of my own impulses and if something doesn’t feel right, I don’t push it. I won’t get anything good going out with that attitude anyway. I know that now. Part of my downtime includes a bit of a disconnect with the online photography community as well. I get overloaded and saturated with images and images and more images to the point where I can’t appreciate any of them anymore. Where’s the fun in that?
And isn’t that the point? That your passion be fun? I mean, life is too short for agony over art anymore. Passion and enthusiasm and the desire to explore and create images should be bubbly and fizzy inside. It should tickle your brain and load endorphins into your system, not feel like you’re trying to carry 10 suitcases though the airport without wheels or handles.
So…what do I do with my passion’s ebb? Lately I’ve been reading a lot more than my usual book a week or so. McGrath. Highsmith. Dickens. Shelley. Rice. Stoker. I’ve started a new exercise program to do on the days I don’t go out for my cardio workout. And when my mind turns to photography, it’s to concepts and things I want to try and places I want to go. I joined about two dozen other people on a botanist-led tour through one of my favorite micro-environments – the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp and lo – I turned into a photographer for a second!
So the next time you find yourself in a photographic funk, don’t sweat it. Don’t let it get you down. Use the time to indulge your other passions. You do have them, right? Remember the other stuff you loved before you just had to have that bright, shiny DSLR? Go do that stuff. Have fun. Feel fizzy. And when your photographic tide returns, you’ll be renewed and just dying to go out and make the images you’ve been dreaming of in the passion’s ebb.