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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fighting the resistance in your photographs

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

This book really has me thinking a lot lately. I guess I'm like a lot of photographers and like to read about photography. But lately more than the technical how-to books that I've tended to pore over in the past I've been looking for something that focusses more on the creative aspect of what we do.

Why would I do that you ask? Well for me the technical stuff always seems to be a matter of you can read about a technique and practice and practice and practice and hopefully you'll figure out how to do it yourself. Either that or you just think how the hell did McNally do that? There's no way I ever wanna do that but it looks amazing!

But the creative side of what we do comes from another place entirely. You know what it's like when you put yourself in a situation with your camera and you just instinctively know how to frame it, how to expose it and when to push the shutter button. But how do you know that? Or more to the point how do you feel it? And why don't you always feel it?

Anyway these are some things I've been pondering lately as I look back over my work from the last fifteen years or so. Anyway my search led me to a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He's the guy who wrote the Bagger Vance novel, but apart from a few Tiger Woods references (bet he's regretting that now!) it's not about golf.

The basic premise of the book is that there is an overwhelming force which he calls Resistance. It comes in the form of fear (Am I really good enough? What if this fails?) and procrastination (Oh I'll sit down and add those captions and metadata tomorrow. Oh I'll start that advertising when the time is better). You get the picture. We've all experienced it, and continue to experience it.

It's a truly wonderful book that firstly talks about Resistance and all the forms it takes, then goes on to talk about how working like a pro helps you overcome that Resitance, and finally goes on to talk about the creative Muses and how they tend to visit us the more conscientiously we work and practise our craft.

And it reminds of the picture from my last post. You see that giraffe looking down at the cheetahs? I nearly didn't get that shot thanks to good old Resistance. I had been on an afternoon drive to this waterhole the afternoon before and hadn't seen anything particularly exciting so when friends said they were going back the following day I nearly decided to sit beside the pool and take it easy. Resistance in the form of Rationalisation 'There wasn't anything yesterday so I'm sure there won't be anything there today'. It worked on my mate John who stayed back at camp but I ignored the naysayers in my brain and went out.

Not only did I get an image of six drinking giraffes all lined up together (my first drinking giraffes after 9 months in Africa!) but afterwards these two cheetahs came down to drink. One of the big giraffes tried to scare them off and one of the cheetahs stood right at the giraffe's feet and just stared back up at it. A Mexican stand-off in the middle of Etosha National Park! The cheetah then walked straight through the giraffe's legs to have a drink. As if to say 'stuff you buddy I'm thirsty'.

Then after it had had a drink it walked into the shadow cast by the giraffe and lay down while the giraffe looked down at it incredulously. The ultimate in cool cat!

Needless to say my friend John was pretty upset that he'd let Resistance get to him and decided not to go out. Anyway if you've ever felt the same kind of fear, procrastination or rationalisation then I definitely recommend this as a great book.

1 comment:

Big Red Adventures said...

So true! I often get the old 'fear of onlookers' resistance, where I second guess myself long enough to think what passers by will think of me: "Look at this twat, what does he think he's taking a picture of!".

Thanks for the post!