I have always considered myself a creative. Before I found photography, I knew I had this incredibly restless creative spirit just stirring in my soul, but I had no outlet for it. I am not a painter. I'm not really a crafter (I mean, I do when necessary, but I often think the mess is not worth the finished product!). I am not a poet and I can't carefully string words together in beautiful prose. I am not a dancer and I'm not an actress. So, where does one fit in when they know in their heart of hearts that they have this creative spirit, but who doesn't know what in the world to do with it?
I remember the first time I truly and intentionally picked up a camera with the sole intent on creating something that I thought was beautiful. And it's crazy, because I never put it back down. I never looked back. There was a spark and I felt like "This. Finally. Yes. THIS."
So fast forward a few years and here I am. Still with a camera in hand, acting as an extension of my soul. Showing my work can often feel very vulnerable, because I truly do put so much of my heart into it. It all just feels a little raw and exposed. But, again, here I am.
I thought I would share a few of the things that really inspire me and keep me going when I feel like I have hit the proverbial "creative rut". Sometimes it really pays to just get back to the root of it all and keep diving into the things that truly move you.
1.) Other Artists/ Art Museums
I am so lucky and so thankful that here in Hampton Roads, Norfolk boasts the Chrysler Museum of Art and it is FREE to the public. I often go with the baby to take in the beautiful masterpieces housed within it's walls. It's peaceful, inspiring, and it never gets old to me. Art is vital to our world and our culture. It refreshes my spirit each and every time I go. They also have a glass blowing studio and those artisans absolutely blow my mind (see what I did there? They "blow" my mind! ha!) Go watch them if you have a chance, you won't regret it. It's a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon.
With light also comes shadows. I am constantly analyzing and appreciating the light in any given space. The most important aspect of a good photograph is light. If you don't have the light, you don't have anything. And I hate shooting in flat light or artificial light. I love dramatic lighting and moody shadows. If you've been with me a while, I'm sure you've heard me make the off-hand comment, sometimes mid conversations, "Oh, what pretty light!" and it's because my brain is always seeking it out.
Color is everywhere, if we just know how to find it. My friend Jennifer over @jc_vaughan on Instagram is crushing it when it comes to finding color in the most unexpected ways. I look forward to her posts every day and I'm always so inspired by where she finds color and how she photographs it. Color is highly influential on our emotions and I love seeing pops of color. Living in a costal community, I'm never at a loss for seeing unique and vibrant colors- every hue and shade imaginable- in nature and manmade.
4.) Street Photography
A few months ago I wrote a blog about things I wish I did more often (you can read that here) and one of the things I wish I did more often was take pictures of strangers and street photography. I LOVE street photography, but I often feel so intimidated by it. I follow so many street photographers on Instagram and it's so inspiring. I love seeing a scene through their eyes. It could be a scene we see every single day of our lives, but do we actually stop and see it? Truly see it? My guess is no. Otherwise, it wouldn't be so impactful. It's incredibly diverse, it's real, it's raw, it's honest. Some street photographers focus on buildings, shapes, colors- they focus on the environment that they are in. Others (like me) tend to photograph life and how we as a society interact within that environment. I've got a lot left to learn when it comes to street photography, but I love it and I love being inspired by it.
5.) My Family
What could I say about this that isn't insanely obvious? My family (all of them) inspire me every single day. They inspire me to be the best I can be, to be compassionate, to be loving, and to always look from someone else's perspective. The way my children explore the world around them- they are fascinated by the smallest wonders of the world. They've taught me to get down close and observe them too. My husband works hard and sets amazing goals (and accomplishes them!). When I'm feeling in a creative rut, all I have to do is stop- and yes, I mean literally stop everything- and be present and mindful of what's going on around me. I have to turn off my brain and just pay attention to these little miracles. Seeing the world through their eyes is absolutely incredible and fantastical. There is magic in the everyday and they help me to find it.
So, what inspires you?
The takeaway is this- if you find yourself lacking inspiration and you feel you need your creativity fueled, do something that makes YOU happy- not what others expect you to do. Henri Matisse said that "Creativity takes courage." So do create something unexpected, even if you don't show it to anyone. Do it for yourself and feed your soul.
Jess is a photographer serving families located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She specializes in documentary and storytelling photography.