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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Find Your Inspiration

Pull yourself out of the regular day-to-day grind to ignite your creative side

Morning Frost, Yosemite National Park, California.
You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
—Mark Twain
With inspiration comes excitement accompanied by a drive to produce photographs that fulfill your creativity and enrich your audience. What is artistic inspiration? The following text summarized from Wikipedia is helpful in defining this often elusive concept:

"Inspiration refers to an unconscious burst of creativity in a literary, musical, or other artistic endeavor. Literally, the word means 'breathed upon,' and it has its origins in both Hellenism and Hebraism. The Greeks believed that inspiration came from the muses, as well as the gods Apollo and Dionysus. Similarly, in the Ancient Norse religions, inspiration derives from the gods, such as Odin. Inspiration is also a divine matter in Hebrew poetics. In the Book of Amos the prophet speaks of being overwhelmed by God's voice and compelled to speak. In Christianity, inspiration is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

"In the 18th century John Locke proposed a model of the human mind in which ideas associate or resonate with one another in the mind. In the 19th century, Romantic poets such as Coleridge and Shelley believed that inspiration came to a poet because the poet was attuned to the (divine or mystical) 'winds' and because the soul of the poet was able to receive such visions. In the early 20th century, Sigmund Freud located inspiration in the inner psyche of the artist. Carl Gustav Jung's theory of inspiration suggests that an artist is one who was attuned to racial memory, which encoded the archetypes of the human mind. ...In modern psychology inspiration is not frequently studied, but it is generally seen as an entirely internal process."

Based on most of these concepts, it would seem that inspiration is something externally bestowed upon someone and is out of control of the conscious self. I disagree with the notion that inspiration is out of our control. I believe that everyone can find, develop and nourish their own inspiration.

My earliest memories of being inspired by the beauty of nature were as a young child on hikes through the woods. Later in my teens, I remember looking at books depicting the beauty of the national parks and then collecting posters of wonderful wildflower photographs. Discovering Outdoor Photographer magazine in my 20s further nourished my love of nature's beauty and inspired me to pick up a camera to capture my own scenes. In college, and later in photography courses outside of college, I had teachers who didn't always encourage my source of inspiration. Instead, they discouraged the students who wanted to be nature photographers, as if that wasn't as worthy as the more avant-garde or abstract work they were doing. I think that the first rule of inspiration is doing what appeals to and excites you. There's no need to feel like you need to fit into a certain category of photographer or take the kinds of photographs the art critics want to see. This doesn't preclude experimenting with different types of photography. The most important thing is to listen to the inner impulse that made you pick up a camera in the first place and give that impulse some time to develop and grow.


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