11 creative ideas from Henry Miller (to help you become a better photographer)

Hey folks,

Today I want to bring you some very relevant and useful pieces of creative wisdom from the late, great writer Henry Miller.

In these days of 24 hour news, in these days of stress about the planet and politics, of uprisings and obstructions, of frustrations and injustices.

(And that’s before we’ve even thought about our own lives.)

It is important to not lose our minds to stress and overwhelm.

Photography, creativity, art can help.

I use my photography to revive my spirit as much as I use it to learn and notice and create.

I use my photography to show me what’s possible in the world, not what isn’t.

And I use my photography to guide me towards all that is beautiful and fascinating – to help my mind remember that the world isn’t just challenging.

I use photography to bring me exhilarating experiences so that I can remain connected to the good in the world.

Recently I was reading about the writer Henry Miller, and it struck me that some of his ideas were so relevant in our journey as photographers.

He wasn’t writing about photography – but about what it is to be human, a writer and a creative person.

But some of his ideas are so powerful that I think they will help you see your photography in a whole new way.

Let’s get started…

All the following quotes are from Henry Miller. 

“Strange as it may seem today to say, the aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. 

In this state of god-like awareness one sings; in this realm the world exists as a poem. No why or wherefore, no direction, no goal, no striving, no evolving.”

This is everything we need as photographers – being in a state of awareness. Not lost at sea in our minds, but here. Living. Paying attention to this life that we’ve been given.

And we can take that awareness to incredible heights. We can drink madly on the beauty of the world, we can deeply relish the gift of life.

With our photography we can set our minds (and our lives free) as we have no end point to focus on. No goal to reach. Nothing to achieve.

Being in a state of awareness is enough.

“For the artist there is nothing but the present, the eternal here and now, the expanding infinite moment which is flame and song.”

Isn’t this beautiful? To think that within the present moment, within our attention, there lives every element that we need for our photography, for our creative spirit to be nourished.

“[The artist] opens himself to all influences — everything nourishes him. Everything is gravy to him, including what he does not understand — particularly what he does not understand.”

There is fodder for our photos everywhere we go, everything we are and everything we do.

Be open, notice, look, see and be curious.

Look at light on your walk to the shop. Examine the textures of the food as you are putting things away in your kitchen. Notice the nighttime sounds in the world outside as you lay in bed waiting for sleep.

It’s not just an image based world we need to notice as photographers – fine tune all of your senses.

“One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.”

Our day to day contains so many rich opportunities for photography that we just don’t see.

Always challenge yourself to see more.

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

I love this, and use this idea all the time in my photography – to pay close attention to not just the obviously interesting – but to all of the things that we often ignore – the textures of walls, the lines of rubbish by the river, the mossy graffitied walls. Reality comes in different scales, from the micro to the grand.

Include everything in your curiosity.

“Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. 

Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.”

The world is full of the full spectrum of experience. We can as photographers, as artists, use it all.

Every single moment holds something for us if we decide to choose to see the world as a series of ‘golden moments.’

“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience”

To learn is to experience that discomfort of not knowing. To have a new experience you first have to step into the unknown. Discomfort is part and parcel of growth.

“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.” 

I don’t wake up every day inspired. Far from it. We don’t all have to be bundles of enthusiasm and excitement for life in order to create.

This is when I use my awareness to discover things that will pull me out of whatever mood I find myself in. I look for inspiration, I awaken my passions and curiosity by noticing the beauty of the rain, not just the inconvenience of it. Or the strange beauty of a steely grey sky, not the bleakness it creates.

“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognise them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own power, our own criterion of truth and beauty. 

Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. 

We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.” 

If you are moved by art, photography, music – anything creative, then you have the soul of an artist.

We can all be artists. It’s just that simple.

I think there is this idea that only certain people can be artists, that we have to be born that way (and stay that way) and if we aren’t artistic now, then we won’t be ever.

I have worked with hundreds of people who have said they aren’t creative, and so I know, and you can therefore trust me on this, that every single person on this planet is creative.

Everyone has the capability to dig into that inner creative spirit, that well of creative ideas.

It’s not something that is only gifted to people who are professional artists.

If we want to connect with our inner artist – we can. The only thing we have to do is believe that we can.

“No matter what you touch and you wish to know about, you end up in a sea of mystery. 

You see there’s no beginning or end, you can go back as far as you want, forward as far as you want, but you never got to it, it’s like the essence, it’s that right, it remains. 

This is the greatest damn thing about the universe. That we can know so much, recognise so much, dissect, do everything, and we can’t grasp it.”

I love that photography is a place in our lives where things don’t have to make sense. That we can use it to explore the mysteries of the universe.

Exploring the mystery of the world is the most exciting part of my life.

“It is the creative nature of man which has refused to let him lapse back into that unconscious unity with life which characterises the animal world from which he made his escape.”

Sometimes all the things going on in the world – and our lives – can make us want to retreat into that animal like unconscious. I know I feel that way sometimes – but look at this wondrous mind, our perception and then gifts we have been given.

Let us use them.

Let us use them to connect ourselves to the world, and to share beauty, wonder and curiosity with the world.

So – there are 11 ideas, that are overlapping in many ways, but so relevant I think to our journeys.

I hope you enjoyed them – and would love to hear what you thought – let us know in the comments!

Have a great day,

Anthony and Diana