Four ideas for inspiration
Joshua Tree Desert, California 1993 © Anthony Epes
This week I’m exploring that really cool concept of ‘indirect inspiration’ that I quoted in my post about Ernst Haas. To be honest, it’s not something I’d thought about much until I was writing about Ernst Haas and came across this quote. Haas warned against seeking too much direct inspiration as it “leads too quickly to repetitions of what inspired you,” and instead recommends you to “refine your senses through the great masters of music, painting, and poetry. In short, try indirect inspirations, and everything will come by itself.”
Off the Highway, California 2010 © Anthony Epes
I thought how indirect inspiration isn’t just about going to look at one piece of artwork or listening to one piece of breathtaking music. It’s about filling your life with things that not only make life interesting and fun, but also create this constant mood of feeding your imagination so that when you are taking photos you are already inspired and excited. You are not starting from zero. The music you listen to, what you look at, books you read, things you talk about, discuss, these all provoke thoughts and ideas and questions in your mind. The more you feed your mind with inspirational subjects when you are not taking photos, the more ready you will be, almost primed, when you start taking photos.
So I thought it would be really awesome to look at what I get inspired by in my day to day life to give you some ideas on how you can look for what inspires you (so you can do more of it). It’s definitely made me realise how much more I could be doing to get the creative juices flowing on a day to day basis. It’s like background music, I suppose, or a way to weave creativity into your day to day.
Arboreal Dreams, 2010 © Anthony Epes
I grew up in a small town southern California and nature was a big part of my life until I moved to LA and then to London in my late twenties. I miss the truly wild open spaces of my home state where you can venture into the world and feel like you are completely surrounded and lost in nature. No people, no cut grass – just enormous trees, miles of dense forest, scorching desert, mountain ranges and vast national parks.
A few years back my wife and I took a trip far north to the state line of California and started in the Redwood National Park. It was incredible, big skies, bears – I suppose I like the sensation of knowing how vast this world is – in space, in history, in time. I like to see the epic grandness of it all, that life isn’t as small as my little life, my local coffee shop, my train trip to the office. Not just the vastness of this world but the worlds beyond this one. Which leads into another source of inspiration for me, and huge suck of my time when I like to mess around online, NASA and space missions…
Sebastian Salgado is a photographer whom I love. I know this is about indirect inspiration but I enjoyed this short blog post culled from his amazing Ted talk on why we must rebuild our forests.
These are my trees! The sequoias of California, just epic in size. Imagine the history they’ve lived through…phew.
Death Valley, California 2010 © Anthony Epes
My dad worked in the air force in communications. He was very quiet, gentlemanly, very organised and sensible who loved science, new technologies and the space program. I haven’t quite picked up his sensible life traits unfortunately (being an artist is generally not what one would call a reliable profession :)), but I love science and that was our greatest mutual interest; watching a real time broadcast of a space shuttle getting ready to launch and discussing the solar systems beyond ours.
“What moves me about…what’s called technique…is that it comes from some mysterious deep place. I mean it can have something to do with the paper and the developer and all that stuff, but it comes mostly from some very deep choices somebody has made that take a long time and keep haunting them.” – Diane Arbus
I suppose this connects to why I love to go out on my own exploring forests that have been untouched by humanity’s relentless pursuit of dominance for thousands of years. For me life isn’t just about the small dramas happening in your life or your street or your city. It’s about connecting to this vastness. It’s about looking up and knowing that beyond the bright blue summer sky there are billions of ancient stars, thousands of planets as yet unexplored, suns and moons orbiting planets just like ours and someday we might go there. It’s mindblowing to me and deeply, deeply inspiring. It’s about reminding me perhaps that life continues beyond our small obsessions.
Maybe that’s why I am drawn to photographing space within cities?
London at Dawn, 2004 © Anthony Epes
Plus...For those of you who love space too I was so excited to see the new photos of Pluto that have just come back from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. (I was sort of expecting it to be blue though being so cold, right? False colour I bet).
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” John Lubbock
I love an interesting sky, and that’s the purpose of clouds. Not for rain, but to make the sky interesting to look at and interesting to photograph. A few years ago my son got really into clouds and so we spent a long time reading about the different types (how much less I would know if I hadn’t had kids!) I can now say my favourite type of cloud is a Cumulonimbus,the ones that seem to bubble up into space. Unfortunately for me they are very rare in the morning as they are formed by the heat of the day.They add depth and texture into an otherwise uneventful sky.
Venice at Dawn, 2013 © Anthony Epes
Plus…This is an interesting article about the scientist who classified clouds and how he inspired the great German writer Goethe from the incredible website that is Brainpickings.
When I was in my early twenties it was a choice between being a photographer or a musician. I’m glad I picked photography, but I like to keep music in my daily life. What I’ve noticed though is we all listen to music in different ways. I don’t even notice the lyrics, I have to really stop and pay attention to them if I want to know what’s being said. For me it’s all about the overall sound, how it hits my ear drums and makes my body feel. I didn’t know any Led Zeppelin lyrics for years; it was all about the guitar and later the drums then the lyrics!
Venice at Dawn, 2013 © Anthony Epes
Plus...Nick Drake is on my playlist a lot recently. A crazy genius of an Englishman who died when he was 26. He produced hauntingly good music- I suppose you would call it quite folksy but don’t let that put you off. Check him out on YouTube but as a fellow artist I would encourage you to buy his music if you like it rather than just listen for free online (we artists have to stick together :))
Today I’d love to encourage you to think of a few things that you do in your life that are not about work, or pure pleasure (beer cannot be classified as inspiring) or responsibilities. But things that are just for feeding your mind and your spirit, if you like. What moves you, makes you happy, makes you look at the world differently, provokes ideas and questions? Whatever they are bring them more into your life. Even if it’s just for some added colour and fun. It will, though, help to increase your creativity and provide brilliant fuel for that creative fire.
And I’d love to hear from you – what inspires your photography? Post on here or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
18/07/2015 @ 8:51 AM
It’s been a long time since I took your class, almost a year and I’m going to figure out how to take more as I have more time to do so and want to make photography a bigger part of my life.
I was thinking about your question — indirect inspiration. I’ve been exploring aging and the elderly (my mother-in-law just turned 90) and I find that I’m often inspired and intrigued by the depth of their souls written on their faces. There is a slowness to their movements including their smiles as if they’ve seen it all and to hurry is a waste of time. This is a bit stream of conscious yet I find myself drawn to the elderly as they sit outside their door or in front of a restaurant sometimes as much a part of the scenery as the city surrounding them. Catching a glimpse of an arm, an eye or a smile as they watch the world go by from their windows. All gloss rubbed away to reveal the true life underneath. Joy, pain, loneliness and contentment flitting about and usually a smile, sometimes a dimple if I offer one first.