And let me know what you thought!
Hope this finds you very well. Today I have swapped the wintery life of London for the heat and vibrancy of Mexico City.
I am a little tired of course from the long flight, but there is nothing like beating jet lag with the excitement of being in an incredible country like Mexico.
This is the weather I left behind on my short trip to London. Still beautiful, and when London gives me beautiful winter light like this, I can forgive the cold…
A few days ago I saw this quote on the cover of my mother-in-law’s National Trust magazine, and it struck me as really quite wonderful:
“We all want quiet. We all want beauty…We all need space. Unless we have it, we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently.”
Octavia Hill, 1883. Co-founder of the National Trust
And it stuck because it combined for me the idea of our human need for quiet + space with the rejuvenating power of witnessing beauty.
When we look at the definition of beauty, it is – “the quality of being pleasing, especially to look at, or someone or something that gives great pleasure, especially when you look at it.”
The pleasure of looking. What a gift this is to us as humans, but also as photographers.
One of the most significant things that beauty can bring to our creative lives and our photography is the awakening of inspiration.
Placing yourself slap bang in front of beauty is just a fantastic way to inspire yourself – and, of course, to then lead you to fabulous photos.
Sometimes we need something to shock us out of the boredom and habituation of our life.To remove ourselves from that stale feeling that seems to collect in our minds from being so involved in routine.
To be in total awe of your subject, to be mesmerised, to be thrilled and excited – these are all fantastic emotions to have coursing through your body ready for you to lift your camera and shoot.
Something quite magical seems to happen when we fill our eyes, and spirit, with beauty.
As Joseph Campbell wrote:
“When we are transfixed by beauty, we are beheld in an aesthetic arrest. We are so transfixed that we stop breathing. We well up inside and experience life lived to the point of tears.”
Beauty makes us stop and pay attention.
It makes us revel in something that stirs our spirit and lifts our soul.
But it isn’t something that is just vacuous and pretty – the experience of beauty can be challenging because beauty connects us to the feeling of eternity.
“Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.”
It is almost pain and pleasure mixed into one. The perfect explanation of life, right? And as photographers, don’t we want to capture what is so wondrous and strange about this part of life?
I am often placing myself in the midst of incredible beauty. I seek it out everywhere I go.
This is why I love to shoot at dawn – because sunrises can create such intense beauty they make any location, and situation breathtaking.
(And I will be on my usual travel routine by having an early night and shooting sunrise tomorrow.)
Let yourself get lost in beauty…
What I think is important about the witnessing of beauty is this: our eyes get worn out with all that we see – just as our minds get worn out by all the thinking and doing of our lives.
Don’t we all need sometimes to let go of all the worries and things on our mind, and just surrender ourselves into a state of awe? Once in a while?
To surrender to the immenseness and eternalness of life is to refresh one’s spirit.
I felt as photographer Ernst Haas did about Paris – “All I wanted was to connect my moods with those of Paris. Beauty paints and when it painted most, I shot.” When beauty presents itself, let it lead you.
Beauty washes away the cobwebs and gives us the chance to relish something wonderful in a world that can sometimes feel, less than wonderful.
And of course because..
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard
I want to spend my life full of passion, creation and appreciating all of this beauty of the world. So I must then make decisions in my day to do exactly that.
I’d love to know if you are seeking beauty when you are shooting?
Let me know in the comments below.
And – a mini photo challenge – share your ‘Just because…beauty’ shots in our Facebook photo sharing group – Light Monkeys.
After I work with a fabulous group in San Miguel de Allende – in a few months time my next workshop is in the mesmerising country of Morocco.
I am taking a small group of people into the heart of the Sahara Desert to photograph its timeless beauty and sweeping landscapes – and capture the gorgeous splendour of a supermoon.
We’ll also be shooting the diverse and changing landscapes as we travel to and from the desert – the red rock mountains, luscious rivers and vast rich orange scenes of the deep desert. And we’ll explore the little villages we encounter along the way.
After our trip deep into the silent beauty of the desert we will explore the ancient and beguiling city of Marrakech, home to some wondrous architecture, vibrant street markets and fascinating history.
We will photograph the iconic sights, capture the people and spirit of the city – as well as venture off the beaten track to explore the local neighbourhoods.
I want to help you capture the feeling of this interesting country and culture, and help you bring your unique vision of Morocco to the world.
As always I want to bring incredible photography opportunities into your life – and this will be one amazing experience.
I have two places left on this workshop – don’t miss this experience and sign up here – or hit reply if you have any questions.
MOROCCO: Marrakech & the Sahara Desert
April 8th – 16th 2020
I’ll leave you with all those thoughts. I hope they have given you something to take with you into your photography this week.
Have an awesome day.
Anthony and Diana
Morocco April 22nd-30th 2021
9 days / 8 nights
Luxury desert camp and beautiful Riad
Special local guides
Transport and local trips
All breakfasts, 4 lunches and 3 dinners
Artist-led approach to photography
Small group 4-8 people
Pre-workshop 1-2-1 with Anthony
Travel, Street, People, Astro and Landscape Photography
Good day to you all,
I don’t like to have complicated goals in my life. But I do like to have a vision for my life that I follow each year.
Last year I was focused on expanding my skills, starting a brand new photo project and getting more feedback on my artwork. Did I achieve that? I did mostly, but not in the way that I thought I would.
I like the unexpected elements of life, and when new opportunities for creative growth appear, I have learnt to embrace them.
I also learnt some tremendous new skills – not the ones I actually intended to learn, but ones that will massively help my journey as an artist.
Normally around New Year I like to pick out my favourite images of the year and show these. But 2018 was such an unusual year for us, with projects dominating my focus rather than singular images, that I am choosing the things, rather than the photos, that have made the biggest impact to me photographically.
Three things I am most proud of creating in 2018:
New Photo Project: Sea Meditations
I have never lived by the sea before. Something pretty profound seems to shift in me being so close to water all the time. We fall asleep at night hearing the waves – which sound sometimes gentle and calming, and at other times roaring with energy.
I have loved witnessing the daily change in the sea, its changing colours, feeling, textures and energy. Of course, everything I love I want to photograph. So over the year I have been photographing the sea for a new project.
This is such a different project to ones I’ve worked on in the past couple of decades. It also reflects where I am at in my life. I am in a more reflective, meditative state of mind right now. I love connecting my energy to the natural world all around me here – and this project truly reflects that.
New Photo course: The Art of The Image
I’m not going to lie – creating this course kicked my butt! It was a steep learning journey that took me two years to work up the courage to attempt. And, of course, I wanted The Art of The Image to be magnificent.
I knew I wanted to create something that would be creatively unique – and would take people on a deeper artistic journey with their photography. I knew that it would take all of my attention, my passion and my skills.
And you know what – I think I have done a good job. Well, that’s what I am being told by the students on the course (Phew!)
I have to say I am extremely proud of this course. I rose to the challenge – even when it felt like an impossible task. And I created something that people have benefited from. Pretty grateful for that experience.
3. New home: Southern Spain
Di and I never intended to come to Spain. It wasn’t on our list of must-go-to places. But life – and our children – had other plans for us, and it involved this gorgeous little area of Spain.
This place has opened up so many avenues of inspiration for me photographically. Of course, it’s beautiful to be by the sea, and it’s super relaxing. But the area is intensely rich for photographic opportunities.
From little mountain villages that make you feel like you are back in the 1950’s, to the gorgeous seascapes, to the buzzy city and hip street art of Malaga, to the pine-scented walks through the forests and vast landscapes to capture, to the beauty of the Moorish architecture of Granada made more mesmerizing by the rich orange sunsets.
There are so many opportunities for compelling photographs, and every time I am out exploring I am blown away by the possibilities – which will lead me later into telling you about the new workshop we have created in Andalucia.
But first, a question for you:
What did you create in 2018 that you are proud of?
It could be one thing, or three like me. Or more.
It could be one solo photo or a project or something you’ve learnt or mastered.
It doesn’t matter what it is. What is important is the time to reflect on what we have done with our time (not always thinking about what we haven’t done).
Now let’s move onto this year ahead: What will you create in 2019?
We now have a fresh clear run where we can create whatever we want. Yes, whatever we want.
We can dream and imagine and create anything. So:
Who will you photograph?
What will you photograph?
Where will you go?
What will you learn? Perhaps you’ll start shooting on manual? Or learn more about HDR? Or work to improve your composition.
Maybe it’s time to take a class at your local college, join a photo club, buy a book, watch videos.
What will be the outcomes for your photography? Perhaps you’ll make a book of your images? You’ll start a project? You’ll take portraits of your family, or print your work for your wall. Maybe you’ll start a blog?
This is such a good time to ruminate on what your photographic vision can be for 2019.
Even if it’s just saying – once a month I’ll take an afternoon to go explore my area and take photos. Or I’ll photograph the everyday life of my dog.
Here are the things I want to create in 2019:
Finish my Sea Meditation project and have it exhibited
Last year I met two people who have become part of my art team. They are challenging my vision of my work, bringing new ideas flooding into my photography and helping me take it to exciting new places.
This year is the year then that I will bring my new work into the world. With the help of my new team I have some exciting plans – and I will commit time and energy into making it happen.
I haven’t had an exhibition in a couple of years now and I have to say I miss it. (It’s so exhilarating to see your work out there in the world, being looked at and experienced by strangers.)
Create a library of inspiring courses for people
Creating my first online recorded course, which is where most of my personal learning came in, has been thrilling. It is now my intention to focus on building a fantastic library of online courses – so that you can access my teachings easily and affordably wherever you are in the world.
Aside from getting good reviews (aren’t we all a little susceptible to praise?) one of the most joyful things for me about creating The Art of The Image is seeing the progress people are making. As the lessons go on and people post their images, I can see that they are making brilliant leaps in their photography.
That is so inspiring to see. To know that I created something that is helping people (again, love the praise!) but also for people to see the possibility of making such significant progress with their photography when they make a commitment to learn and practice.
And it’s not just me saying: take my course. You should choose the way to work that works best for you – for example, if you prefer to learn through books. (My favourite photo website for technical advice has just updated their book Understanding your Camera, which I thoroughly recommend.)
Support Di’s launch of her book – The Everyday Art of Living a Creative Life
The person I turn to when I am in need of inspiration is Di. She is like a fountain of inspiring energy – and in our circle, she is the person many people turn to seek clarity and new ideas on their work and projects. So I am going to create the environment for her to book to excel.
So much of our work – my work – is driven by or inspired by Di’s ideas. So I want to make sure that this book comes into the world and she can share her ideas on a wider scale. Because she is my wife, I can be shameless and say you’ll definitely love her book.
So again with the questions – what are you going to create in 2019?
Where will your photography take you?
I would love to know – let us below.
Now for some exciting news – Di and I have developed a brand new workshop focused around our new home.
This workshop is going to take in the best of the area of Andalusia where we live (sea, mountains, whitewashed villages, Granada, street photography in Malaga…) but it also is going to be a creative retreat where I teach you many of the advanced composition and technical skills I use every day in my photography.
We’ll be shooting lots of different locations, using many genres of photography. Every day I’ll be teaching you new skills to make the best of each location.
Some of the subjects will be quiet and meditative and beautiful (shooting the sea, walking through forests, exploring the dappled light, capturing the landscapes and mountains).
Some will be more intense and busy – capturing the street art and urban life of Malaga, creating interesting photos of the Moorish architecture of Granada, exploring mountain village life and finding portraits.
We’ll do night shooting, dawn shoots, we’ll go out at dusk for the rich, beautiful light of Southern Spain.
Each day we will be doing feedback and sharing sessions so you can see how other people approached the same subject, generating within you new ideas and ways of seeing.
At the end of the workshop, you will have an incredible portfolio of images, five of which I will have professionally printed for you and shipped to your home.
Developing your Artistic Vision: A photography retreat in Andalucia
Monday 20th – Sunday 26th May
Early bird price – £1,477 (Includes tuition & transport within Andalucia)
Regular price – £1,847
The aim of this workshop is to develop your personal artistic vision and style. To delve into your inner artist.
I will provide you with a multitude of subjects that will challenge you to learn and develop new skills, to see that anything can be your subject when approached with the mindset of an artist (the gas stations on the highway, the sunset on the ocean, the church in the warm sunset of Granada.)
I will be giving a very diverse selection of subjects which will challenge you.
We’ll be shooting for several hours a day, with the rest of the time spent learning new techniques, developing your creative vision for your photography and reviewing your images.
We will be photographing:
- Street photography, urban architecture and the street art of Malaga
- Beautiful seascapes, nature and beauty of the Costa Tropical (where I live!)
- The industrial outskirts of Granada – juxtaposing the abandoned theme parks and vast architectural warehouses with the magnificence of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (the area reminds me of Ernst Haas’ New Mexico work)
- Grandeur, history, windy streets and the Moorish architecture of Granada at sunset
- Exploring the lost village of El Acebuchal
- Capturing the pretty Spanish mountain villages around Granada
- Creating compelling landscapes around of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada
During the workshop, you’ll be processing your images with me giving you lessons, tips and techniques so you fully get to grips with processing and where it can take you artistically.
You will leave the workshop with at least 5 finished images which I will have printed at my favourite London printer, and shipped to you after the workshop ends (how much fun will that package be to open?)
This intensive workshop will help you dive deep into your creative self and develop a stronger, more unique photographic vision.
From beginners to experienced photographers – you can all benefit from this intensive, fun and challenging workshop where we can all share knowledge, feedback and experiences.
Some of the highlights of this workshop are:
- You’ll learn how to tell stories with your images
- You’ll learn how to develop a personal creative vision of your photography
- I’ll fill in the gaps of your technical knowledge – giving presentations as well as plentiful demonstrations as we are out shooting
- We’ll do in-depth processing so you can make your images the very best
- We’ll use the multitude of subjects around us to discover new aspects to your photography
- You’ll learn professional lessons on creating images in a variety of genres
- You will leave with many new skills – plus a new portfolio of images
The workshop will use our village of La Herradura, which is by the sea, as our base (we are an hour east of Malaga) from which we will explore and take many trips.
We’ll be using my beachfront apartment for our teaching sessions, critiquing and processing.
There are a number of places to stay in our beach town – from great little hotels & B&B’s, to airbnb apartments. More details are on our workshop page.
Info & booking for this awesome new workshop: Developing your Artistic Vision: A photography retreat in Andalucia
I would love to hear what has been meaningful for you photographically in 2018 – and what you are planning to do in the year ahead.
Any questions, thoughts or ideas – just hit reply.
Anthony and Diana
I think there is this weird idea floating around that creativity is a young person’s game, particularly certain genres of creativity (photography and music for sure). That somehow you are at your peak creatively in your twenties and thirties, and then it’s downhill from then on. I think that’s insane.
Some of us can find the courage for creativity when we are young, and for others it takes years or decades to turn onto this path. Some find creativity but not their voice when they are young, and age brings a settling into themselves and an ability to reveal something unique.
For me as a photographer, I could certainly say that I had a good eye when I was young, that came quite naturally. But it took me many years to find my voice and my style. And longer still to find a place for that in the world.
I would like to say with certainty that the ability to be creative increases as we become older and wiser. It should, given the experiences we build up, but it’s not automatic.
Age can actually bring about the reverse effect, and make us more fearful and less creative. More aware of the passing of time, more aware of what we haven’t achieved (that we thought we should have), more aware of the things we do badly.
“No, that is the great fallacy: the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful.” Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
Venice at Dawn, © Anthony Epes
I think sometimes it takes effort and focus not to grow ‘too careful’. To remind ourselves that at any point we can create new ideas, new skills, new ways of living and creating.
Age is never something to hold us back. If you don’t do it now, then when? When you are younger? We are all able to bring something new to this world, that will create bursts of recognition and connection with someone else.
Let age bring us the ability to be free instead.
“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 recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, 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.” Henry Miller
It just takes courage, even if that courage comes and goes, as it does with most of us. I suppose it’s a little bit like a wave that you ride.
There are many great artists and writers who came to their practise later in life, and still had stunning success. And we can use that to spur us on. But recognition from others shouldn’t be the driver. That’s not the true gift of creativity.
Louise Bourgeois made her greatest work after the age of 80. When she was 84, and an interviewer asked whether she could have made one of her recent works earlier in her career, she replied, “Absolutely not.” When he asked why, she explained, “I was not sophisticated enough.”‘- from The Huffinton Post.
Venice at Dawn, © Anthony Epes
Creativity doesn’t have to have any purpose. It doesn’t have to go anywhere. Of course, if you want it to there is so much to do – the opportunities available to us artists are, I believe, the 21st century’s best gift. (I will write more about that another day)
Creativity is a release from all that ties us to a life that’s lived in habit. It’s a reminder to pay attention to what matters most.
It’s like bursts of interestingness, jolting us awake and out of our ‘to-do list’ and our crazy minds that push us into the future instead of allowing us to live in the present.
And it’s not just about giving yourself something to do when you retire or as a replacement for your job, it’s about weaving into your life a sense of exploration, a way to enhance your life every day. It doesn’t matter what age you come to it (15, 45, 85) because at each point in life you have something to reveal, something to explore.
Creativity is a way to discover who you are underneath of all of the layers that you’ve built up in the noise and distraction of your everyday life.
Creativity is about finding a freedom within your life that is unrelated to achievement or productivity. It’s your mind being released from daily patterns to wander over the vast plains and mystery of life, in way that is completely unique to you. It is about enriching your life, bringing you a deep sense of joy.
But it’s not a freedom whose path comes in a blissful and easy way; it’s not a straightforward process. It can feel uncomfortable, painful even. It can confront you with what you’re hopeless at or ill at ease with.
It can involve vast swathes of boredom, and it certainly isn’t always a joyful thing for me. But it has added a deep, rich layer to my life that makes it feel more fulfilling. It’s the place I go to often to work things out.
“What’s thrilling to me about what’s called technique, I hate to call it that because it sounds like something up your sleeve, but what moves me about it 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 that somebody has made, that take a long time, and keep haunting them.” Diane Arbus
Your creativity is waiting to be revealed right now, and that’s what I want you to remind you of.
“…Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.” Anne Lamott
In my younger years I was really caught up with the prestige of commercial photography – getting cool, flashy clients – until I realised that I wasn’t a flashy commercial photographer.
My personality just isn’t suited to that hustling vibe. I like going off and wandering around on my own. I am drawn to my own little adventures and making my own projects, that’s how my creativity works best and that’s how I’ve created my life around.
With age we can release the addictive powers of expectation (if we chose to). You can unmoor yourself from the ferocity of expectation. You can free yourself from how you perceive your life should be, and instead find what is fascinating in what your life actually is.
It takes bravery to step out of the manner in which most of us live and try to look at things in a different way. To look at the morning sunshine and ponder it. To be reminded of the fleeting nature of life and to still look, search, explore and do what makes you truly excited and truly happy. Being creative takes bravery, for sure, but the rewards are beyond measure. It’s never too late.
Couple of interesting other things, age related:
This amazing photo project on older people who’ve taken up things like ballet when they were 80 and now at 94 dance professionally is really cool.
- I like this theory that your creativity actually starts to decline from the age of five because you don’t get to use your creative skills so much when you start school: “The scary coda to this story is that by the age of twelve, our creative output has declined to about 2% of our potential, and it generally stays there for the rest of our lives.” So if that’s true then we should be at the same creative level at 20 that we are at at 95! Awesome!
- Photographer André Kertész found recognition late in life, but I love that he continued throughout his life to work at what he truly believed in, what interested him and thrilled him. He stayed true to the craft and I love his work, his was amazing a composition.
I would love to hear about what you think. Are you getting more creative? Please let me comment here, or send me an email – I read and love to read them all!
And thanks to Diana, for her extensive help and writing on this week’s blog.
Today I want to share some cool articles I’ve written, along with things I’ve read/seen/listened to that have inspired me this week. Hopefully there are some ideas in here that are inspiring for you.
I shared one of the posts we wrote for Digital Photography School all about shooting on manual. It sparked a fun debate and some pretty awesome comments on my blog (and in response I wrote a fun little story of how I shoot on manual).
I was really interested to read people’s ideas and philosophies on how they choose to shoot and why.
I, of course, have my passionate opinion, that manual is a essential to gain full creative control – but I also think you should shoot the exact way you feel comfortable and happy with. It doesn’t matter what and how you do it – as long as you do it!
As that was a popular post, I thought I’d share the latest two articles we’ve written for Digital Photography School:
Artistic Versus Technical Photography Skills – What is Holding You Back?: On my workshops I constantly notice patterns of how people learn about photography and then process the information. In this article I am sharing the most common natural tendencies that inhibit creativity, that I see in people – and how to overcome them.
Tips for Working the Scene to Take Your Image from Good to Great: I’ve written a couple of articles for my blog about ‘How I got the shot’, where I where I illustrate the progress of the shots to my best one. These have been very popular posts – although I still don’t massively enjoy sharing the rubbish shots I take before I get a good one 🙂
Take a look at more articles we’ve written for Digital Photography School here – with my 10 Ideas To Instantly Improve Your Photography Composition being the most popular so far.
Di and I are also going to share a couple of other things we have been enjoying this week, all fuel for our photography and creative practices, but not necessarily related to photography:
1. Iranian photographer Abbas died recently. Famous for photographing the Iranian revolution, he was a Magnum photographer, who spent much of his career documenting conflicts between religion and politics around the world. Gallery of his photos.
2. The Courage to Be Yourself: E.E. Cummings on Art, Life, and Being Unafraid to Feel
“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.” E.E. Cummings
Could not be more appropriate advice for our journey as creative people.
3. The genius of Prince. Loving Austin Kleon’s 5-hour Spotify playlist of the songs Prince recorded from 1983-1984.
4. Meditative photos and videos from free diver Ocean Ramsey who dives with sharks.
5. The Defiant Ones: I love music and being a musician was something I was considering before I took the road into photography. I loved the recent Netflix series The Defiant Ones, documenting the careers of musician/producer Dr Dre and producer/record label owned Jimmy Iovine. Really fascinating to get into the minds of people who have achieved remarkable things with their creativity.
That’s it for today. Have a stupendous day.
And remember to take that camera out – don’t let it gather dust! It needs you to bring interesting ideas into the world.
Anthony and Diana
That’s me shooting in Venice a few years ago.
All the shots in today’s article are from my Venice at Dawn photo project. I love this city! I run a photo workshop there most years, check out my workshop pages for details.
It’s a misty, damp day here in southern Spain. I’ve been out on the beach with my kids combing for interesting things. My daughter in particular loves finding things with me – we are always looking for the most interesting stones possible.
My son loves to drift off – walking and running and playing. It’s a beautiful sight to see the kids in this fresh air, away from the intensely urban life we were living before. It’s quite a gift.
I had a lot of fun on Sunday hosting my webinar on the photo challenge – Finding Beauty in the Mundane. There were lots of interesting entries which I discussed.
I love looking at peoples photos and giving my feedback – it’s really fun.
Check out the video – which is packed full of ideas and tips on composing.
Check out all the entries from the photo challenge here.
I’d love to know what you think, what you learnt and if you totally agree/disagree with my comments! Let me know on below.
Have a wonderful day,
Anthony and Diana
An interesting rock.
I like who I am when I’m being creative, that’s the basic fact. I love taking photos, just like I love having a long walk through the hills near me in Spain. I have to remember that these things bring me joy. And who doesn’t want a life of maximum joy?
So I am going to ask more of myself creatively this coming month. And I want to offer up a challenge to help you if, like me, you are in need of a little push.
I invite you to find and photograph the beauty in the mundane.
Firstly – because it’s easy to take amazing shots of amazingly beautiful places. Although we can always do something fresh, or unique or interesting with our subjects, you’re bound to get something awesome with, for example, a great location and a great sky.
But to create something beautiful, or find beauty in the mundane? That’s a skill that is fantastic to have, and worth developing, because it will help your photography as a whole.
If you can make the most ordinary object look interesting, think how much more you can bring to compelling subjects or scenes?
As many of you know, learning to see, or learning to see in a deeper way, is the journey that every photographer should be on. But that can feel like an overwhelming task. This challenge will help.
Mundane is defined in the dictionary as the everyday, ordinary, or banal. So it could be things you see everyday and have lost interest in – I particularly like street signs, peeling posters, weird things I find on the floor. Ask yourself, how can I make this interesting to me?
It could just be a boring object or scene or subject. Ask yourself, what elements could I bring it to make this come alive? Interesting light, a person walking past, a different angle or maybe the way I organise the elements of the scene?
It could even be, and I am obviously stretching the definition here, photographing the slightly depressing or the ugly in a beautiful way. Finding beauty in objects or places considered ugly is a great challenge!
“The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” Henry Miller
In this challenge I encourage you to do two things:
Use outside elements to bring beauty to mundane subjects/scenes (like waiting for interesting light, rain, a person etc. to come along)
Work to bring out the innate beauty in mundane subjects – and here we are really looking, and probing our subject. Looking at its textures, its colour, what elements it’s made up of
How this can help you:
If you’re a beginner or feeling a bit stuck this challenge will give you something to focus on to get started, as well as an access point on learning how to see
If you’re more advanced it can push you into not just going for the easy shot, but working with harder elements to create interesting photographs
And I like this challenge because it is helping us acknowledge and draw out the beauty that exists in our lives every-day and every-where.
So just dive on in, or below you’ll find some tips and examples
to help you get on your way.
Breaking down the elements
Looking for interesting elements is a great way to start that process of learning to see – so instead of trying to photograph a scene as a whole, find an interesting element and then build your photo from there.
When you see a sign like this in a scene you are usually looking at it as part of a whole scene, and it’s not very interesting when it’s part of a whole. But when you remove it from what it’s connected to it becomes fascinating.
As photographers, light is our gift from the gods. Interesting light can make anything – literally anything – wonderful to look at. I also like how you can use hard light to create shadows that contrast something hard, ugly or rough. Like here.
Or here, in a much softer way, you have this broken down house bathed in soft blue dawn light, making the textures look and feel quite sensual. The photo wouldn’t be interesting at all without this light.
This photo below is one I shot in Hong Kong. I found some matresses in the street – could anything be more mundane than that? The light was wonderful, which I think makes the shot.
This photo below sort of personifies the whole idea for me about bringing out the beauty in the mundane. The light of course makes this photo, the way it’s filtered through something and is falling over the wall. But then you have this wetness and moss which creates really interesting textures. You can feel it. I do have a love of photographing quite ugly things and so I really quite love this photo.
Would your photo be more interesting if you moved your feet? It sounds simple, but most people I teach don’t move very much.. And don’t just move closer or to the side, move higher and lower. Climb that roof! Go down that stairwell! As Diane Arbus said – photography is a kind of licence to explore people and situations. Use that licence!
Photographing things I find on the street is a huge passion of mine.
In this photo above, the interestingness again comes from removing elements from their context. If the floor wasn’t mostly wet it wouldn’t be as interesting, and the bright red contrasted against the deep grey – plus I like muddy footprints – all add something.
Doesn’t this just take on a different feeling when it’s not attached to a whole scene?
Here you have both light and leading lines. I love using structure and organisation in my photos.
I hope you enjoyed those ideas. Share your thoughts and comments below – do you like to photograph mundane subjects? Has it helped your photography?
Anthony and Diana
Victoria’s Peak is the must shoot place for any photographer visiting Hong Kong, actually, anyone must visit! It is a stunning view; sublime and warm. You get a real sense of the place and it’s structure from this view. One of a kind for sure. Below are two videos I made before and after shooting on the Peak. Below the video are the images I made from the adventure.
Photos Victoria's Peak
Today I wanted to have a little fun and make this suggestion – your camera is nothing without you. It’s an inert machine that requires your vision, your inspiration, your excitement and energy to create interesting photos.
So to illustrate this today I want to send you some photos I took in the last few weeks with my smartphone camera.
I want to show you that:
1) It doesn’t matter what camera you have – good photos can always be created.
2) Regardless of where, and with what you are shooting, take time to pause and compose your shot! In fact taking photos in the day-to-day way with your phone camera is an awesome way to practise composition. A little practise every day will do wonders!
So let’s see what I came up with with my smartphone camera in these past few weeks….
How many of the photos in this post are about light?
Light doing interesting things is everywhere. You just need to look out for it….
What do you think? Am I right – or do you totally disagree? I’d love to know!! Let me know in the comments below. It’s amazing hearing what you think.
Have a great day,
Anthony and Diana
PS – here is the 19th shot, taken by Di, on the subject of how difficult it is to take a nap when there is a 5 year old around 🙂
Good day to you all,
Today is one of those days that I often really struggle with in London. It’s grey, the light is flat, there is some of that very sprinkly rain that doesn’t totally warrant the whole rain gear outfit but is none the less an inconvenience.
Di went for a walk down by the river this morning and told me how many people were out jogging and rowing. I couldn’t help but mutter to myself, crazy people!
You know what, though? (And this would have made me splutter with surprise when I first got off the boat from California all those years ago) – English weather ain’t that bad for taking photos of London. And this is because this city is so incredible, so interesting and diverse and amazing, it almost taunts me by saying I don’t need blazing sunshine and spectacular light to show off what a fascinating city I am. Explore me and you will discover incredible things.
My favourite part of the city to photograph is – hands down – East London. If you don’t know this city and you come here, I urge you to go east and explore.
I think it’s mostly to do with the contrasting architecture – you’ll be walking down some ancient street, where you can literally smell the history, and suddenly a sparkly new building will appear, like it’s grown from the ground like a weed, shooting up in its shimmering glass and steel.
You’ll then turn into another street to suddenly be sucked into the riot and colour and noise of a street market, before feeling like you’ve moved into a totally different city with the delicious smells from a row of Indian restaurants.
It’s the constant juxtaposition of architecture, cultures and communities that is so awesome to photograph.
But what stands out for me is the street art. I’m sad to say there ain’t much street art in my quaint environs of West London. It’s all a bit samey this side of the city, but there you’ve got incredible artists displaying their breathtaking talents on all kinds of amazing textures, walls and buildings.
What makes me think they are even more super-awesome is how temporary it all is. Like, I am just going to put this beautiful picture out there, let it go into the world and not worry if it lasts just a day or 2 years.
There is an energy to this part of London that I don’t feel in other parts. Yes, it can be a very intense energy of struggle, being the part of the city in which so many new communities land, working crushingly hard to get a foot into a new life. But there is also the energy of possibility – it’s the place where many artists live and work, where entrepreneurs are often found starting their businesses with big ideas. It’s the home of artisan food shops and the birthplace of many cultural trends that then sweep across the city.
So you can totally imagine my absolute sheer joy when I was asked to do a book about this very area of London that I love. A limited edition photo book of 1,000, no less, commissioned by a very cool new aparthotel that has just landed in the East End.
I brought together my favourite images of the area, and then went out and shot some more.
I took my son to explore the early morning street markets and we shot together. I went out on one cold and flat morning and shot the Balfron Tower – and it didn’t matter that there was no spectacular sunrise that morning. That’s what I mean about this city – even when it’s dull, it’s incredible to photograph.
I went into the ‘edgelands’ that are so much part of East London, places that are neither city or country, that are filled with desolate-looking industrial estates that feel devoid of life, but are in fact teeming with industry.
The upshot being that I photographed a tremendous part of the city, and I loved every minute of it.
This project is now coming to fruition and the book is being launched at the end of the month. Now, it’s only and exclusively available for purchase at the Leman Locke, the amazing design-led aparthotel that commissioned the book.
I have got 50 of these beautiful books for sale, yeh! These are signed by me and will be have an edition number inside. I have chosen to go for a slightly different look to my last books: I’m using a beautiful thick matt paper that I think really works with the project – this is, after all, one of the most intensely urban parts of London.
(And by the way, you are the first to hear about this, because we love you guys!)
As I only have fifty books, I am expecting them to sell super quickly (for my last book I sold 100 books on the first day I announced it! Which was so exciting.)
It’s a cloth bound, A4 hardback with 80 pages capturing my vision of East London at dawn, really quite beautiful if I say so myself.
Di has written some beautiful words and collected some great quotes for the project. It’s a really special collection, and we are both very proud of the book.
If you’ve ever wanted to own a little piece of my art, this is a good time to do it! And what a great present! You can say you know the artist 🙂
And thank you! It really is the most tremendous thing that all of you stick around and read our writing about photography and creativity. The life of a photographer is often a very solitary one; to have this worldwide group that gives me so much feedback and inspiration is incredible. I hope you all know how much it means to me to know you’re out there and how many of you send me emails and comments – it’s just beautiful!
I hope you have a smashing rest of your day.
Here is the link for my new book East London at Dawn.
Anthony and Diana
This week I have two things for you: an idea (a possibility) and some of my photos from the past few days. It’s hopefully a little light mind-and-eye refreshment, with a tinge of inspiration for you on this weekday-day.
“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” Mahatma Gandhi
One thing that I hear a lot on my workshops is: I am terrible at……technical things / being creative / seeing interesting photo opportunities. It doesn’t really matter which of these things people talk about, but many have convinced themselves that they are sorely lacking in one particular area and they will never, ever, be good at it.
I know we all have natural tendencies to be good at particular things. I know this just by looking at my kids. My four year old daughter has my intense practicality and is already telling her dreamy mother and brother they’ve put things away in the wrong place. (She recently came into the kitchen to tell us there was a wet towel in the bathroom, because obviously that was an anomaly – so she wanted to alert the necessary authorities. Which I of course loved because she notices everything. Just like Daddy!) Contrast this with my wife who doesn’t notice things like the toilet breaking or a picture falling off the wall.
So yes – we all have natural tendencies to be good at certain things. But we should never (ever, ever) just stop with what we are naturally good at. We should push ourselves to develop new skills – because we can! And it’s good for our brain to try! It is always possible to change and develop (and science now backs us up on this – our brains have the capacity to evolve).
If you think you are bad technically – don’t give into that and make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Decide that you will now be technically excellent and your brain will start to organise itself towards acquiring those technical skills.
I’ve just got back from Venice, teaching a workshop and taking photos (I love my work!) I’m still a little bit infused with that mood and spirit that is so unique to Venice: dreamy, a bit wild, full of beauty.
“But if you died and in your will you asked for your ashes to be spread gently on the Grand Canal at midnight with a full moon, everyone would know this about you – you loved and understood beauty.” William Goldman
So this is why my post this week started with the thought of possibility. Because even though Venice is so old and vulnerable, its immense past echoing through every alley, so at the mercy of the sea and its wild energies – it seems like the kind of place that you can have mad dreams about your life, inventing, creating new ideas, even recreating yourself. It must be the beauty that intoxicates (and the sunshine :))
“To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.” Alexander Herzen
Two things about Venice surprised me – the deepness of the silence (remove the cars and if you’re used to that constant background noise, it’s like letting the air out of a balloon, as you are enveloped in silence), and the dark of the darkness (very little illumination at night and almost no nightlife).
As a child I would spend hours looking up into the sky watching for stars and trying to spot planets. My mind would go crazy imagining other worlds, other galaxies, other spaces and time. And up there was so much possibility for things beyond what we as humans could imagine. But down here on earth I am continually impressed with what we humans can imagine. What we can decide our vision to be and then go out and execute that vision. It’s stunning.
And with its turbulent history still Venice has survived through the centuries, and what a testament to the human imagination that this beautiful city exists. What is so significant about Venice is the echo of the past. Never have I been to a city where you feel so intensely the life that has been lived: the layers of time, of people, of the dramas of life, all there, waiting to be found.
“This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty – this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism.” Thomas Mann, Death in Venice
And so I hope to ignite a little of that feeling of possibility in you today. We don’t all need to go to Venice to experience it, the feeling of possibility exists everywhere – we just have to see it. Looking up to our wide, wide open sky at night, full of stars; the gentle lapping of the dark green water on the river in the morning; the brightness of a blue, blue sky on a summer’s afternoon. It’s all there, waiting for you.
“If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” Thomas A. Edison
I really hope you are having a wonderful week, and I hope too that you are making time to take photos. As always, I’d love to hear from you so please comment on my blog or email me by replying to this. And if you like what you read I’d love it if you shared this, or any of my posts. It makes a amazing difference to us in helping to spread the word about our blog. Thanks 🙂
Anthony & Diana
“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.” Nathaniel Hawthorne
My son once said to me – “One day you’re going to love autumn as much as I do.” And I think, after many years, that time has arrived. Loving an autumn in London didn’t come naturally to me.There can be endless days of steely grey skies, cold thrashing weather, permanent dampness of person and quite a lot of feelings of grimness. But when nature turns on its beauty at this time of year, it can at times be more incredible and more special that at any other time of the year..
I think those bad days are just there to keep us photographers on our toes. Nature is saying, wait for it, wait….wait….patience, bam! There you go. Incredible, incredible beauty. And because it’s not happening every day we become hungrier for the beauty.
I love autumn too because, unlike summer or spring when everything is just pretty and opulent, beauty in autumn reminds us of how fleeting and temporary life is. We can’t take the moments of fantastic light, or a tree on fire with colour, for granted. We have to be opportunistic – see it and capture before it quickly escapes us. (That momentary opportunity of autumn is explained really nicely by Charlie Waite here in describing one of his photos.)
Last Sunday I headed up to Hampstead Heath with my Light Monkey’s photo group for a dawn walk filled with SPECTACULAR beauty. Mist weaving through a golden sunrise, light falling onto trees as their leaves fell, and a dewy, moist ground. It was one of those mornings when you know you are taking wonderful photos, because what the world has laid out for you is so inspiring your skin feels tingly.
These moments, and days, are just the result of putting the time in. Of pushing yourself out the door on a cold morning to see the sunrise, or away from that delicious glass of wine because you’ve noticed some interesting light outside. If you keep showing up then you’ll find the magical, the truly inspiring – and your photography will make you feel so gratified that you made the effort.
Photo © Sarah Cartwright
The photos in this post are both by me and some of the members of my Light Monkey’s photo group (thanks to them for so generously sharing them). It’s always an extra exciting part of going out and taking photos as a group – when you share the photos afterwards and see how we can all be in the same place and yet see totally different things.
So here are some thoughts about capturing the moments of autumn:
It’s a great time for macro photography
Getting those close up shots of intense colour of the leaves, the dew drops on the spider’s web, the shapes and textures of the falling foliage. (Here’s a good introduction on how to shoot macro photography from the excellent website Cambridge in Colour.)
Photo © Charles Moffat
Playing with the shape and textures
It’s a mad time in nature, when the trees are throwing off their leaves, filling the floor at our feet with intensely colourful shapes. The trees are revealing their bending branches, wildly playing together in their air. I love looking at trees at this time, and using their amazing shapes and combining it with the texture and colours of the falling leaves.
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” Albert Camus
Plenty of contrast
In autumn instead of just a wash of green, nature has a mass of contrasts – lots of colour, changing textures etc. When there is lots of contrast around it makes it easier for the eye to break down the elements and place them together.
Autumn means more moisture is in the air
So now we have more dew on the grass in the morning; mist and fog make an appearance. These are all additional elements that will enhance your subject. Fog and mist usually burn off soon after sunrise, so get up early (dawn is much later at this time of year, 7am in the UK at the moment, so you really have no excuse :)) and bring your tripod. Use the extra rain to play with reflections.
Photo © Deborah Smyth
If you can’t get out before dawn try sunset, when there can be extraordinary light. But it’s good to know that through the cold months the sun doesn’t rise as far so you can often get interesting photos throughout the day. (Here is another great Cambridge in Colour link, about making the most of shooting in natural light.)
Photo © Daniel Beacock
Use all of your senses
I am a big fan of using your other senses – listening, smelling and touch – to connect yourself with the world around you. The more immersed you are in your environment, using all of your senses, the more you can see. And if you’re finding it hard to concentrate – thinking perhaps instead about that stupidly annoying email you received this morning – then using your other senses is an excellent way to anchor you into the here and now. It takes some of the pressure off trying to see everything.
“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.” Rainer Maria Rilke
The combination of beauty and melancholy
I like autumn too because there is a mix of beauty and melancholy. Someone once said to me that there is a loneliness to much of my work. I prefer to think of it as a sense of aloneness, because I don’t feel lonely. But I think what this means is that I am communicating a feeling, something that is familiar and touching for people to look at. I am connecting a feeling that I have with one that the viewer might also have. And for me life isn’t just all roses and starlight. It’s special because it’s both precious and fragile. It has both love and sadness.
I’ve been listening to some music that I think fits this season of beauty and melancholy, music that makes your spine tingle but also speaks to that wisdom of the soul: Blue in Green by Miles Davis; everything by Nick Drake and Beethoven’s Symphony 7 (if I’m feeling a little greedy for inspiration I just listen the ‘best bit’ here).
Photo © Simon Roth
Exploring subtle colours
Spring and summer – that’s nature showing off. Autumn brings a need to probe the more subtle edges of what’s interesting and lovely to look at. That’s one of the reasons I love photographing Venice, nothing is loud and brash (except the sunshine sometimes and the tourists often :)) – the buildings and the colours are all very subtle. So you have to examine the qualities of the colour, the subtle contrasts, the depth of the colours, and be enchanted by that. I am not quite as excited as my wife and son by the depths of brown in the woods, but I’ll definitely take great interest in the myriad of greens and yellows, no problem.
Many artists have documented changes in their environment or favourite views over the seasons. Like Ansel Adams with his Seasons in Yosemite project and David Hockney with his study of trees in Yorkshire. It’s an excellent way to become more connected to your environment and to train your eye in noticing both the big and subtle changes of a scene.
And it’s not just nature you can document. The seasons affect every part of human life – in the look of our streets to the feelings, gestures and appearances of people within them.
Photo © Christopher Weber
And just while we are on the subject of looking at other photographers /artists I’d like to recommend:
Studying other photographer
Don McCullin talks in this interview about how he learnt about photography by studying great photographers. He started with the concept of beauty, not war, in absorbing how to compose photographs. This is an idea that I really love: that your subject doesn’t have to be pretty or beautiful, but having an appreciation of beauty in this world will make your compositions stronger, more compelling and pleasing to the eye. Look at what Sebastiao Salgado has done by finding beauty in the most difficult subjects – and thereby attracting tremendous attention to his subject.
So if I could encourage one thing of you this week – it would be to find some nature (Hampstead Heath in London – perfect!) and go have some fun. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere – keep this post for six months 🙂 Or somewhere that doesn’t have many seasons (hello my old friends in LA) – travel.
Photo © Sue Richards
Be an explorer. Get up and push yourself out of the door because you’ve seen some interesting light. Leave your bed or your good book for later. Venturing out for exploration will always be rewarding. Don’t let the cold weather keep you inside; shake up your body and your mind and go and find something extraordinary.
I would love to know – what inspires you to photograph autumn? Do you love the light, the colours, the grey, even? Comment on my blog here or reply to my email.
Until next time – happy photographing,
Anthony and Diana
This week a short post to say that Diana and I have got something super incredible to give you (and it’s totally free….gratis, nada pesos). We’ve been working on this for the past six months. I’m now going to drop the English facade of mild self deprecation that I’ve had to develop over the past fifteen years of living in London and get back to my Californian self to say – this by far the best thing we’ve ever written about photography. I will be stunned, stunned I tell you, if it doesn’t blow your mind with inspiration and propel your understanding of photography onto a whole new level. There, I said it.
It is the distillation of all of my teachings about photography – it is no less than:
The two essential things you need to be a great photographer.
Simple. But not easy.
To download it for free simply sign up to my weekly newsletter (over there on the right hand side or at the bottom of this post) and we’ll send it over straight away.
I strongly encourage you to take 30 minutes out of your day today to read it, even if it’s on the train or during your lunch break or in the park in the sunshine on your phone.
It will create fire within you and you will want to race outside with your camera on finishing this, I promise.
I would LOVE to know what you think. Diana and I have poured huge amounts of passion, writing, ideas and discussion into this – because we want help as many people as we can propel themselves ever forward on this beautiful creative journey that we are all on.
We would love to know what you think, please comment here.
The morning after I sent out a blog post earlier this month about reviewing your work I woke up in a cold sweat. Something was deeply, deeply wrong….
I crept downstairs and turned on my computer. In a few seconds (my laptop opens at lightening fast speed, something I am very proud of) I realised my fear was valid. I looked through the photos I had picked for my ‘best of year’ selection and they were all random shots, devoid of a theme, a subject, a purpose, a mission.
They were just a…. bunch of images. And it struck me that I didn’t come anywhere close to completing a project last year, and that was completely frightening.
In this age of camera phones and photography obsession it is no longer enough to produce a few lovely images and then think – OK I’m done, I’m a great photographer! One of my favourite contemporary photographers, Jonas Bendiksen, who produced the incredible photo book Satellites, said that the future of photography will lie not in the beautiful individual photos (I mean who doesn’t have a bunch of those) but in the stories that photographs can tell.
And this applies to both amateurs and professionals. Think about your audience, what do they want to see? A few unrelated but lovely shots of a beach or some great street photography, or do they want to be drawn in by you and a story that you have seen and are telling with your work? Think too about what you want to see when it comes to photography. A selection of images, or a story?
And it is in that that I failed last year. OK – to give myself some credit I have been working on my Venice at Dawn book – but not enough! Life, business, my funny children – they distracted me!
Over this past week my mind has become a hot bed of intense thinking and just a little anxiety (which isn’t always a bad thing when it comes to being creative. Here’s Kierkegaard on why anxiety powers creativity rather than hinders it, from the beautiful beautiful website Brainpickings.)
My question to myself has been – what story do I want to tell this year with my photography? And….. I think I’ve come up with something….It’s too soon to share my subject, but I wanted to share the process I went through with the hope that it might help you think about what story you want to tell with your photography this year.
I love taking photos of cities, and people in cities. I do have some other subjects. A few years ago I exhibited my project on trees, called Arboreal Dreams. So the first question I always ask is:
What do you want to photography – people or things?
Instantly I thought of people. I have done a hell of a lot of cities of late. Even though I do love to photograph the people I find awake in cities at dawn, they are few and far between.
I also decided on people because my last portrait project, The Homeless World Cup, was incredibly fun to do and when I exhibited it last year I got tonnes of great feedback (not that I am taking photos just for the praise mind you :))
What subjects/news items/themes in life are obsessing you at the moment?
Well, the subject I have chosen is nothing to do with photography, but everything to do with some techy subject I love. Perhaps you wouldn’t know to look at me, but I am a total tech nerd (my wife likes to say I look way cooler than I actually am. I completely disagree).
It’s incredibly important to be passionate about the project you are shooting – otherwise you risk getting distracted, losing interest, having a complete crisis of confidence mid way through the project and you won’t finish it. EVERY project I do I have a crisis of confidence midway through.
Every, single, one. Heck I even had a crisis of confidence before I started my Paris at Dawn book – how can I photograph the most visited city in the world, and therefore the most photographed, in an original, inspiring way? Was the the big anxiety I faced. Turns out Paris at Dawn is now my favourite of the dawn projects.
Passion for your subject will keep you going when you think – my work is terrible! I hate my photos! Why have I spent so much time on this rubbish! Passion will help you get to the end so that you can settle, look back over the work and think – oh, this is quite good actually.
Is it easy to photograph?
One of the downsides of photographing Cities at Dawn is the mere fact that they are so far away (now that I’ve done two books on London!) Hence my limited progress on my Venice book this year. I will keep going on that, and my other city books, but I realised I need something closer to home to work on when I can’t travel – because that keeps the creative juices flowing.
That doesn’t mean your project can’t be abroad – just make sure you are able to commit the time you need to it, and maybe have some smaller projects that are closer to home to keep you motivated throughout the year.
I have used this quote already on a blog of late but it seems negligent not to bring it up again at such an apt time – “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou
And let’s be realistic – will I have the time to shoot this?
One of my favourite of my recent projects has been The Belly Project:
Talk about subjects being everywhere!
What are you hoping to achieve with this project?
Fame, glory, world-wide recognition? (OK, maybe that’s just me?) Is this part of a wider life goal, or is this a story you just want to share with the world? Is this solely for my family and friends, or myself? It’s good to clarify.
If it’s a story you want to share with the world – the good news is there are so many ways now to get your photos out there. Yes it’s a crowded space, but never before has a photographer not affiliated with a news magazine, publisher or gallery been able to have the possibility to show their work to the millions.
This is in itself a massive subject – and if people are interested in what we have done to get my work out there then let me know. I would be more than happy to put together a post on websites, news media etc. if that’s something you want to know about.
How many final images?
This sounds like a strange question to ask yourself before you’ve even started but it helps to give you some structure to the project. It’s not set in stone either – even if you think 30 images and come out with 10, you should regularly assess where you are at, have you told the story already? Perhaps you’re taking too many photos and not managing to distil the story into a smaller amount and that should help you focus your work.
For my Homeless World Cup project I have about 20 images I am really happy with that, a great amount for that kind of project. For my books – 90 images is around preferable, but that is a 1-2 year intense project, so I would suggest you focus on between 10-20.
The world is littered with unrealised ideas! Don’t let yours add to the heap! Even if you don’t feel ready, or inspired I always think (or my wife does and she tells me so when I am dithering hopelessly) better just to get started and change things if it’s not right than wait for perfect conditions.
“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.” — Edward de Bono
Things may change
This is normal! Allow for your project to develop as you get to know your subject better and the way you are responding. Have plenty of time to let the work ‘settle’ so you can reassess, evaluate and respond to changes.
On a new page on our site of inspiring interviews with iconic photographers, Annie Leibovitz talks in detail about her book ‘Women’. It’s a really interesting to hear how she overcame her initial fear of the project and how it developed as she started to shoot the project.
Some other questions to ask yourself:
- How would you like it to be viewed – prints, online, a book, something more abstract?
- What technical abilities will I need?
- Is my gear enough?
- Who will help me edit?
Now once you’ve done all that thinking, planning, assessing…forget it! You’ve laid the foundations, you’ve done the sensible part, now is the time to get going, and as Picasso said:
“To draw, you must close your eyes and sing.”
I’d love to hear about your photo projects for the year and how you’ve created them. Please do comment, I love hearing from you all!
Anthony and Diana
Two good things to report this week. Firstly, my next London at Dawn
workshop is June 18th and 19th. It’s going to be a small group
wandering the dawn and early morning London streets creating amazing
images. It’ll be a huge dose of information and inspiration! (The workshops have been huge fun and the feedback from the participants is just what an ego needs…once in awhile anyway. Moving on.)
Joining me as usual is Nick Mortimore, Black Cabbie & tour guide who will show the hidden secrets of our city. We’ll be hitting St Paul’s, Postman’s
Park, Millennium Bridge, the Gherkin and finishing up with breakfast a
Spitalfields Market and that’s just the first morning! We’d love for you
to join us – and please tell your friends!
Last week I was in California, my home state, and had a fantastic time
going out with my nine-year old nephew and his dad for some Dawn
shooting. They were awesome, especially the kid – didn’t yawn once, dad and me… plenty. Aidan rocks!
This is the first photo from the morning near the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s an HDR(high dynamic range) image and so much fun to do.
Have a fantastic week all.
There are many elements that are basic to a good photograph; composition, timing, colour, blah blah blah(googleit). But mostly it’s about nice light – especially when its fleeting, a moment gone, never to return, never quite the same again.
I was shooting at Tower Hill yesterday at dawn, not a great morning, but lots of potential (wisewords: patience is a quality and attribute for all photographers). I stood there looking across the river at the Shard (hard to look at anything else really, it makes South London look like a toy landscape) rubbing sleep of my face when, bingo, the pre-dawn twilight illumed the southern sky with rainbow pinks and reds and blues (is pink in the rainbow, googleit!) that lasted two minutes then back to basic grey. Worth the wait.
Anyway, that’s not the photo I’m posting today. Todays photo is of a book in my bedroom…, the light on the book reflected off a mirror from the light streaming through nebulous curtains from a setting sun…it only lasted twenty seconds.
I wonder how many of you would have seen it.