People often ask where I get my inspiration from for art photography, especially when, unlike portrait, wedding or even fashion photography, there is usually no brief or clear subject.
Inspiration is a intriguing concept. It refers to an unconscious and sudden burst of activity in a literary, musical or artistic endeavor, but as a word, it is often misused.
Literally, the word inspire means “breathed upon” - in the case of the ancient Greeks, by the Gods, and in Christianity, by God and the Holy Spirit.
I have always believed that inspiration comes mostly from within, a combination of individual personality and imagination, and of how we perceive and feel about the world and then relate to it. In other words, everything has the potential to inspire us creatively if we are able to feel something for it.
Acclaimed Photographer, Andre Kertesz understood this all too well. He said, in this now famous quote:
“Everything is a subject. Every subject has a rhythm. To feel it is the raison d’etre (reason for existence). The photograph is a fixed moment of such a raison d’etre, which lives on in itself.”
Many artists wait for inspiration to come to them from an outside source and in the process of waiting they miss opportunities and ideas for creativity that are right there in their everyday lives.
I can honestly say that I have never waited for artistic inspiration. At times when I am stuck for an idea, I find that if I clear my mind, then look around me with an open mind, I am able to find the “inspiration” I need.
When all else fails, I pull out my camera and just by the process of looking through the lens, the chaos is eliminated from the scene and ideas soon crystallize.
Art is all around us, even when at first it is not at all obvious. Last weekend I found myself in a situation where I had the ideal opportunity to prove this to myself.
My daughter had asked me to shoot a few images of her show-jumping training at a pony club course that she had booked for a couple of hours. When we arrived, the skies were heavy and threatening, and before she could even get her horse ready for the jumps, the heavens opened and it started to rain.
As soon as it started to rain, I left her organising her horse at the float and walked over to the partly undercover spectators' area looking out towards the empty arena. Within a few minutes of reaching the cover, the rain had become a deluge, continuing without abating for the next 45 minutes.
And there I was - stuck - with no umbrella, no-one to talk to, no book, no laptop, no blackberry - only my camera and apparently nothing to photograph. And I am absolutely hopeless at sitting doing nothing ....
I looked around at the rusty metal chairs, the ancient graffiti-covered containers, wire cages containing crumpled soft drink cans, ant-eaten wooden poles, broken-down fencing, old sheds and rampant weeds, and thought here was my opportunity to try to turn the boring and ordinary into art.
The next 30 minutes provided one of the most amazing experiences as I looked at all these very ordinary objects through my lens in a totally new way, making the most of my isolation and the soft, flat light provided by the heavy rain!
Art really does imitate life. Every moment, every person, every object, every thing can inspire creativity if we allow ourselves to be open to the source of inspiration that is there within all of us.
Albert Einstein often stressed the importance of imagination and of trusting our feelings. He said:
"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."
He also said: "Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts."