Cast Out Every Map And Clutch A Compass To Your Heart

image: dan james
image: dan james

In a recent conversation in our tribe, I was asked if I had any plan or pattern to how I photograph, such as which camera and film combination to use when and where.

My first response was that I have no plan whatsoever.

I don’t have a carefully pre-plotted timetable of the next 12 months, indicating which camera to take out when, and where, and which film to load in it.

I don’t have set goals to take a certain amount of photographs of a certain type of shot with a certain camera, decided weeks or months in advance.

But as I thought about the initial question a little more, I realised I do have a plan and a pattern. And in fact it’s a very strict one.

When I’m setting out on a photoshoot I choose the camera, or couple of cameras, that I’m most into at that time.

In other words, I follow what excites me, what makes my heart flutter.

This might be the same camera and film and scenery combination that I’ve gone with for the last three or four photoshoots. Or it might be something as far from the previous outing as possible. I rarely know in advance.

What I do know is that on some level I enjoy using all the film cameras I have (currently 11). And each has its own appeal and unique way of creating photographs.

My two rules of collecting and using cameras are simple –

1. Don’t buy a new camera unless it does something that no other camera you currently have does.

In other words, don’t invest in something that isn’t going to open new creative pathways and opportunities.

2. If you haven’t used a camera in months on end, donate or sell it to someone who is going to use it.

Or, don’t let the cameras gather dust or become mere ornaments, they need to be active tools for creating.

Having these guiding rules actually eliminates any need for detailed planning.

Because I know that whichever camera I pick up, it’ll be enjoyable to use, and has the potential to create something beautiful and memorable.

The only choice remaining, as I said before, is to go with what I’m most excited about right now, then explore and enjoy.

Consider how this applies to your own creative life.

How much do you plan your work?

Or, more importantly, are you spending so much time planning, you rarely create with the initial energy or excitement you had at the start of the plan? Or worse still, do you often get completely lost in the plan and not create anything?

How often do you simply throw out any guidelines and preconceived notions of what you think you should be creating, and just go with what your heart is most calling you to create? How spontaneous is your creative work?

Let me know your thoughts on planning versus spontaneity, doing what your head thinks you should do, versus what your is desperately imploring you to do, over in our community.


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