Give Your Writing A Creative Boost With A Photography Project
March 27, 2019
Looking for a creative boost to inspire new writing ideas or a different approach? Try a photography project.
No matter what your art form, you’ll need to find ways to boost your creativity or find new sources of inspiration every now and then. A good way to do that is to take up different hobbies or try your hand at other arts. These unrelated hobbies and art forms give you the opportunity to expand your creative horizons, to think and create in new ways. And, they can also help you improve and build on your other skills.
You might be a writer who enjoys photography, like me. Taking a break from words to go out and take photos will give you a chance to develop a creative skill set that’ll benefit both your photography and your writing.
Storytelling skills from your writing will impact your photography, and observation skills from your photography will boost your writing. It’s a win-win.
There are a lot of parallels between writing and photography. It’s easy to think of photography as being all about having a high-end camera and producing one stunning image after another. But, many professional photographers dedicate themselves to photography projects; to explore a subject over time and across many images. Much like writing, these projects focus in on a specific subject and, in their entirety, communicate some common truth or theme. It’s about storytelling rather than producing one gorgeous desktop wallpaper image at a time.
“Photography is about limiting yourself and deciding what is of interest and what isn’t… It’s important to decide what is the central element or the anchor of your story and establish a central knot.”
British photographer, Martin Parr, is known for having captured the ‘essence of Britishness’ through his photo projects. In particular, The Last Resort , is a great example of what you can do with a photography project and how it could inspire your writing. Looking at Parr’s images individually, in isolation from the rest of the set, won’t give you that ‘essence of Britishness’. It’s one scene pulled from a novel of scenes. But put the images of a set together, and you see he captures so much more than a moment; he captures the big picture – the story.
Your Photography Project
A photography project of your own could be a wonderful creative break from your writing. But, it will still help you be a better writer because you’re still telling stories. With a photography project, you’re using different creative muscles to get the same result; to tell a great story. You’ll also stand to gain new perspectives, inspiration and material for your writing, and creative growth.
Coming up with an idea for a photography project might be the most difficult part. Andrew S. Gibson offered nine photography project ideas in this post. Here are a few things to think about when you’re looking for project ideas:
Choosing one subject: a building, a person, or a location, and finding ways to capture that one subject from different angles, at different times of the day or different seasons is a great way to flex your creative muscles. It changes your perspective and shakes you up.
“The two most engaging powers of a photograph are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”
Your subject doesn’t have to be something we’ve never seen before. Some of the best moments in art come from familiar subjects being cast in a new light. You could go to the ends of the Earth to capture what no one has ever seen before which would be amazing. But, you could also capture scenes of ordinary home life in interesting ways, and that would be inspiring too.
Austin Kleon wrote in his book, Steal Like An Artist, that the challenge of constraints can produce great results. Creative limitations, like choosing to photograph only in black and white; using one lens for a year; using only your phone’s camera; or photographing just one subject, will require you to get creative. These limitations make you think more deeply about composition, perspective, story, and other creative elements to produce a set of images.
Setting creative constraints for your photography project might also get you thinking about how you can do something similar with your writing, like writing haiku, six-word stories, or writing in a new genre or format.
Capturing the passage of time makes for a wonderful photography project. Some people have committed to taking a photograph of themselves every day for 20 years to capture their ageing process. You could focus on a specific location and capture the seasonal changes of nature and life there over a period of a year or longer. What you stand to discover by paying attention to the passage of time and its effects might be all the inspiration you need.
“A project gives you direction and motivation. It helps you see possibilities and gives you something to aim for. Projects can cover a set length of time, or be returned to again and again over the years and decades. “
Andrew S. Gibson
The greatest benefit of a photography project for your writing is getting to develop your powers of observation and perspective. It’ll make you more observant, to look for details. Both your images and your scenes need detail to come alive, and your photography project will give you a new way to practice looking for these details and perspectives. Everything you capture and see along the way becomes material for your art.
A photography project has personal benefits too. The creative skills you develop in practising photography have cross-over benefits for all your other skills. Improving in one area makes you better at all the other things you do.
But Austin Kleon, in Steal Like An Artist, drops the biggest pearl of wisdom of all: ‘make things = know thyself’.
PS: Don’t let equipment stop you. The best camera is the one you’ve got with you. Plenty of photographers are making beautiful images with their phones, and there’s no reason you can’t do the same. Go out and get creative!
References + Further Reading
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