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Author Topic: Do you await the muse?  (Read 402 times)

RPark

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Do you await the muse?
« on: March 08, 2017, 04:59:22 PM »

Over the years, as a writer and photographer, I've occasionally "run out of juice."

I wrote a blog post in 2011 asserting that, at least when it came to writing, I was at the mercy of the muse. My ideas have evolved in the interim and I'm now willing to admit that sometimes the inability to tackle creative block comes down to my own idleness.

Since most of my photographic projects are now self-assigned, I rely on will to pick up the camera and imagine new projects.

I updated my thoughts on this question yesterday. Wondering if readers have any personal techniques for calling down the muses?

Rob C

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Re: Do you await the muse?
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2017, 04:44:56 AM »

Frankly, I believe the muse is a fake: she pretends to live in the soul but doesn't; she lives in the mood. And that's where you've got her: you can make mood.

Insofar as photography goes, you simply need to consider the situation of the pro. He can't afford to await the call, and has to come up with the right solutions very time, and he usually does, to the best of his ability so to do. That ability, measured over time, marks him as either good or not good at his job.

Remove the financial imperative and, as they say, what do you got? No pressure that matters, just the option to laze or not to laze, as Shakespeare might have said. Awaiting the muse, as amateur, is nothing more and nothing less than the reality of can't be bothered making itself felt if not heard. Because in the grander scheme of things, it just makes no damned difference if one gets that snap or not, scribbles that paragraph with or without indignation, or just yawns and makes a cup of java.

To make a difference, it has to matter; if it doesn't matter, why expend the energy?

On the other hand, there is the question of therapy, in which case it does matter. For those of us with fractured lives photography can certainly provide moments of freedom from thought, periods where conscious thought can be suspended and the demons driven behind a temporary wall. In such cases, or at least in the hunt for relief if only from self, I'd recommend going out into the street, looking at the things around one, and taking note of the common absurdities and juxtapositions that can excite the eye. They are everywhere, and half-an-hour spent on one's feet can easily result in half a week at the computer which, of course, gives rise to yet another set of situations one might prefer to avoid. Nobody said life was perfect.

Mention is often made of planning, of starting everything off with a plan, a preconception. To me, that's part of the problem: there are already too many plans, both of our own and of others on our behalf. Get out of the grip of plans; use the freedom from them as you take that stroll down the street. Open your heart and mind and be random. Life happens, even of nothing's happening in a town near you because you can't see it.

Just don't sit at home waiting for bulbs to illuminate. They only do that in cheap Internet adverts.

RPark

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Re: Do you await the muse?
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2017, 12:00:55 PM »

Superb advice, Rob. I agree with everything you say, especially regarding photography's therapeutic value. Indeed all creative endeavours have the potential to free us from the demons of doubt and endless self-examination.

In my case, I look at the "personal" work I squeezed between my commercial obligations and it is often better than anything I produce now that I have the leisure to pursue any project I wish.

RSL

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Re: Do you await the muse?
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2017, 03:46:12 PM »

You're not alone, Raymond. History is full of examples of photographers whose amateur work -- shot in moments between the daily grind of assignments -- became far more famous than their professional work. I use the term "amateur" in its true sense: amatorem nom, works of love. Elliott Erwitt especially comes to mind.

I, for one, go out nearly every day with a camera in hand, mostly because I can't stand not to. What I come back with mostly is expendable and quickly expended, but once in a while -- rarely -- very rarely -- spending a day out there looking with a camera pays off and I have something that gives my heart a little boost.

As far as the muse is concerned, I think she was on the last bus out of town.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2017, 03:57:08 PM by RSL »
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RPark

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Re: Do you await the muse?
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2017, 03:56:58 PM »

Yes, Russ, again I'm in agreement. I'm not sure if my "vintage work" has achieved fame exactly (though some of it is included in public, private and corporate collections, including the Canadian Museum of History). That work, often created with stolen time and materials from commercial jobs, was a welcome respite from grinding out catalogue and advertising work.

As David Bailey is said to have quipped, any photograph over 30-years old can't be all bad, a dictum I'm counting on for my retirement.

I've just finished lunch, and though I have a commercial job to attack, I think I'll go for a walk with my camera in the rain (yes, it's weatherproofed).

Maybe I'll see that bus. :)

Rob C

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Re: Do you await the muse?
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2017, 04:01:54 PM »

Yes, Russ, again I'm in agreement. I'm not sure if my "vintage work" has achieved fame exactly (though some of it is included in public, private and corporate collections, including the Canadian Museum of History). That work, often created with stolen time and materials from commercial jobs, was a welcome respite from grinding out catalogue and advertising work.

As David Bailey is said to have quipped, any photograph over 30-years old can't be all bad, a dictum I'm counting on for my retirement.

I've just finished lunch, and though I have a commercial job to attack, I think I'll go for a walk with my camera in the rain (yes, it's weatherproofed).

Maybe I'll see that bus. :)


Saul Leiter would have settled for a yellow cab...

By the way, if you want a good video on Duffy:

http://www.duffyphotographer.com/video/

Rob

Jim Kasson

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Re: Do you await the muse?
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2017, 04:30:00 PM »

Over the years, as a writer and photographer, I've occasionally "run out of juice."

I wrote a blog post in 2011 asserting that, at least when it came to writing, I was at the mercy of the muse. My ideas have evolved in the interim and I'm now willing to admit that sometimes the inability to tackle creative block comes down to my own idleness.

Since most of my photographic projects are now self-assigned, I rely on will to pick up the camera and imagine new projects.

I updated my thoughts on this question yesterday. Wondering if readers have any personal techniques for calling down the muses?

I tell anyone who will listen, "The secret to your next work lies in your present work, if you will only listen to it." A corollary to that is that you have to keep working to find out what's next.

There's another listening thing. There's a voice inside your head that tells you when you need to change something. Sometimes that's a lot of trouble. If you stop listening to that voice, it stops talking to you.

Jim

RPark

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Re: Do you await the muse?
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2017, 04:33:48 PM »

Yes, Rob, I've watched that documentary more than once. As I recall, it's where I got this great quote:

“Never trust any artist, ever telling you any bloody thing; they’re all a bunch of liars. Artists absolutely on any subject are always talking drivel, including moi. Because the work is the statement.” ~Brian Duffy

Which I intend to use in an upcoming rant on "conceptual photography."

Telecaster

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Re: Do you await the muse?
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2017, 05:15:34 PM »

I try to exercise the muscles every day. This applies to actual muscles too! Most days: in the morning I play a keyboard instrument while getting caffeinated; in the afternoon or early evening I try to take snaps of something even when I'm not explicitly "photographing" and at night I either play guitar or do work on a guitar (string changes, intonation tweaks, etc.) or sometimes both. With photos I decide later on whether what I've done has any merit, as I've learned not to trust my initial judgment.

-Dave-
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Rob C

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Re: Do you await the muse?
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2017, 05:28:15 PM »

I try to exercise the muscles every day. This applies to actual muscles too! Most days: in the morning I play a keyboard instrument while getting caffeinated; in the afternoon or early evening I try to take snaps of something even when I'm not explicitly "photographing" and at night I either play guitar or do work on a guitar (string changes, intonation tweaks, etc.) or sometimes both. With photos I decide later on whether what I've done has any merit, as I've learned not to trust my initial judgment.

-Dave-

I feel the opposite: initial gut reaction usually gets it right for me. Now and again I try to get something to work, even when gut tells me to save my time... it always fails. The effort, not the voice!

Rob

Telecaster

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Re: Do you await the muse?
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2017, 05:39:01 PM »

I feel the opposite: initial gut reaction usually gets it right for me. Now and again I try to get something to work, even when gut tells me to save my time... it always fails. The effort, not the voice!

Oh, when I've got a camera in hand I'll try multiple "angles" on things, and will usually feel at the time that some were better than others or that one was The One. But I don't delete anything other than obvious technical fails 'til sometime later because The One often as not turns out not to be.  :)

-Dave-
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RPark

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Re: Do you await the muse?
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2017, 07:44:10 PM »

OK, as promised, I braved the monsoon and hit the street. The weather is atrocious as it can only be in the Pacific Northwest (though to us Canucks, it's the southwest). I wandered the streets and second-hand shops -- anywhere that might offer up what Rob referred to as "common absurdities and juxtapositions."

I'm not sure that I came back with any masterpieces, but the exercise, both physical and mental, helped me avoid the paid job I shall have to attack over the weekend.

When I began to worry about the Fuji's power of weather-resistance and my hat was leaking uncomfortably, I repaired to a coffee shop and, using the Fuji's built in WiFi, transferred a photo to my phone, edited it there, and uploaded it to Instagram.
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