This is a mental lesson for anyone who practices in the creative industries. This could be musicians, writers, filmmakers or whomever. Here I will be dealing with the context of photography and our potential photographic pile ups, of which there are many. But one at a time shall we?
A lot goes on behind the scenes before the viewer finally gets to see a shot online or in print. You have colour correction, editing, filtering, cropping, even the naming of images being valid stops along the track which the Photography Express travels. You also need to capture the moment in the first place and that means being at the right place at the right time, knowing that kind of image you want to capture, settings to use, how to frame the shot and your state of mind as the photographer. Like ingredients in a meal these all factor in to the end result.
To keep the analogy going, these determine the carriages of the train. Either way, there is certainly much going on and it can clutter up the mind if you’re the self-analytical type. And who is better at self doubt than creative people? Maybe it is easier to just dump the images on a hard drive and come back to them later? They can store a quadrillion images and they’ll probably come in useful one day.
Enter The Hide Drive
So they drop out of sight and out of mind. You then go off with your trusty camera to capture more mediocre moments. You are out and about again taking more photos than there are interesting subjects mainly to keep your hands busy. And not feel useless.
I obviously began to think this, hence these comments. For years I did this, adding folder after folder of crap to the HD. Occasionally I would look through them in the evenings, looking for some gem I didn’t already extract but mostly they were just boring. The kind of images you can capture at any time in that location. Still, I’d leave them there and go off and do my thing.
Easy Way Out
Time passed, files collected and I found myself going out for street photography less and less. I wouldn’t say this was because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I had already visited all those areas. This internal monologue had a part of my brain saying ‘what’s the point, you have countless photos saved, go through them again and see if you’ve missed anything‘. This happens to be very unhealthy for the creative brain as you repeatedly retrace your steps and wallow in your own mental mess. These are the times when you need to shake things up a bit. Considering the way this is written you could be forgiven for thinking I was aware of this beforehand. If only!
Sort It Out
One evening after trawling through my images (again) as I was setting up my website at www.simon-goldsmith.co.uk I had decided that my back-ups had become an almighty mess and now was the time to clean house. I told myself no more putting it off, just get stuck in.
It took two days. I went through every folder, every shot, delete here delete there, thousands upon thousands of images removed and I felt a weight lifting with every click. This was not something I was expecting as photo opportunities started reappearing in my mind, I can go back there and shoot! The clutter from that area was gone, I couldn’t use those images as a crutch for procrastination. I was removing ballast from the Photography Express, a smoother ride you see. I can shoot as an experienced photographer knowing exactly what he wants, and not as a hobbyist just pressing the shutter button in order to justify me being there in the first place. Keeping bad shots clouds your psychology, I’m sure I can go back to the drive and delete more but I sent over 4000 shots into the ether, that’s a good start.
So for me the moral of the story is simple. If you feel yourself in a slump sometimes it’s a good idea to go through your old ideas and destroy the ones that have not helped you. You can also use them to create new ideas or new motivation. Once you have de-cluttered your archive (and your brain) pick up your camera, pen, guitar, and create something new and beautiful. Something without the baggage. Something wonderful!
At least that’s the idea!