By Ryan Gillespie
Creative Blocks, or barriers to inspiration, can be described as the inability to access one’s internal creativity. Those in creative professions – writers, musicians, performers, artists – are often more likely to be affected by creative blocks, which can last for days, weeks, months, or even years.
Throughout all my years as a photographer, I have never found myself with a creative block, until now.
Just like everyone else in the world, in March of this year, I found myself in lockdown with my family in our home in fear of COVID-19 and a new worldwide pandemic. Weeks of uncertainty and social isolation were beginning to take a toll on me in ways I had never felt before. I wanted to get out of the house and explore the world around me and to get back to nature, but even the State Parks and many local areas had been shut down, and venturing out was almost frowned upon. Little did I know at the time but my desire to photograph and be creative was beginning to slip away. Another month passed and I began to realize that it had been weeks since I picked up my camera or made any prints and the desire to do so was gone. Another month had gone by and I thought that maybe I just needed to sell everything and find a new hobby in this new way of life and world that I was finding myself in.
My wife and youngest son noticed the change in me and expressed their concern as well as their desire that I don’t give up on photography. About this same time local restrictions were beginning to be lifted and venturing back out was possible, but I still was in a photographic fog, a creative block. One Sunday I turned to YouTube and sat and watched a few episodes of Ben Horne, Nick Carver, and Alan Brock and I began to feel the dim light of creativity turn a little brighter within me. I spent the next few evenings flipping through Photography books of favorite photographers I have in my collection. As I began to drive around town, I noticed I was “seeing Images” again, seeing compositions. The next weekend I grabbed my gear and hit the road to capture anything, anything that caught my eye. I didn’t care about the subject, or the location, I just needed to get back to feeling the process. Setting up the tripod, set up the camera, attach a lens, throw on the dark cloth, and view the scene on the ground glass. It was at that moment, the moment of seeing the scene on the ground glass that the dim light within me was now fully glowing. There is something magical when it comes to viewing your scene and composition on the ground glass of a large format view camera.
It breaks my heart to think about how close I was to selling everything and moving on. Creative Block can hit any one of us at any given moment and I’m sure I will encounter it again sometime. If you find yourself in the darkness of it, let me make this suggestion, seek inspiration in others, and then get out and waste film. Just expose film regardless of subject or location. Make exposures of anything that looks interesting to you. Don’t expose film trying for a masterpiece, just expose film to expose film and who knows, maybe a masterpiece is somewhere in all those exposures.
During my personal process of exposing film just to expose film, I came back home with a couple of images that I was happy with and they definitely make me want to get out and do it again.