What is the longest time you have ever spent thinking about a project?
I spent the past 10 months thinking about my new series. I created other images in that time, but this new series felt too important to bang out quickly. I knew, from the moment it felt crucial to create something relevant to my life, that it was going to be more important than anything else I had created before. In March 2017 I decided that I must create this new series. In May, I had my first breakthrough as to the specific subject matter of the series. And, for the months following, I felt that I didn’t have a single other good idea.
I had the usual panicked feelings about time (Am I wasting it? Shouldn’t I be more productive?) and about artistry (Am I a good enough artist? Does that matter?). As time pressed on, more and more people asked me where that series was that I teased. They asked what it would look like, what point I was aiming to make, where I would shoot, who would be in it, and the list goes on.
I didn’t have a single answer to a single question.
By September I started getting worried that this series wasn’t meant to be. I started to think deeply about TIMING, and waiting for the right moment to tell the right story. Was this my time? Or was I rushing something for the sake of productivity?
By November I started to calm down. I came to terms with, perhaps, this not being the right series in this moment. I started to let go of it, just a little. I loosened my grip on the need, the anxious compulsion, to create.
And then everything changed.
It wasn’t until one week ago,
after ten months of trying to visualize and conceptualize this series,
that it finally made sense.
I went on a long hike with my Love, as we do several times a week just to brainstorm, and it felt so clear. I had been so caught up in precise details that I failed to look at the big picture. And then there it was.
Ten months ago I had an idea. I’ve had so many ideas I’ve lost count. Those ideas got turned into pictures, films, sketches, poems, short stories, books. My ideas have been done and redone and cried over and laughed at and loved. Why was this one different? Why did this one take ten months to scrap together?
And this, my friends, is my greatest lesson in creating this series…which I have not yet even picked up my camera to shoot:
Not every idea is ripe for the
moment you want to create it.
I feel, strongly, that my waiting to make this series was to make room for new experience, for distance, for growth.
I am a young artist in many respects, without tallied life experiences and heartache, without the type of inspiration that hurts to create from. This year I found a piece of that tortured inspiration, and it took longer than I realized it would to digest. More importantly, I realized the need for distance from our inspiration. I realized the need for deep thinking in art. And I realized how few people do that, myself included.
I grew up in this must-have-it-now culture. I grew up with internet in my house since I was 10 years old. My first screen name was based on the Pound Puppies, because I was a child, and therefore I learned that what I want now, I can have now – a lesson that buoyed me to a fast-paced career and self-centric decision. But, also, a mentality that gave me the undue urgency to create fast, to share fast, and to repeat.
Slow progress in creating art allow for concepts to emerge that might have been overlooked. It allows for more daring and evocative imagery to take shape and hold, without fear or shyness there to stop it. It allows for my own feelings to see them from a distance. And most importantly, it allowed me to grow with my ideas, not just to move ahead of them.
When I return from a two week trip to India and Sri Lanka in February, I will begin creating immediately. Locations are being booked, props being made, models contacted, and I’m ready. I feel certain I am ready.
1. What idea are you brainstorming right now?
2. What is holding you back from creating?
Tom Beach - I’m brainstorming a fantasy image composite.
There will be mountains and waterfalls and cottages and a train and dragons….
I know what I need. I don’t have it all captured in digital imagery.
brookeshaden - That sounds epic! So much to put together. I hope you’ll share when it is finished.
Jon Miller - I had an injury last year in February that ‘m still trying to heal from, it smashed my feet and I have not been able to shoot which in essence I have not been able to move forward. Yesterday they finally operated on the worst foot of the two and for the first time in 11 months I feel I can move forward. During this time I had a long hard look at what it was I wanted to do. I finally came to a decision that I want to move back into my profession as a photographer (commercial table top stuff) and also retain the ability to do art photography. So while I do not have a job at the moment yet I still get paid my full wage, I decided now is the time or it will never happen. I decided that I want to do a series of images that connect with each other, that tells a story and that is erotic and artistic. Models are not a problem, studio not a problem as my home is large enough to be a studio. The problem is coming up with a concept, one that can be read and understood. I know the style but I feel that I may lack something that seems to be holding me back. I ask myself is it fear? is that even real because I have never felt I feared anything photographically. So this year with all the good things that has happened to me I feel positive that this project can move forward. I think I’ll concentrate on shooting a single image and then another and another until the groove is on.So here is to moving forward my theme for this year and my concept. Everything is going forward, so which way is forward, left, right top or bottom as long as it isn’t moving backward is the way I’m looking at it.
brookeshaden - Jon, that is very inspiring. I really commend you on your attitude when so many would give up. I look forward to seeing these new images and hopefully hearing an update on how life is progressing post surgery!
Gallagher - Sorry to hear about your injury, but if it gets you started in a photography career then that is kinda a good thing.
Best of luck on your photo shoots, I bet they will be great! 🙂
Leandro Corrêa - Actually I am brainstorming some accessories I could use to create new images… This year I want to composite pictures a little bit more creepy fantasy, because I know I can tell my stories and my feelings through this kind of image… But at the same time I feel like I have to create something more produced. You are very inspiring for me and a lot of aetists, thanks Brooke. ♡
brookeshaden - Very exciting Leandro! I hope you will share these new images with us!
Julie Corcoran - What a hauntingly beautiful piece Brooke!
I love to leave ideas to ferment like a good red wine. I’ll even leave an image half processed for months, until all the right elements fall into place. I never give up on an idea or an image, it just might not be the right time for them, that’s all.
I have a couple of ideas on the boil at the moment but one I want to develop is inspired by my daughters snake which is currently shedding its skin. I have no idea where the idea will take me but I’m already excited to seeing the finished piece!
Juliette - So am I!
Julie Corcoran - We’ll have to stay in touch and see how the images turn out! This has actually motivated me to get creating!
suza white - Oh, a snake shedding its skin = an entire universe of scenes, experiences, colors, senses!
Julie Corcoran - Yes there’s all that meaning related to rebirth, expanding to fill one’s environment and leaving behind constraints (I need to put this all in my ideas notebook!).
Ebony Logins - This reminds me so much of my dad’s artistic process. He is a Wood carver who was gifted a giant red cedar burl. He spent over 20 years finishing it and I wrote a story about it here: https://redcedarphoto.com/3-steps-to-becoming-an-artist/
It is his entire soul, his life story, and the reason my business name is Red Cedar Photography. It’s incredible how these big projects can impact or lives even more than we put our lives into them.
Ellie Chavez - I *have* to tell you, I just looked at your website and your photos are incredible. I’ve started becoming more serious in wedding photography and yours are straight up inspiring. I also love the “For Photographers” tab! What an awesome idea! <3
Juliette - I am thinking about using better storytelling and using flowers for portraits. The whole styling bit is holding me back. I seem to lack ideas where to get clothing and props and fit it all together with the model so that the idea works. I have painfully had to find out that some of my ideas were not very thought out and finally the shoot did not pull together.
If only I were surrounded by people who love to style.
Jose C. - Hi, Brooke. Thank you for all your inspiration. I’ve had an idea in my head of creating a series called ‘The Journey’. A story of a young boy walking down a path that changes at every corner, and as he ages. From a bright and sunny path with green grass all around to a forest full of wonder and awe, to a ravaging storm, to creatures of the night coming out and seeing frightening visions, to gloomy grey clouds and a feeling of loneliness, to the beautiful sky opening up and beams of sunlight shining down and a sense of happiness and fulfillment as and old man with a cane emerges. All the while straying from the path at times, lost in confusion, acts of bravery, finding others who join him on his journey, if only for a while, and ultimately finding his way back. You could say this little boy is me, but really it could be anyone.
I know i’m not quite ready to create this series, I feel the same way about needing more life experiences. But I think one of these days i’ll know when it’s time. Thanks again, Brooke.
Ellie - I am in love with that dress. What an incredible photo. <3
I'm brainstorming right now on so many things! I keep having dreams of photo ideas that are quite literally, out of this world. It's such an exciting feeling after 2017 being a creatively kind of dead year. I want to branch out of printing and start making my art 3D and touchable – but since my experience is limited to photography, I'm trying to figure out how to go about it, and that's what is holding me back.Lots of mixed media in the future!
Safe travels! Have so much fun!
Aubrie Wancata - For about a year now I have been planning a series of photographs that center on a part of motherhood. I’ve not shot them because it seems there is always a piece I don’t have…the right dress, the right prop, the right location. But part of it is also that they are self portraits with my son and he needs to be old enough to really follow instructions. I think we are finally there now.
Gallagher - So excited for you, I can’t wait to see what this is going to be! 🙂
I am thinking of doing a series (my first series ever) about the inner struggle everyone has inside them, using fantasy theme. I had the idea after I made this photo. https://flic.kr/p/Zs84gL
I love that photo above, the dress is just wonderful! 🙂
Jean Hutter - I am not commenting on your 2 questions but I am thinking about them. I want to however tell you that this post hit me over the head like a hammer. I have been struggling with creating art lately. Not feeling inspired and pressured into “making something” so I can post it on FB or some of the groups I belong to. Just quickly wack out an image and move on to the next. As I read your post I realized what my problem is – I don’t need to create quickly or even everyday. What I need to do is sit back and think about what I WANT to create, how to best to create it and take my time and let the images reveal themselves to me. Sounds simple so why didn’t I ever think like this before? It is because of the NOW culture that we live in. I started using my iPad and apps lately and that is even a more spontaneous world. The only one pressuring me to wack out image after image is myself – how about that. It has been my thinking all along if I am not producing somehow I am wasting my time. Thank you for this post – sometimes the universe sends us just what we need and for me this was it.
brookeshaden - Jean, thank you for sharing your insights. It sounds simple, yes, but it is incredibly difficult – to slow down, to make peace with our creative clock. It is the test of an artist, I believe. Xo!
Sabrina-M - This image is so beautiful Brooke, just stunning!
I had a idea for a while now in creating a series with old black and white photos from migrants who left from our port of Antwerp on the red star line to seek fortune and new beginnings in USA and Canada.
The thing that’s holding me back are finding those black and whites. So if any of you have ancestors who came from Europe to USA and you have images of them (full length) you may always contact me and help out.
Gallagher - My family did way back when, but there aren’t any photos, sorry.
I love the idea though. 🙂
Maria - A yellow chair, a teddy bear, and broken tea cups. Last spring I sketched out a concept/series using these objects. By late summer/early fall, I finally got my first shots. And then came a new job, a totally new schedule, and then this frigid eastern PA weather (remember those?). Everything has come to a halt. But there is not a day that goes by where I’m not thinking about it, reworking it, thinking how I can shoot parts in doors, thinking if the thermometer rises above 30, I have to be ready. I already know I need to make some changes stemming from things I learned from your recent CreativeLive (I learned so much ~ Thank You!!). Lots of changes in the last 6 months have really kept all my photography at a standstill. Some days it never feels like I’ll ever find may way back. Until… I read this post. I know now that as long as the ideas are dancing around in my head, I am essentially always creating. Have a wonderful and safe trip, looking forward to creative insights from India
Ellen - Hi Brooke, I had to smile when I read this post. I am a bit older than you, quite a bit and I did not grow up in this fast paced world, but even compared to that slower pace, I tend to have ideas ripen wayyyyyy too long. I knew I wanted to be a photographer when I was really young, yet waited for 40 years to take the plunge. In the meantime I have been working as a visual artist and the best things I created were in my head for 3 years or more. Sometimes it is because of a fear of failure, sometimes simply because the idea is there, but I don’t have a clue how to approach it. I tend to design things in my head, if it makes sense, I will make it and even if the conceptual fase takes 3 years, when I get going I have made it inside my head so many times that making it is autually a piece of cake. I must admit to not force new ideas into being. I know that the pieces will fall into place when I let go of trying to control the idea. I do hope though that my photography project idea will not take 3 years of ripening.
Have a safe trip to India and back. Take care
Julie - Hi Brooke, this post is so well timed, I am finding myself in a planning stage as well and oft times feel like I am floundering. I have so many ideas in my head and journal and I am slowly starting to pull it all together. Of course, there is no time frame, it will happen when it happens, organically as all creativity should. It should be enjoyed, savoured, engaging. You have just reminded me of that thank you. I wish to finish off my Dapper Rabbit and my Tarot series, and then delve into my new endeavour. I wish you well on your travels and new endeavours
Anna - I love getting your blog emails! It’s like I am reading a chapter of a book and I love it! This image is amazing and I cannot wait to see your new series (whenever the time is right to start creating). I hope that you have an incredible trip. Much love.
bob - Your posts continue to be inspiring. With the amount of negativity within many of the social media circles it’s refreshing to find posts such as yours. I plan on revising my website with some newer work, however my ‘other’ job is rather psychologically consuming. In the back of my mind however, one project that I have in mind is a shoot in a actual gothic castle. So many possibilities.. perhaps one day.
Omar - I’m currently on what I would call an artist block. I’m truly glad to know that I’m not the only one that feels the need to drag out art projects, to create a steady pace of creativity. The project I’m working on is almost done but it is missing something and I can’t figure out what. I’m trying to convey a very moody deep picture. The pictures is of a white rabbit with glowing eyes in the middle of some shrubs and branches. You’ve been caught in snowstorm on a cold winter night. The scene is foggy made in a way that makes you feel as if you stubbled upon this rabbit digging through the bushes. I originally intended to add a rabbit hole somewhere near him. But I’m struggling with the composting and blending right now. The meaning behind my picture was trying to translate how how deep the “rabbit hole goes”. Signifying my battles with depression; in the sense of how deep some of these scars run. This piece in particular means a lot to me and I need it to be perfect. I want my image to impact others as well; my goal is to create powerful images like you someday.
Cynthia Walker - This year I am steeping way out of my photographic box,and putting myself in front of the camera. I work as a real estate photographer so what i do doesn’t allow for a lot of creativity and I miss being creative.
I have started to brainstorm and write down ideas about telling the dark story of my past. Some days it is so hard to reopen those wounds to tap into the emotions and feel so helpless and vulnerable again, but I feel so strongly in my heart it is time to open up and let it be. Things I have learned so far is I am very awkward in front of the camera even when it is just me.
Winny - For now I’m exploring in 2 sides: moody and conematic stories (short films and photo) and conceptual stories about existence (film and photo) I try to get a work full of emotion and evocative but also natural, organic, I’m still trying to talk about existence as part of my nees to express my feelings. Thank you for sharing your experiences and art!
Ron McDonald - Can’t wait to see your new series. Natalie Lennard (formerly Miss Aniela)has been exploring her new project series on birthing. It sounds like your new project will be exploring aspects of the end of life. Interesting how two of my favorite creatives have chosen similar yet opposite subjects for their next focus. I’m sure it’s going to be a great year and can’t wait to see your treatment of such a heavy subject! And thanks for sharing your thoughts and deep thinking that goes into your work, it’s very inspiring! Have a safe trip to India!
Kat - The image is stunning. So excited I get to see it. Before Creative Live I would have had no idea!! I am working on a 4 piece series about my children. It is about discovery and growth. I have one image done and on my Instagram page but the others have been a work in progress for so long, nearly 6 months. I am being held back by time. I have small children and work part time and am trying to set up a photography business. I want the images to be perfect. I want the time to work on them when I am NOT tired. I worry that will never happen. Then again I think maybe time and tired are just an excuse. I hope not.
kathryn hopkins - I have had to put my photography business on hold due to my dad being poorly – I’m heartbroken at the thought of losing both. Brooke, you have inspired me to look deeper and given me hope that I can carve a new path creatively which provides freedom not loss. This is what I’m brainstorming right now – new paths/new ideas/a new way to live and create. Thank you Brooke.