Photo Essay

Brighton Block


I suffer from creative block from time to time and it can be very frustrating, sometimes it feels like it will never end, but it can also lead me on paths I would not normally take.

There is an exercise that I do that might help those of you who are inflicted from the same periodic problem. This photo-story is part of an on going project I do in and around my hometown of Brighton in the UK to try and tackle the problem head on, I treat it like a brainstorming exercise. It's a simple idea, I go out and photograph whatever I see fit to shoot with no constraints, no boundaries, no waiting for the right light, no hesitation and most importantly no fear.

I'm not after 'the perfect image' but instead I try to free my mind from doubt and uncertainty by working instinctively. I like to compare it to free jazz, (think Charles Mingus or Ornette Coleman in the bebop era) by that I mean the premium is on expressing my voice and not to be restricted by conventions or rules. Of course the purpose is to get my creative juices flowing again and sometimes after I have been shooting a while, I start to see a new rhythm or style developing and I get into a flowing state of mind, that's fine I just go with it, but I don't avoid taking the next shot if it doesn't fit what is developing, there is no 'fit' it is free form.

Sometimes I'll leave the house with a lens I haven't used much and just shoot with that on the camera body and nothing else, less is sometimes more in a scenario like this. Alternatively I'll set a rule by which I have to follow, this could be anything from only taking photographs at 1600 ISO (I wouldn't normally do this and that's the point) or with the aperture locked at f 22 or only shoot up towards the sky. If I start to dry up I might head to the library and look at work by a photographer or an artist I haven't studied before. I recently opened an old photo book by the photographer Lee Friedlander, he knew how to break the rules. This can really help to see things in a different way.

I think the secret is to try and keep an open mind, whether you shoot professionally or as an amateur, we all build up our own constraints and get stuck in a system of working, we need to break free from these to move forward, push the limits even further by stepping sideways and opening up the lateral part of our brains.

One of the great things about digital photography is that it is instantaneous, we can review, modify and alter numerous parts of the equation by simply looking at the display on the back of the camera if it doesn't look right or strike a chord, shoot again or delete, it hasn't cost a penny. Or course this could also be the cause of the problem in the first place and if it is dig out that old 35mm camera and slow the whole process down, find what works for you to get the ball rolling again.

What I present here is not a portfolio of tightly edited work or a concept I've been working on religiously, but a loose collection of images taken around my hometown and compiled as a photo-story to show you a process I use to fight the demons of the freeze and banality.

If I can't get around it, I try and go through it. I hope it inspires you to do the same.

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