I recently embarked on a new photography project I’m calling Makers’ Hands. I am photographing the hands of different artists at work creating whatever it is that they create. As always when I stretch myself into a new area in my creative life I discover new things about myself and experience growing pains.
After a recent photo session with an artist friend, I was disappointed with the photos I made during the session. The light was challenging (basement studio lit with incandescent lights), the angles I chose were not terribly effective, and many of the images were blurry. The person I was photographing, assuming that I was simply photographing her hands doing her art wore a black tee-shirt with a white logo. Normally this would be fine but with my close photographs, the black shirt showed every stray hair and tiny lint pieces. The white logo on the shirt pulled the eye like a flashing neon light in the photos.
Of course I hadn’t thought to have a conversation with her about what to expect during the session, what to wear or not wear, and what kind of light I needed. This was partly poor planning on my part and partly not thinking ahead to what could possibly go wrong (the last session had gone well with no pre-planning or discussion about lighting, etc.).
I also didn’t notice a lot of the issues during the photo shoot. Instead of slowing down and paying close attention to details I was focused on getting the shots with as little inconvenience to the artist I was photographing. This is my personal stress pattern.
It was only when I downloaded the photographs to my computer that I noticed all of the distracting details and the fuzzy hands in many of the images.
This is often the case during my photo sessions when I am using models and even in some still life photographs. Because I am such a big picture thinker I literally do not see the dust on a lampshade or stray hair on a shirt.
Having an “Ah Ha!” Moment
As I was describing my disappointment with the photos to some artist friends, I had a sudden realization about the situation. I saw that this was not something new out of the blue. And it wasn’t about photography. This was a behavioral pattern of mine from way back.
I’ve always been a “Big Picture” person, often too impatient to sweat the details. “It’ll work out fine,” I’d tell myself, sure that I could adapt to whatever situation presented itself.
At an early age I learned not to make waves, take up too much space, or put people to any trouble. I was an excellent people pleaser and could read the emotional temperature of anyone and adjust my behavior to suit it.
Looking at my issues with my recent photography session was like looking in a mirror that reflected my typical approach to life perfectly.
Creative work of any kind can act like a mirror, showing us painful areas or patterns that may no longer serve us. Creative growing pains often apply not just to our art but our whole lives. It’s yet another way that expressing creativity heals us and helps us grow.
Now that I see these behavioral patterns so clearly through my art, I get to choose whether to change them or not.
Because of my passion for my art I choose to work on changing these patterns.
Growing and Changing…
I have decided to ask more questions up front about the lighting and space, not make assumptions that I will adapt to make it work and be more directive with people I am photographing. I will also schedule a pre-session phone conversation with the artists I am photographing for my Makers’ Hands series and put together a check-list to email to the artist before the photo shoot. Who knows? I may also need to learn some new techniques to respond to challenging light. Maybe I will finally develop my skills in using flash or a softbox to light challenging scenes.
It’s okay to make waves and it’s okay to ask for what I need—in my art AND in my life. It will be interesting to see how these lessons and my working to change these behavioral patterns in my photography may change how I interact with friends and family.
Have you experienced any growing pains in your art or life recently?
May you walk in beauty.
Note: photos in today’s post are from two recent Makers’ Hands photo shoots. Many thanks to these two artists and my Artist Way group for being my friends, collaborators, and teachers.