Take A Seat… Or Any Other Subject You Might Find Along The Way
A few months ago I'd just come off one of the most difficult, and at
the same time, most remarkable and exhilarating, assignments of my career. Two
weeks in the Caribbean, multiple locations, big productions, and tough weather,
with clients, art directors, staff, and crew in attendance. At one point I think
we shot for a dozen days straight in 10-14 different places.
When it was over, the crew I'd brought with me from Austin took a day to go snorkeling and lay out on the St. Maarten beach. Me, I grabbed my camera and wandered around the streets for six hours, playing tourist and taking pictures. How come? Because two weeks of shooting commercial travel would put food on the table and keep the doors of the office and studio open, but a day of wandering would feed, and heal, the soul. Here was a chance to shoot what I wanted to shoot for no other reason than I wanted to shoot it. Look at the photographs and you see only what attracted me, what I found interesting and fun, with no profit or loss in mind, no art directors making suggestions, no layouts to consider. These are my ideas and my ideas alone.
I don't want to give you the wrong idea: I'm lucky in that for
30 years of shooting I've managed for the most part to keep my commercial
and my artistic ideas pretty close together. I shoot when I want, where I want,
and even on assignments for specific clients or for stock, I have a lot of freedom.
And yet there's still a big difference between being on the job for profit
and on the street for fun and inspiration.
So, what can you take from my story? You may not have the pressures of a client and a crew, but I'll bet that whenever you travel and photograph, you do have pressures of your own. You may feel there are certain pictures you should get when you visit, say, Paris, or San Francisco, or St. Maarten. You may have to manage your own "crew"--the people you're traveling with--so that you have time and space to photograph.
If you consider those pressures the equivalent of an assignment, then I suggest
you should also have the equivalent of a day off, a day you spend wandering
without any thought of obligatory or necessary images; a day spent going nowhere
in particular, visiting no tourist attraction. A day of pretty much aimless
wandering, when you listen only to that small voice within that tells you what
to photograph. It's the only voice that really matters in photography,
and if you don't listen to it enough, it'll go away.