Change Everything; Getting Creative--Just For Fun Of It

Photos © 2003 Jack Hollingsworth, All Rights Reserved

Driving to the lab a while back, I was listening to a National Public Radio show and a caller asked the guest, "Do birds fly for fun?" Great question, I thought. We know they fly for food, for safety and protection, for a change in geography, but do they ever fly for the sheer exhilaration of it? I got to the lab before the guest responded, so I don't know the answer. But I began to think about the question in terms of professional photographers. We shoot for profit and promotion, but do we sometimes shoot just for the fun of it?

I know I do. Lately I've been testing, exploring, and experimenting--and I've never been more excited about photography. I go out with nothing in mind other than following my interests and creative instincts--no client, no deadline, no Art Directors, no crew, no nada. Just me, my camera, and some film; photography for the pure fun of it.

But if you take a good look at the photos here--all images I took just for fun--you'll notice that there seems to be a contradiction. The pictures were all taken with a 4x5 camera--not exactly the format that comes to mind when you're thinking about having fun taking pictures.

To resolve the contradiction, you have to know me. Most of the time when I'm photographing, I've got my commercial hat on, and I shoot all my commercial work with 35mm, 6x7, 21/4, and panorama cameras. When I take the commercial hat off I like to use a camera I would never pick up for a job. Somehow it just seems right to me to get as far away from the business of photography as possible, and that includes the format of the camera.

Frankly, I'm not all that comfortable with a 4x5 camera. I'm not fast with it. It doesn't come naturally, and I have to really work at it to get results. So, you're asking, where's the fun in that? Well, all I can say is that it's fun for me. It makes me happy simply because it's so far from what I do as a professional. When I'm shooting with the 4x5, it's like I'm a different photographer--and that's fun. Switching formats and working with a camera that demands that I take more time and think more about my framing and composition, that's fun for me.

Now, I'm not suggesting you run out and buy a 4x5 camera--but I'm saying it wouldn't be a bad idea, either. What I suggest is that you first stick with your chosen format, but change everything else. Shoot subjects you're not familiar with and may not be comfortable with, just for the sake of doing it. Shoot with black and white instead of color; shoot with a lens you've never tried before. If you shoot everything handheld, put your camera on a tripod. Or vice versa. You may find what I've found--that the essence of fun is the creative freedom found in doing something that you don't usually do. And if it doesn't turn out, well, no loss.

I've also thought about the fact that the photographs I make while having fun, like the ones you see here, may have commercial value if I pursue selling them, but I had no such intention when I took them and might not try to market them at all. But, you know, if I do try, I'll bet I can sell them. Pros often find that when they show personal work, it sells. Clients like to see what you're all about, who you are when you're just being yourself with a camera--and how you meet the challenge of doing something different. That's when they see the real me, because I know that when I'm just having fun, I'm revealing aspects of myself that are not seen in my commercial work.

You may find that fun reveals more than you expected. I think that when you're having fun, you're not just creating pictures--you're creating you.

About The Photographs
I use two 4x5s, a Linhof Technika V and a Littman 45 Single. The latter is a modified Polaroid 110 Pathfinder camera, and it combines large format with portability. Essentially, it's a hand-holdable 4x5.

On a recent trip to China I shot four stock photo assignments; all were high-power, labor-intensive jobs. In the middle of the shooting schedule I needed a break, so I took out the Linhof and spent two days shooting just for fun. I used Polaroid Type 55 P/N film and made enlargements from the 4x5 negatives, printed them full frame and toned the prints.

If you'd like to know more about the Littman 45 Single, visit William Littman's website, If you'd like to see more of my work, my site's at: Click on the "Contact Jack" link if you'd like to send an e-mail. I welcome your comments and questions.