Green Day; The Games I’ll Play To Kick Start The Creativity

Not long ago I headed down to Mexico City from my home base in Austin for a week's worth of shooting and a few days of time off. I was the guest of my studio manager, Susannah, who is from Mexico City. She'd invited me down to visit her family, and I thought I'd combine the invitation with some serious stock shooting, complete with a crew, models--and Susannah helping out. To make it a perfect busman's holiday, something that happened during the shoot struck me as a good subject for a column. Let's call it the self-assignment inside the real assignment.

All Photos © 2005, Jack Hollingsworth, All Rights Reserved

When you shoot as much as I do, whether for commercial or stock, some days you've got to dig deep--not to come up with a reason to do it all over again, but to come up with a way to do it all over again differently. I'm always playing little games in my mind, looking for ways to challenge myself within and during the assignment.

One day down in Mexico City, everything seemed to be coming up green. I don't remember if it started with the clothing on one of the models, or a background I chose for a photograph, but I decided early in the day that green would be today's challenge. Remember that my mind was receptive to finding a hook, a theme, a game to play, and when the day seemed to have a green scheme to it, I went with the flow. Soon the energy kicked in and, with that frame of mind, I began to see green everywhere. Of course, I shot some other things--this is a business, and I'm not going to turn away from a good photo opportunity--but overall, green was the engine that powered the day.

At one point, with green firmly established in my mind and several dozen green-themed exposures on the memory cards, we were driving along on the way to another location. It was practically a caravan; with drivers, models, crew, and gear, we had about four or five cars going down the road. On the outskirts of town, I spotted an old pickup truck in a field off the side of the road. It was an old Chevy, maybe from the early '50s, and it was aqua green. In the truck bed were thousands of limes. I was in the lead car and I yelled for the driver to pull over. The whole entourage followed me to the truck. Susannah did a quick translation and we got permission from the truck's owner to use it as a setting. With one of the models positioned in the truck bed, I made the shots. Then we drove off, headed for the next location. I'd stopped because I saw a green truck--no other reason. If I hadn't been into my green theme, maybe I wouldn't have stopped.

I generally don't think too much about these little assignment games, but when I sat down to write this column I decided to analyze it a bit. I realized that playing these games, creating these challenges, adds something new for me when I'm photographing in a familiar--maybe too familiar--place. It refreshes the location for me.