It is a common misconception that you need to take inspiration for photography from photography. What is your inspiration this week, might not be inspiring the next week. Carefully inspecting your surroundings in order to be more aware of your inspiration sources will help you implement more creative experiences that will lead to inspiration.
Unlike many think, inspiration for photography – or any other art for that matter – does not only come from other photographers, or in this case – images. For years I only found inspiration in photography, other photographers and their work. This is not all wrong, but when being inspired by images, we only see the end result and thus the line between inspiration and duplication becomes very thin. We can’t tell the source of the inspiration or the process of the artist, so we are easily affected by the image itself.
Since images are static frames, it will give you inspiration which is also based on something tangible seen in the imagery. This can be poses, colors or specific accessories. So your inspiration will be based on what you see within the frame, and cannot go deeper than that, especially if you haven’t looked into image reading or semiotics before.
Inspiration feeling is what it already implies to; a feeling. And how to better arouse a feeling than arousing your senses.
Be in surroundings that inspire you
This is something we might not be aware of, you can be inspired by melancholy and adversity, but they won’t necessarily be the source of your inspiration. You can slowly start building your home or studio space to be more inspiring for you to work in, to soak up colors, shapes or other details.
I am not implying that negative emotions or hardships cannot be the source of your inspiration, but personally for me, these experiences can only inspire me afterwards. Immediate inspiration is something you experience in that moment. You can feel it when you walk into a museum, seeing pieces of art and stopping yourself to have a look at it. One place that has inspired me in the past would be Park Güell in Barcelona. Historical and artistically profound places lets me be still and inspired.
The same can be done in your home, since you spend an enormous amount of time there. Also being in the nature and traveling have inspiring effects on the way we view the world.
Watch a film with exceptional narrative or strong styling
We might be drawn to blockbuster movies, because they’re advertised for us. But they usually also have an expected outcome and leaves no room for surprises or various emotional responses. I suggest you find inspirational films, series or other documented events that arouse your inspiration. Take your time in finding them but also the time in actually watching them, and not only their movie trailers. Did they make you visualise your own style of photographing? Did they point you out to a specific era in time or other themes you found interesting?
Take notice in this and dive deeper in your visual research through inspiration. Every David Bowie movie I’ve watched made me feel there is a magical element in our environment, and everything can be made interesting.
Read books. Read lots of books
Reading helps with imagination and challenges your mind in different ways. However, you can inspire yourself with photo books on visual style like Alec Soths Sleeping by the Mississippi or more educational books on methodology like Charlotte Cottons The Photograph As Contemporary Art. Either way, books will present you with a broader source of inspiration than images can. And the books won’t even have to be about photography, any books will do!
Visit art exhibitions and theater
Whenever I have the time, I try to visit art exhibitions. Finding new artists and experiencing the space takes me out of my own photographic practice so I can view the bigger picture. I wrote about my favourite art exhibitions here, so if you ever have the chance to see even one of these exhibitions, I highly recommend you do so. Impressive exhibitions will introduce you to cultural adversity while stimulating you visually.
In the end, you can be inspired by everything and everyone. But inspiration happens when we feel slightly bored or have the excess time to inspect ourselves and the environment. Trying to be creative or inspired in a rush will feel forced and most likely result in copying elements just to ‘have something done’. Taking the time to do your research and leaving room for inspiration will strengthen your own visual language, where inspiration will become more easier to grasp.