©2006-Zave Smith Photography
To be honest, I do not always understand how it works. One minute my mind is an empty canvas then suddenly an idea or an image that I have been searching for is there, like a gift, for me to use. For those of us who earn our keep by the power of our imaginations, we need these gifts in order to thrive. The question is, how do we encourage this manna to rain down on us? How do we keep our creative vessels filled?
Imagine a glass that is both full and empty. My best work happens when I fill up with many ideas, and then I free them, I empty my self out so that I can see what is really happening. I let go of my preconceived notions, my fear of failure, of the inner head-trips that keep my concentration away from my eyes. If I can let go of the noise that blocks the sound from my gut, and really see what is happening inside the frame that I am attempting to transform from a mere image to a metaphor that speaks the language of the heart then I am often rewarded with the wonder of a mere picture that can take me places I have never gone.
It is often said that writing is merely rewriting. Is the same true about photography? On set we often try several different approaches to the same layout. The variations might be simple like a different shirt or vary complex like a different location. Some of these differences can be worked out in pre production but often it is only while on the set, with all the elements in place that new ideas present themselves while the preconceived notions that just don’t visually come together are put aside.
How do I give myself permission to not only see but to act? A long time ago I learned that I could control my environment. Nothing influences me like the people who surround me. Positive, energized and giving people fill my inner circle. Whiners, braggers, and the selfish are kept at bay. I need people of strength to help give me the courage to put aside what we have been working on all day and try something different.
On set I only work with the best producers (like Deborah Holljes), stylists, and assistants. I want to free my mind to focus on what is in front of my camera and not worry about what is happening behind it. Once in a while, during a shoot I look around and the number of people behind me startles me. I have forgotten that they are there. I can do this because I know that they are paying attention to their areas of responsibility, freeing me to concentrate on mine.
In many ways it is easier to be creative on set. All the ingredients are there within my reach. It is what I do with my time between assignments that is most important. Do I get lost in the minutia of daily life? How can I spend more time nurturing my creative garden? I believe that moving my body is a great way to move my mind. I also am a big believer in the power of the trashcan. Even good ideas, if they are not working towards my current goals, need to be put aside. I have learned to streamline the studio so areas that are not directly involved in picture making take up little of my time.
I have learned the power of self imposed deadlines. And I have learned the power of getting up and walking away from the problem at hand, freeing oneself to seek out the answers by using a different approach to the problem than the approach that is causing me to be stuck. I have learned to be both full and empty at the same time.