Getting Out of Rut


Whenever I come up with an idea, I realise that it has already been done. How do I get out of this rut?

Answer by: Tanvi Dhulia, Features Writer, Better Photography
It’s okay if you realise that you’ve come up with the same idea as someone else. What you need to determine is, what new aspects will you be bringing to the conversation? In photography, two ideas of the same nature can certainly coexist, if the people envisioning and executing them have different approaches from each other.

It helps to ask oneself what the purpose behind the idea is, and from there, to determine a way of making it one’s own. For instance, numerous people have made extended portraits of cities like Mumbai. However, when we think of photographers who have created memorable work inspired by the city, a number of them come to mind—Sooni Taraporevala, Chirodeep Chaudhuri, SL Shanth Kumar, Ajay Salvi, and Anurag Banerjee, to name a few. Are you also uncertain about being able to execute your idea in a way that will have an impact? Give it a shot anyway. Don’t be in a haste to make something significant out of it. Sometimes, it helps to just explore ideas, without imposing expectations on yourself. Spend time mulling over it. If that gets overwhelming, let it go for a while, and then return to it. Let it take years, if need be. Each time, you’ll find that you have changed a little, since the last time you ruminated over the thought, and hence, your perception of it will be slightly different too.

During the first few years when Amit Mehra was developing his body of work on Kashmir, he found himself subconsciously echoing the long-standing stereotypes that people, not from the area, had. He described his photos from the initial trips as being “stuck into the realm of the obvious.” It was after he made a visit to the state without his camera, that Mehra was able to understand what he truly wished to capture. “I spent days just observing silently, from a distance. I spent time at chai tapris and just indulged in conversations. There was no camera that was blocking my vision.”

You could also ask yourself if you are reading enough. If the answer is yes, then read more. Dedicate time to just looking at images by other people. Study them over and over. There are numerous permutations and combinations of styles and mediums, within the realm of photography, that make it possible for original work to surface. You will find that revelations exist in the most ordinary things, like a few lines of poetry or a falling fruit.