Recovering From Photographic Paralyses

“When did you last ‘listen’ to the sound of the shutter releasing?”

“When did you last ‘listen’ to the sound of the shutter releasing?”

This article was originally published in July 2014.

What do you do when nothing seems to work out anymore, in the photographic sense… when everything seems mundane and bland? Sometimes, this feeling of stagnation sets in so acutely, it takes the form of a cloying deadness, as though one were waking up to a permanent stupor, day after day. After dealing with phases like this, personally and with editorial team members, I have come to believe that there are some definite steps to jumpstart recovery.

Know that you are not on your own. Everybody hits a mental block at some point or the other. This realisation alone can often be enough to give you a boost in the right direction.

Plan out a different, daily, simplified routine. While this may not get you out of your situation, it is still refreshing to do the same things a little differently.

Take up a personal, family related task you’ve been putting off for a long time, and complete it satisfactorily. This could be meeting with all the elders in your family, or simply writing emails to all your loved ones. It affirms your sense of self and identity.

Spend a few hours re-exploring your camera and your gear. When did you last ‘listen’ to the sound of the shutter releasing? When did you last use a cotton bud to get the particles of dust out from between the knobs and dials? When did you last explore each and every menu option or felt the weight of your camera in your hands? This will make you appreciate your own familiarity with your camera.

Get to work on the work-around, even if it means forcing yourself to do so. Think of a completely new, but extremely commonplace subject to capture. Your kitchen, the curtains on the windows, your backyard, the tree outside your door, the texture of the rust on your gate… all of these can offer innumerable opportunities, but you need to let yourself see it. Think of yourself as a poet with no thought to pen down, but grappling with the possibilities of a single word.

Finally, once you’ve completed making a series of pictures, seek feedback from close friends and family. More importantly, begin to appreciate your own sense of vision.

— K Madhavan Pillai
Better Photography

Tags: K Madhavan Pillai, breaks, Editorial, block, paralysis, vacations, exploration