Category: Creative Thinking

Photography Resolutions 2017

 

So a new year. No doubt you’re thinking about what you want to develop and experience in 2017.

I’ve never been a stickler for the usual resolutions of diet and detox, but I do make a check list of things that are going to keep expanding my creativity and craft across the next 12 months.

Even so, I hold these things lightly. If they don’t all happen, that’s ok – the important ones will rise to the surface.

Maybe some of these will chime with you.

Keep A Lighting Notebook/Scrapbook.

The more I photograph, the more aware I become of the beauty and complexity of light. It is after all the basic ‘building block’ of photography. Thing is, there’s always room to learn more about it. Both natural light and the artificial variety. It’s an infinitely endless subject: how light changes through a given time and across different surfaces, how to manipulate it to best effect both indoors and out. This year it’s time to delve even deeper into light through natural observation, lighting diagrams and practical experiments. So I’m keeping a lighting notebook where I can collect my observations, and the observations of other photographers and artists, through notes, cuttings and ‘sketch’ photo’s. And translate that learning to my photography.

Exhibit.

There’s probably lots of you out there who have physically exhibited your work in some way. I’ve never done it. But it’s one way to get out of the comfort zone. For a start it will mean printing much more of my photo output than I normally do. I usually only see my work in print when it’s been shot for client use. Plus we all know how easy it is these days to only see photographs on a screen of some kind. And it has to be said that a physical print is so much more satisfying. Indeed, it will make me more conscious of the techniques I’m using to make and  develop images. There’s also the gift of meeting an audience/community face-to-face and having the opportunity to observe the response to your images: are they are speaking to people or not? Something that’s impossible to truly gauge via social media ‘likes’.

Give away more.

It’s not always about the bottom line. There’s always room to give something away. It’s important. I’ve always done it and 2017 will be the year I do more of it. Over deliver. Offer skills and learning to someone for free. Give away a shoot every so often. I’ve noticed that whenever I do give something away something else comes along that gives back to me – a new opportunity, a booking, whatever! Funny how that works. So, give it away in 2017 – your time, your skills, whatever you’re comfortable with . . .

Draw, paint and collage more.

This is about experimentation. Throwing out any notion of a ‘final’ product and instead going with the unexpected. Playing. Following what is suggested and being open to it. Especially by putting unrelated things together or combining differing types of media. In the long run I find it helps generate ideas, and develops my image-making in unexpected ways. Often I’m using prints of my own work to cut-up or alter in some way. Other sources are magazines and newspapers, things found on the street, and random bits of text or notes that come to mind.

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Travel more.

I’ve just come back from a flying visit to Berlin in Germany. And it made me realise something: when you’re a sole trader/freelancer travel for travel’s sake often gets forgotten. Sure we get to do it for work from time to time, but that’s not the same. Deliberately heading out on a journey is good for the mind, body and emotions. Deliberately setting out with an eye to embrace the new and unknown is also part and parcel of photographic and creative learning. Exposure to diversity, difference and change. Paramount experiences for this photographer.

Develop personal projects.

In 2016, I started developing a number of projects in collaboration with other photographers and crafts-people. The process has been a wonderful thing: challenging, inspiring etc. It expands critical skills as we look at our own work in the context of working alongside fellow practitioners. It improves technical and organisational skills. When you drill down into a project theme it’s surprising what that process fulfils in terms of expanding the creative ideas you have, the subjects you’re interested in, and altering the approach to the way you work. It also reduces the sense of isolation we can often feel as photographers.

Get to know local people and  businesses.

Since moving to Brighton in early 2016, I’ve made an effort to devote time to getting to know local people and businesses. Their experiences, likes and dislikes. Seeking out where we chime together and where we differ. Not necessarily because they might become clients, but because relationship development is one of the key strengths of being a photographer. Especially in such divisive times. Maybe it’s part of the natural curiosity photographers have? Also, on a personal level, I’m an introvert so it’s a good way for me to challenge how that affects my relationships. Making a concerted effort to get out and meet people locally in 2017 will, I hope, make it a less divisive and more relational year. One that is likely to reap benefits that aren’t only about the bottom line.

Choose Yourself.

Authenticity. Being yourself. Not doing what other people are doing or following a ‘formula’. It’s the only way to keep us away from the distinct move toward homogeneity that we see in the world in various forms at the moment. I’m a huge fan of James Altucher’s book Choose Yourself. It got me through the early years of my calling as a photographer when I was floundering in the dark. It taught me to keep putting one foot in front of the other and listen to my instinct. Not that the need for that ever fully stops. I find myself going back to Altucher’s book regularly to keep me inspired and motivated about who I am and what I’m doing. If you’ve never heard of James Altucher, check him out here or better still read the book.

Replace a certain four-letter word.

What word is that? W-O-R-K. This resolution is one that I’m really conscious of and already practising. Partly because it’s a promise that both my wife and I made to each other on New Years Day. But mainly because we want to re-frame what we do in our businesses as forms of exploration or play. And as words are powerful things, especially the word ‘work’ with all it’s connotations of duty, routine and drudgery, it’s an empowering thing to challenge. So words like craft, calling, skill, practice, and activity are going to replace that four letter word.

So those are my little declarations to the self as the year begins. Be great to hear what yours are.

Happy New Year…


All images © James Bellorini 2016. All rights reserved.

I’m a commercial and editorial photographer. I started shooting full-time in 2013. Subsequently I have worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organisations/brands. Recent clients include: The National Theatre, Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. In September 2015 I joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme for emerging photographers and I’m a founding member of the photography collective RISE. 


SCRAPBOOKS ARE NOT CRAP BOOKS

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SCRAPBOOKS & CREATIVE PLAY.


What do you do with your old magazines or newspapers? Or (if like me you’re a photographer) your discarded contact sheets and unused prints that won’t ever see the light of day? Or even random bits of printed matter that catch your eye lying around on the street? Well call me old-fashioned, but I still gather them into what once upon a time we used to call scrapbooks.

I wasn’t even sure if scrapbooks still existed when I began writing this post (although I suppose Pinterest is a digital version of sorts), but a quick search on Amazon threw up a slew of very fancy versions so I guess they are still ‘a thing’.

Anyway, if you don’t know what one is, basically the idea is to collect your scraps and cutouts, get jiggy with glue and/or tape, and paste them into your book how you want. It’s lo-fi curation at it’s most hands on and tactile. But more than that it’s also a great form of creative freewheeling and play.

I tend to cut up a lot of my own work and use it quite brutally. In fact, as you can see from the images above, I often score and scratch the surfaces with a knife and then paint over them. Maybe that’s a healthy form of deconstruction?

I also give vent to verbal imagery and thoughts that don’t follow any logic or might rise as a suggestion from what I’ve pasted together. A kind of automatic writing.

And yes I confess to appropriating some found imagery and using it in contexts that wouldn’t normally be their home, so apologies if anyone out there is offended. I’m not making any money from them but using them because they are usually visually striking or speak to me in some way.

Anyway if cutting things up and sticking them in over-sized books appeals to you, I recommend it as a creative tool. It helps ‘out of the box’ thinking, breaks down ideas that have been stuck, preconceptions, or points to new directions. It also helps remove preciousness or perfectionism which in my case can only be a good thing.

Mostly though the value of a scrapbook is simply in the doing, the cutting and pasting, a form of collecting and ‘doodling’. The joy is enough.

Why am I highlighting this today in terms of my image making?

Well, recently I’ve given myself permission to try to unlearn elements of my practice as a photographer (and my ‘learned’ historic creativity in general) – to try to see again after half a lifetime of believing I was ‘seeing’. I’m hoping this will alter and improve my creative output. The scrapbook process is really helpful here. It’s pure playing. Trying to leap over or around logic and reason. And it often throws up unexpected things: unique juxtapositions, project ideas, a ‘hook’ or theme, who knows. 

One thing I have noticed is that a scrapbook distills the symbols and visual elements that I find appealing. It generates a kind of personal lexicon or dictionary and that is great to mine elsewhere in my work.

So forgive my indulgence in showing some pages here from my scrapbooks, but I hope that this might be impetus enough to send you on a quest to start (or keep going with) your own.

Actually there’s a great book called Photographer’s Sketchbooks published by Thames & Hudson that’s worth checking out – I’m not alone!!

So is there anyone else out there that indulges this passion for scrapbooks? I’d love to hear from you or better still share some of your pages if you can.

All images © James Bellorini 2015

James is a commercial, editorial and documentary photographer. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organisations/brands. Recent clients include: Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Sonisphere UK, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc.  

 


SMALL ACTS OF REBELLION

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ANALOGUE PHOTOGRAPHY & HOW IT HELPS ME CONNECT.


Style. Beauty. Authenticity. The unexpected.

If I’m not playing with at least one of those things in my photography and/or business at least once a week then I get jittery. Seriously. And I’m not talking something like coffee jitters, you know. It’s worse. Like a chunk has been taken out of my soul.

When that happens I need to shake the shackles off and make a stance for my creativity. That’s the way I keep going. So I find ways to experience one or more of those elements I’ve listed above through small acts of rebellion (SARs).

Take this little bunch of pics here. All shot over a month ago on a camera that uses FILM. Remember that stuff?

I think of analogue photography and the photos themselves as SARs.

Why?

Well the image/outcome can’t be the only thing I’m focused on, even though it does take up a huge part of  my attention. It’s the process as well. It has to be. It can’t be product product product all the time. Like the old adage says it’s not the destination, but the journey that’s important. For me, it’s taken a bit of time to understand that.

Which is also happens to be part of my point.

Time. Patience. Slowing down a bit. Breaking out from the digital treadmill. It runs against the grain these days. We’re often made fearful that we might ‘miss’ something or not be cutting edge enough if we haven’t for example sprung something new on social media in the last hour.

It makes sense to my creativity to throw into my photographic mix the discipline of slowness when I need it. Taking my foot off the photographic pedal. Allowing a whole month from the shutter-press to the point of editing and publishing personal photos (good or bad) is a small act of rebellion.

And what does that rebellion lead to? Fruit. Maybe not always immediate or ‘commercial’ fruit. But other kinds. In this here picture-monger it creates excitement, inner space and a greater awareness of the world around me and what I’m doing in it. Which photographically and creatively has to be a good thing.

And in this case there is also the greater appreciation of the medium itself: film, film cameras and all things analogue photography. Go get an old camera and walk out with it. It’s amazing how many conversations start because of this old contraption slung over my shoulder.

Then there’s the film ‘X’ factor.

Maybe you can’t see it in the pictures. I hope you can. Maybe it’s so sublime as to be like a breath of wind across the back of your hand. There is a depth and richness that comes from film (I want to say the word like I might say “ice cream” – playing it round my mouth, tasting it). The images are that much more sensual than the digital equivalent.

I’m often battling on the front between two forces: creativity and commerce. When they’ve signed their peace treaty and are working hand in hand that’s an amazing place to be. More often than not though, they are dividing their territories and building defences. Slowing down in this way actually helps them both come to terms with each other. Plus I have time to learn more about myself and my craft which soothes the creative beast in me and at the same time provides fuel for better photos (my products) for clients.

The business of making and creating is often conducted through a ‘cloud of unknowing’. Walking blindly in the cerebral dark guided by a tiny whisper of light in the guts, with limited conscious understanding of where you’re going. Yet knowing that you have to go, whatever. It’s the kind of place that, like a rebellion, lacks a sense of control. A place I’m hoping will always be a frontier of change.

If you’re interested, my ‘museum pieces’ are a Mamiya C220 TLR with 80mm lens and a Mamiya 7 with a 65mm lens. They help keep me sane.

I think of all of this a bit like this song by Parov Stelar – it’s kind of old and yet at the same time it very much of today as well. Have a listen and you’ll see what I mean.

All photography © James Bellorini 2015. All rights reserved.

James is an editorial and documentary photographer working for the commercial and consumer markets. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc.


INSPIRATION HANDBOOK FROM PHOTOSHELTER

The Inspiration Handbook by PhotoshelterPhotoshelter (creators of online portfolio platforms for photographers) have just released the latest in their series of free industry guides: The Inspiration Handbook. It’s full of hints and tips for all manner of photography and business related matters.


The Inspiration Handbook: 50 Tips From 50 Photography Trailblazers is an special one for me as I’m included (on page 24 if you want to know!).

Extra-special because it’s humbling to be included in these pages alongside some incredible photographers and industry professionals. Many of these folks I’ve admired for a long time (e.g. Zack Arias & David Duchemin) and remain my inspirations. I can’t believe I’m on the same pages as these guys!! Pinch me. Seriously.

When I took a change of course in my life 18 months ago, and set out to become a freelance photographer, I had no idea that the road would be one of such a lot of blood (not literally), sweat, (many) tears, self-doubt and financial ups and downs. So I’m really grateful to the people at Photoshelter for acknowledging me in this way. And in this kind of ‘stellar’ company. It really really helps to be encouraged so early in my career.

If you want to see some great photography and pick up some tips for your business (photography or otherwise) then the guide is available to download for free here. It’s worth the click.

 The Inspiration Handbook by Photoshelter

 

 


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