Adrian Turner: I recently wrote about my lack of inspiration following a particularly challenging period in my life, that left me feeling emotionally drained and creatively barren. My inspiration came from an hour of introspection whilst I photographed abstract architecture in Singapore, and led to a reassurance that all interest in photography was not dead. Unfortunately, shortly after those photographs were taken I had a call and had to return home as an emergency to deal with more family health problems.
Whenever we have challenges in our lives, whether they are related to our career, finances, health, or our family, the demands of dealing with them can leave many of us feeling physically or emotionally empty. Problems we perceive as major challenges in our lives cause stress and anxiety that may make us feel confused, trapped, or powerless, and which may lead to a malaise where we lack enthusiasm, inspiration, or creativity.
I’ve recently been able to take short breaks from some of my responsibilities, which although only a few hours long have allowed a sense of freedom and the chance to be indulgent and do something I enjoy – taking photographs. As I discussed previously when in Singapore, I find that photography can instil a sense of calm because of the “zen”-like process of finding inspiration and looking for compositions.
The location can of course play a significant role in the feelings created by the photographic process, and places of worship are an obvious example where architecture and ambience can be a calming influence and promote introspection. Although I don’t have faith, Buddhist and Hindu temples in South East Asia have often been a place of quiet contemplation for me, if only because they can allow a break from the heat, a chance to sit down, and to spend time enjoying the atmosphere and really looking.
In some ways, my “short breaks” that last only a few hours could be the ultimate manifestation of Pascal’s idea of “un-destination photography”, as time restrictions prevent anything more than local travel. So it was that I found myself in a Cathedral gazing at the roof, which had been brilliantly lit to reveal it’s decoration and give a great sense of opulence.
One of the meeting rooms of the local guild hall also had a similar effect, the still and quiet promoting a few minutes of slowing down and looking, really looking, and sat down to admire the prettily decorated ceiling.
A few weeks later, on another “short break”, I went to look at a local building that had intrigued me with its modern styling and angular roofline clad in golden panelling.
It houses a library and other public services, and since it is open to the public I went to look inside. With a high ceiling, large panoramic picture windows across the local countryside, and a light and airy interior, it was calm and still. The effect was much like the “school of the arts” (SOTA) Singapore, making me slow down and gaze to admire the light falling across the surfaces of its interior.
I spent a couple of hours inside, looking out of the windows, but mostly looking at the light playing on the interior surfaces. As I am often drawn to geometry and graphic shapes, the more I looked, the more I became drawn in and fascinated by what I saw, and once again I felt my “zen”-like state where the photographic process becomes calming and slightly instinctive as I see new ways to see new things that might otherwise go un-noticed.
Sometimes the more you look, the more ways you find to see something.
I often feel that can be an elegance in simplicity. If something can be reduced to only that which is needed and nothing more, does it’s sum become more than it’s modest parts?
Can less be more?
As Pascal wrote a few months ago, sometimes to be creative you must exhaust your subject.
Photographs in this article were taken with Sony A7II and A7RII E-mount full frame cameras and Sony FE 24-70mm f4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar and FE 24-70mm f2.8 G Master lenses.
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