Being able to stay curious about the world is important for photographers. Curiosity fuels creativity and keeps us wanting to connect more, learn more and understand more about what we see around us.
So, how can we refresh our sense of curiosity? Here are some ideas:
Embrace the Wonder: Develop a mindset where you approach each time you shoot with a sense of wonder, and a willingness to explore what is not known. Be receptive to unexpected opportunities (look for them) and serendipitous subjects that may present themselves while you are out shooting. One of my favourite things to do is to visit a place that I have already been to a number of times (eg. a local reserve or park), but to take a different route through it and to keep my eyes, ears and heart open. I keep asking myself (in my head): What is that? Why is it like that? And let that drive the prompt to take photos.
Take Note of Details: This is something that comes from the practise of mindfulness, where you train your thoughts to notice the smallest details of everyday life, such as patterns, shadows, textures, movement, sensations. Using a macro lens can help us pause and look for detail; alternatively, using a telephoto lens can help us pick up detail in the wider world that passes before our eyes.
Find Beauty in the Everyday: Our thoughts can easily get jumbled by having to deal with the day to day contingencies of living. But if you turn your curiosity towards the everyday and start to look at common objects and settings with a fresh eye, you may be surprised by how you can make the ordinary extraordinary!
Take Part in a One-Day Photography Project: Some years ago, I introduced the idea of doing a “Day in the Life” project to my friend (and superb photographer), Johannes Reinhart. Since then, he has been doing a photographic documentary of the one day in his life, on the same day every year… And the images are sensational. Johannes was able to turn simple moments like taking his kids to school, or doing chores at home, into remarkable images that, when viewed in sequence, turns an ordinary day into a candid, humorous and entertaining story.
Explore New Genres in Photography: As we grow older, we tend to become more set in what we like and what we don’t like, thus creating boundaries and borders that limit the way we gain pleasure from life. Some photographers tell me that they “don’t do portraits” or that they “don’t understand street photography so don’t do it”. I really don’t know how to respond to such statements. Personally, I find this thinking to be really restrictive and limiting. I think it’s far more important to be open to the possibilities by exploring new genres or types of photography. Okay, so you don’t think you like portraiture. Maybe it’s to intimidating for you. Maybe you just don’t like people (<– as an inveterate introvert, I can totally relate to this sentiment 🙂 )… But what if doing some portraiture (or macro, or flowers, or birds, or landscapes…) manages to get you curious about the subject? Trying new things (and making time to do this) is important to keep our minds and vision fresh.
Travel: Traveling to other countries, or immersing yourself in new cultures can be a very powerful prompt for curiosity. It exposes us to a range of landscapes, lifestyles and traditions that can lead us to ask questions and to explore further with our eyes and camera.
By actively seeking new experiences, being open to different perspectives and cultivating a sense of wonder, you can keep curiosity alive, and use it to motivate your photography and to fuel your creative pursuit.
Give it a go!