Start by resisting the lure of cheap wins!

As I write this article, I am beginning to emerge from one of the longest photography ruts I have ever experienced.

It has been several months since I went on a serious shoot.

The camera has sat unloved in its bag under my bed. The batteries are mostly flat.

A twisted and contorted muesli bar is looking a little worse for wear. Note to self: check the expiry date before eating.

Next to the muesli bar sits an abandoned polariser, probably thrown there haphazardly in a moment of haste.

So what, you might say?

Well, I am pretty obsessive about…

Photo by Марьян Блан | @marjanblan on Unsplash

Giving credit where credit is due.

Recently I had the good fortune to stumble across a presentation given by Dutch landscape photographer Theo Bosboom.

His 70-minute presentation captivated me from start to finish. Entitled Shaped by the Sea, Bosboom takes us on a journey through his recent coastal work around Europe.

Bosboom is very much a photographer of intimate landscapes — though that is certainly not all he shoots.

His creative process advocates ‘looking well’ and seeing what you can find that is often overlooked by others.

He does not seek out grandiose landscapes in the search of garish images. He trusts that any landscape can…

The Sower (1888)

A pragmatic approach to creativity and the creative process

In 2005, staff from The Phillips Collection and The Cleveland Museum of Art began an eight-year journey studying the creative process of Vincent van Gogh.

What they found contradicted popular opinion about van Gogh and the way in which he worked.

As early as 1883, van Gogh began recreating his own paintings. He would sketch a scene from life, and then reproduce it on a blank canvas in his studio. Through careful deliberation and thoughtfulness, he would paint the same subject several times over until he had captured its essence.

Van Gogh called these recreations repetitions. He painted many of…

© Benjamin Stevens

Doing what you love is not always loving what you do.

If what one makes is not created with a sense of sacredness, a sense of wonder; if it is not a form of love making; if it is not created with the same passion as the first kiss, it has no right to be called a work of art.

Alfred Stieglitz

Passion, it turns out, comes from the Latin pati — or that which must be endured, suffered or experienced.

In modern usage, the word has rosier connotations. To discover one’s passion is the crème de la crème of life goals.

But what does it mean to be passionate about…

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

How to overcome mental hurdles without doing gymnastics.

To be courageous, we must be willing to surrender our perfectionism, if only for a moment. If my self-worth is attached to being flawless, why would I ever try to learn anything new? After all, learning requires mistakes.

Vironika Tugaleva

Have you ever walked down the street and then tripped on uneven pavement?

Regaining your balance, you watch as your sunglasses go flying through the air. A hot rush of embarrassment courses through your veins in a matter of seconds.

But, as you glance around timidly, not one of the handful of people in your vicinity has noticed. …

Photo by Elijah Hiett on Unsplash

And how photographers can produce meaningful work.

No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.

L. Frank Baum

As photographers, we are obviously interested in our subjects.

But are we curious about them? Are we curious enough to ask questions?

Mindfulness is how we see deeply and perceive the world uniquely. We come to understand the beautiful, interconnected nature of all things and learn how we relate to subjects we want to photograph.

For example, we may find a beautiful plant with vibrant yellow flowers growing on the forest floor.

While we may…

The man himself, Jiro Ono, at work. Courtesy of City Foodsters under a CC 2.0 license.

Passion, pride and persistence according to the Japanese.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge

If you’ve seen the fascinating documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, you will have noticed the fanatical devotion that restaurant owner Jiro Ono applies to his craft as a sushi chef.

For Jiro, owning a sushi…

© Benjamin Stevens

If any external thing causes you distress, it is not the thing itself that troubles you, but your own judgment about it. And this you have the power to eliminate now.

Marcus Aurelius

Henri Cartier-Bresson wrote in 1952 that the natural landscapes photographed by Ansel Adams, devoid of any human presence, were not a worthy subject for photography.

This criticism was echoed by urbanites in New York who labelled some of Adams’ work as misanthropic, bleak, cold and so remote that it had the potential to provoke terror.

“There is a person in every one of my photographs”, Adams would…


The power of divergent thinking in photography

© Benjamin Stevens

To know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting, and often false.

Dorothea Lange

At some point in our photographic journey, we want our work to mean something.

We want to graduate from taking images to making them.

No longer are we content with photographing a scene for posterity or jostling for position with other photographers at golden hour.

This discontent manifests as a lack of meaning. We know what we’re doing with our camera without necessarily knowing why.

In searching for meaning, we seek to produce self-expressive…

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

In order to move forward, we must look backwards.

The vast majority of us will never make money from our photography.

Photography will, for the most part, be a hobby or passionate interest that we perform for the fun of it.

But sometimes photography isn’t so fun.

We compare ourselves to others. We become dejected when we don’t meet our very high, self-imposed expectations.

We become set in our ways and resistant to change, no matter how beneficial change might be.

Instead of enjoying the freedom that a creative hobby should bring, we end up working for an extremely demanding client: ourselves.

How do we get back to enjoying…

Benjamin Stevens

Photographer and writer. Art, philosophy, creativity and mindfulness. Free guide on mindfulness photography to create fulfilling images:

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