I suspect that more than a few of you will be able to relate to this story, and that’s exactly why I want to share it. I was recently in a pretty big creative funk that I couldn’t shake. That tends to happen whenever I find myself having to be creative on a deadline and the ol’ muse just isn’t cooperating. I just couldn’t get into a groove and it quickly became apparent that nothing productive was going to happen. So, I did something that I wish I’d do more often—I grabbed my camera with one lens, jumped in the Jeep and made my way to downtown Portland. I had no agenda and no expectation to find anything particularly creative to photograph. I just needed to clear my head.
I parked in an underground garage adjacent to Pioneer Square. It was the first time that I had parked there, and I was thankful for it because I surface in a part of the city that I hadn’t really explored much. Usually, when I’m walking along familiar streets, I don’t think I look up as often. But this time, I looked up a bunch and was able to tease out interesting things about the obvious. Things like a patch of contrails extending off the facade of a random office building or the way the harsh midday sun lit up a direction sign right outside of the Square.
But it was upon reviewing the photos on the back of my camera that I got excited because I began envisioning all of the creative possibilities I’d have when I got home, put the camera down and fired up my computer. All sorts of ideas about style and treatments started dancing around in my head. It was quickly clear that I was starting to make cracks in my funk barrier.
With my energy beginning to kick in, I did what any rational person would do. I went to Macy’s and bought two pairs of jeans and rather than carry the shopping bag with me while I resumed shooting, I decided to return to my Jeep in the underground parking garage to drop them off.
I’m not sure what was different—whether it was fitting into jeans that were two sizes smaller than what I wore a few months ago or the creative jolt I had prior—but all of a sudden, I began noticing more interesting things pop out of the ordinary—and in an underground garage no less!
When I was done photographing the garage, I resumed my surface-level roaming around, looking for touches of beauty and interest out of the ordinary. By the time I felt ready to return home, everything seemed to fall in line.
I spent a good deal of time thinking about that day before starting to write this post. If you’re like me, you are your own harshest critic and hardest to please. While that can be a good thing to ensure a certain type of quality control, it can also be toxic when things may not come up roses. I think that’s where letting your mind explore without any expectations can be a huge boon. Simply grab your camera, walk out the door and put one foot in front of the other. If your experience turns out to be anything like mine, you’ll likely find your inspiration in the most ordinary of places.