Has it ever occurred to you that we artists are the odd ducks? Think of all the normal people in the world who feel no compulsion whatsoever to create artwork, no drive at all to take their cameras and use them for anything other than family snapshots. It is we who are driven to produce something more personal, more creative, more art-like. Why? Seriously, have you ever asked yourself why?
What is it you seek through the creative process? Connection? Sensitivity? Immortality? Fame and fortune? A sense of superiority? Applause and acceptance? Understanding? Self-awareness? What is it that you seek?
I have a tenuous theory about this urge to create. Whatever its source, it is unquestionably powerful and overrides all sense of financial sanity, time management logic, and even family obligations. It is an urge that must be obeyed.
So, what happens if we have this urge but nothing creative comes to mind? What do we do when we feel we must create but there is that awful void of indecision? We must move but we can't move — and so we move in the only way we can: we shop; we test gear; we read reviews; we fiddle with arcane post-processing techniques; we study the mathematics of depth of field; we surf the Internet; we argue amongst ourselves in gazillions of chat rooms and forums about the minutia of photography. (I say we, but perhaps I should be more candid and refer only to myself. I shouldn't unfairly indict all of you just because this is something I observe in me.)
The science and mechanics of photography are seductive — but I suspect they are seductive in the sense that they are a diversion from the more important tasks. What are those? Well, answering that is precisely when art making begins. I've learned about this diversion process because I've lived it, and now I recognize it for what it is. When I suddenly feel the urge to shop for new gear for no good reason, when I start exploring the technology of photography at random and with no specific need to do so, when I find I cannot resist that latest article about noise reduction or 12-step sharpening, I know it is a defensive mechanism that has reflexively popped up to divert me from the task of staring directly into the void and working in the creative process. Staring into the void. This is not fun; this is not joyful; this is not always rewarding. It is a silence and challenge that is the source of meaning in our artwork. It is, also, the core of the art life. In that void is the whisper of our creative drive. In that void is the hint of meaning for which we search. Through a glass, darkly — yes, indeed.
Brooks' books on photography and the creative process are available in print from Lulu.com, and as eBooks for Kindle or EPUB readers. As one of the membership benefits, these eBooks are available in their entirety to members of LensWork Online via download.