Quick! What inspires you? Can you list 5 inspirations off the top of your head without stopping to think about it? Take a look at your list. Are these inspirations a cohesive unit, or do they vary wildly from one another? Do they change from day to day, or are they relatively consistent? The more cohesive and consistent your list is, the closer you are to defining your style. The key is focus. While experimentation is a good thing that leads us to discover ourselves and perfect our craft, at some point, you will begin to see your experiments becoming more focused and you will make greater strides in your work. You will begin building your castle using the same kinds of bricks rather than starting from scratch every time you discover a new kind of brick.
So how do you find more focus? In the world today we are so connected, so inundated with ideas and imagery, that it can sometimes be hard to define our deepest sources of inspiration. We are easily distracted from our point of focus by the latest greatest thing, making us much less effective that we might otherwise be. To reach into the deepest well of our own souls and bring forth the purest expression of ourselves, we must first learn to let go.
Most of us also face a constant bombardment of influences that encourage us to not trust in ourselves. These influences cause us to question and doubt our natural inclinations, and we hesitate. We worry what others might think. We wonder if it's too unusual, too demanding, too weird, too this, or too that. In short, we question whether it is SAFE to truly be ourselves. Most of us give up and quietly go with the flow, dying a lit bit more each day. These fears hold us back from achieving our dreams and our vision. We come up with all sorts of excuses and rationalizations to make ourselves feel better. We might look at what someone else has and rationalize that we can't be as successful because we didn't have the same opportunities, or perhaps we put the blame on not knowing the 'right' people, or not having the right resources. These excuses cause us to nurse our wounds and feel sorry for ourselves instead of trying harder. If we let go, we are free to spend some time considering alternative ways to acquire the resources we need or meet the kinds of people we desire. Letting go also means expressing ourselves fearlessly, without inner judgment. Once we learn do that, things begin to flow in the desired direction, sometimes spontaneously. That's when the magic really begins to happen. How does this look in practice? Read on below.
Model: Candace Duling
Some of my best shoots are seemingly some of the most spontaneous, but let's take a closer look. It may come together fairly quickly and effortlessly, but how spontaneous is it really? Let me explain by examining the elements in the picture above. Let's start with the dress. I had found it in a vintage store nearly a month earlier. I loved it and knew I had to have it, because was vintage and it was so ME. I had no particular plan for the dress at the time, but I knew one of my favorite colors to shoot is white because it symbolizes purity and innocence. I have loved frilly full skirts since I was a little girl and this dress fit the bill.
Next, let's look at the setting. I adore flowers of all kinds, but the surprise lilies were special because of their delicate and ephemeral nature. I had known of the location for a few years, but they didn't bloom last year because we had a drought. When I saw they had bloomed this year I was ready because I had been watching the location in the back of my mind.
The smoke comes from my love of fog. It is so mysterious, haunting and surreal. It is a creative void where anything is possible because you never fully know what is there within the fog. I use it often in my work, so I keep a supply of smoke emitters on hand.
Violins, I have always loved violins! They represent passion, pure rapture, and being in the moment. They also are connected to what I call the 'old world'-the deeply romantic history of Europe.
I chose my model carefully based on her personality. She had to have some of the qualities I cherish within her in order to play the character convincingly. Candace radiates pure light and looks at the world with a sense of wonder. She is deeply passionate and fearless. The results were pure magic that even took my breath away.
So you see, I intentionally surround myself with the people and things that inspire me. I simply let go and flow with my inner vision, which leads me to the choices that allow me to create effortlessly. I am constantly living my art, and I assemble the elements that are meaningful to me personally in order to bring my dreams into this reality.