Be smart, call it the end of the day

2012, Photography


I think my creative process is generally split up in two steps. The first step is making things. It involves fun and the desire to play, to try and experiment, to be free and unrestricted. The other step is evaluating what I have been making, editing my work, being critical of myself.

That first step of generating photographs is what I love to do. I have said it so often before, but with limitations I feel completely unrestricted. That moment when you are full of ideas or when you see interesting subjects everywhere is absolutely inspiring.

The second step is absolutely necessary. No doubt about that. It helps to be critical of your endeavours. It helps to challenge yourself and to push the creativity forwards. Realistically though I also know that due to my fear and uncertainty this evaluating step can become my master. And when it does it actually restrains me. Then I hate my work, I get annoyed by the things I do and the tools I use, doubt sets in, often followed by those doldrums. Moments when I feel uninspired and take no photographs. Doubt, always this doubt.

At such moments I take away the spontaneity, the joy, the passion. I hate these moments, although I always seem to fall for it. Is there really a need for perfecting what I do?

I haven’t been photographing so extensively the last few months and this gave me the opportunity to do a retrospective of my work from the last couple of years. And I realized that many of my finest moments, I say finest, were when I felt the most restricted by my tools and the least restricted by my ideas. Vague? Likely so, but when I threw overboard my high expectations and the desire of perfecting myself I felt most liberated by what I could do. For me, it is that tantalizing feeling that you play, that you feel open and free like a child.

Like this week when I felt uncomplicated photographing and editing with my cellphone (the photographs in this post are from this week and I posted these earlier on Instagram). Or in 2009 when I first tried the Ricoh GRD3. And most importantly in 2011 when I did my photo a day project. Especially in the months January, August, and November it felt like everything came naturally. And I shouldn’t forget March 2008. I made some of my best landscape photographs. Like the moment I ditched my SLR and lenses for the GR1. When I started to do B&W landscape photographs with my compact camera to get that sketch look.

It sets in that when I start to look differently at subjects I see almost always on a daily basis. Moments when I got out of my comfort zone experimenting with compositions and purposed intentions. And also when I least worried about the cameras I used and the image quality these provided, and when I tried new post processing methods. I played at such moments. Nothing formal, no complications.

I love it when I can liberate myself from the habits that set in after many years. When I just point my camera or cell phone and press the shutter. When I go further or do different stuff in my post processing. It makes me realize that I really don’t need that much to make photographs, to be creative. The best though is when I feel the desire to shoot.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

14 thoughts on “Be smart, call it the end of the day

  1. We just can’t deny how our cellphones these days have changed photography. Even it’s making an important stand to the hobbyists and even the pros. The in-camera filter/effect have brought back all those lost memories from the lomography. You see polaroid will never die! The recent OS update from my Samsung phone has allowed silent shutter (finally officially), I could look stupid and have tons of fun with it. Casual is fun, just like clothes!~ And honestly, miss the shot? so be it! Those are the moments which I normally don’t even bring my regular camera out.

    1. The cellphone is changing photography now like a small camera with 35mm did in the late Thirties and digital photography done so in the previous decade. It is here to stay now, but will be overtaken by something different in the future. The photograph however will hopefully prevail.

      And often the casual moments present life.

  2. The doldrums – I know them. I love making pictures and the process. Then I sometimes look back and thing why the hell did I like that, what is it, why did I take it, then I think that about most of what I do. I have the added complication of drawing – I love to draw and I find I can only draw or take photographs, never both although I try hard to do both, I just can’t find a way!

    1. I used to draw a lot, but intend to start again. At least I now have the pencils and papers. I hope I can combine both.

      And we need doldrums, as long as they take too long. When so they can drive you mad.

  3. These in-device photo filters and cell phone apps bring us full circle back to the debate at the dawn of photography between the “pictorialists” and the “naturallists” concerning the conditions necessary for image making to be considered “art”. Nice to see that everything old is new again. And then photoshop reintroduces the interests of the surrealists. Ain’t life grand? Personally, as an actually old entity, I’m not so taken with the “manipulated-to-look-old” schtick. But whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

    1. For me Greg, it is what works. I have done my fair share of playing ethical and doing things ‘right’. It is fine with me when people think something is right or wrong. I like the image making, it is what attracts me to photography. The discussions, rules, and ethics makes me hate photography.

      I respect anyone’s perspective and ideas, especially yours Greg. I thought often about this. I have always wanted to be a photographer, but I think I am more fond being a surrealist. I am dreamer, a thinker, and the images I see are in my head. The camera, post processing, choosing subjects, timing, composition, and exposure are means for me in the process of visualizing these images.

      1. You have a considerable talent, my friend, and a vision. It may evolve over time, but as long as you are pursuing your true vision, things will be well. I did not intend to suggest otherwise. But you know how I like these little “philosophical” digressions. 😉

        1. Your little digressions certainly push me Greg. Aesthetics and ethics in art, and photography too, often seem very close or even mixed up.

          There is a lot of ‘purist’ talk, with the believe in film and instagram rants and mumbling. Instead of questioning the intentions, the debate is too often focused on the ‘how’ part.

          I love this more philosophical discussions too, although I admit that debating in my native language is quite easier.

          Last year I saw some of the work from Eugene Smith and while sometimes I wondered how he made some of the photographs, I thought it was a lot more interesting to think what he had in mind and how it transferred to me. There you can find purity and honesty I think.

          That is what I like. Thank you Greg.

  4. I’m a big fan of your work. Those instagram photos are lovely. Just wondering some of them are tagged GRD. Are you somehow shooting with the GRD and then processing through Instagram? Curious how this works. In any case, beautiful work. Limitations suit you.

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