Art Model, Merrie ©2017 Terrell Neasley
“When I am stuck … I just search for excitement, but not too hard. It is when I find myself playing more than trying that I find my way out of a block.” 
— Aris Moore

The pandemic has been tough on a lot of photographers, including myself. As a mentor, friend, instructor, and counselor, I often get calls asking for help, inspiration, and advice. I try to oblige in any way I can, and that’s usually by first dealing with the attitude about the problem via a change of perspective and or perception about what’s actually going on. I’ve noticed a few common origins to many people on creative or artistic mental blocks. So here are a few realizations you need to come to terms with before any tips can be meaningful. So I start with these FOUR Realization Points as they will be the focus of Part I of this 3-part blog series. Bear with me, as it might get a lil’ bit preachy.

REALIZATION POINT #1: Its okay to put the camera down for a while.

There is no rule that says you absolutely have to ALWAYS be shooting. Life happens. Sometimes you may need a little bit of self healing before your creative outlets can manifest its work in your own self expressions. To pressure yourself when you are not ready internally only exasperates the issue. That’ll feed negatively on itself. Its so much liberating to put the camera down and rest your mind, your soul, and your body. Get your center back.

Art Model, Merrie ©2017 Terrell Neasley

For me, the camera helps me find my center. If that is the case for you as well, then I definitely invite you to pursue that option. However, my warning still stands. If you bring in the camera but also bring in the pressure…you’ll ruin yourself on photography.

REALIZATION POINT #2: Get it out of your mind that everything need to be perfect.

This is another one that is so stifling that no wonder you are artistically constipated. Not everything is going to be perfect. You want to do your best with any endeavor you pursue, sure. But ofttimes, that perfect project comes up from an imperfect idea, that done well becomes more akin to perfection. There are times when I honestly had no idea that something would turn out the way it eventually did. I’ve shot something that I wasn’t so pleased with only to see a client lose themselves in it and call it, “perfect”.

Art Model, Merrie ©2017 Terrell Neasley

Your goal should be to just go shoot and do the best you can in that moment. Drop back to fundamentals if you have to and begin anew. Try to understand and find out what or where the blocks come from and make adjustments. You might be looking for the next perfect concept because you’ve spent too much damn time looking at other people’s art and end up comparing yourself too harshly on it. Stop comparing yourself to someone else. I can promise you, your work will develop faster and more freely when you rid yourself of the unrealistic burden of comparison. Just be you. Open yourself to your own world and your own calling. You’ll find your ambitions will gnaw a hole inside you and your need for self expression will attempt to fill that cavity. But if comparison is the soil in which you sew your seed, you waste yourself.

Art Model, Justine ©2017 Terrell Neasley

REALIZATION POINT #3: Nothing says you have to do this alone.

In so many ways, I’m definitely a loner. However in those moments of photographic blocks, seeking help is a winning proposition. Check out the most miserable times in your life and see if one of your habits is to hermit yourself in your special room and shy away from people who “don’t understand you”. Okay, well I respect that. But if you want to get out of those doldrums, you’re going to have to ask for some help. This may not be direct requests to someone. It could be indirectly by joining a photo group, taking a class, or finding a mentor. Hell, BE a Mentor! Okay, I’m getting into some of my actual tips to be covered in a following blog post, but you get my point.

Original ideas don’t have to come to you in a dream. Talk to people. Better yet, LISTEN to people. Here their stories and challenge yourself to interpret them photographically. These aren’t epiphanies that drop like an apple of inspiration onto your head. The opportunities are swirling around you like leaves in the wind. Just be still. Listen. Let the stories come to you.

Art Model, Justine ©2017 Terrell Neasley

REALIZATION POINT #4: Don’t worry about the money.

Granted. This is a hard one. Especially when you need to be about making that money! However, in terms of getting over photographer’s block, the money issue comes into play when there is a lack of resources. You begin to believe that you can’t come up with the perfect idea, like Mr. Pro-tographer down the street, because you don’t have the resources, access, connections, or camera gear, like he/she does. Listen to me. If you spend your time looking over someone else’s shoulder and using that comparison as the measuring stick to gauge your own ability, you’re in a sad place. Stop doing that to yourself.

Conceptualizing a good project begins in the mind, and not with the camera in your hand (or the lack there of). Yes, there are projects that require resources and in some cases, a lot of money. But we’re talking about just getting past the block. When you get the creative nectar flowing, the ingenuity kicks in that open up doors and possibilities. You’ll begin to see how to work a budget or form partnerships and trades to get it done. Don’t let money be the driving force though. Have your reasons, but don’t let money be the primary impetus. When you aren’t making money, then what? What do you do? Stop shooting…No! You improvise and figure out how to work with a Canon 60D that you can borrow from your neighbor’s high school kid. Either way, you go get to work. And by the way… I profess to be no master at any of this. Its a progression.

Art Model, Justine ©2017 Terrell Neasley