We’re on the second full day of the Kathmandu Within The Frame workshop, based in Boudhanath, and man am I struggling. My first task here is not creating a body of work, but teaching, but I believe the best teachers are the ones that are always learning, and man am I learning. The hard way.
I’ve never shyed away from just being honest, but man is it hard to admit the struggle I’m having right now. The creative life rarely exists in a vacuum, and mine increasingly exists with the demands of photographs for books, ebooks, blog posts, etc. That pressure – and I put it on myself – is becoming hard to deal with. It stands in the way of seeing things. In the case of Kathmandu, I’m here now for the 4th time and I’m repeating myself. Even the shot at the top of this page is a repeat of one I shot for Within The Frame. Heck, it’s even the same man! And it feel like the pressure to make photographs is the very thing preventing me from doing so.
On top of this I’m re-thinking the way I approach people. I’ve photographed people for the last 6 years, and it’s always been difficult, but it’s getting harder. Perhaps I’ve just lost my nerve, perhaps I’m becoming more conscious of the people themselves and less willing to intrude. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that I’ve been there done that and the photographs that once said what I longed to express, I’m no longer burning to shoot.
Whatever it is, it’s a good reminder of the winding road of creativity. We’re never in the same place twice. We change. The things we see change. And so the way we photograph changes. I talk and talk about how hard it can be to create great images and sometimes I think my readers roll their eyes. Truthfully it’s not usually this hard. But right now, it feels like it’s killing me. All there is to do is push through it. Keep at it. Get my ass out of bed at 5:30am and remind myself that Resistance (see War of Art, Pressfield) is at least as hard at work as I am. Creating photographs is my work. Sometimes it feels like play, but it’s work. The work.
Why am I telling you this? In part because it’s the principle. Lots of blogs tell you about the latest toy and how great business is and how amazing the latest images are. But I’ve always felt like this blog has been a bit of an exercise in disclosure and that part of the value has been in relating my own journey and struggle. No photographer I know finds this easy all the time. No artist I know doesn’t wrestle the muse to the ground at times. Not the ones creating meaningful art. Maybe the meaning is in the struggle, I don’t know.
It’ll come, I know it will. And if it doesn’t then there’s a lesson in there about my work, my methods, or just the reminder that the well from which we all draw isn’t bottomless – it’s never bottomless. Might just be time for a re-fill. We’re in this for the long-haul, so short-term road-blocks aren’t the end of the world, but not paying attention to those road-blocks, and the lessons they have for us might be the end of our work.
But whining/suffering artist crap aside, being in Kathmandu again is amazing, particularly Boudha which is the Tibetan side of town, and a serene place in the middle of the chaos of the Kat.