Let's Talk: Inspiration

Who Inspires me? How Do I Stay Inspired?

I've received a variety of different emails and messages over Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram about how I stay inspired. Well, this is a fantastic question. In fact -- the more I get asked this, the deeper I understand just how important this topic truly is. I'm always very eager to discuss this subject matter because it's super fun to share the people / places / things that make my heart swollen with passion. 

Let's face it. We have to feel inspired in order to thrive in our creative flow. It's vitally important that we actually feel the need to create art and it takes even greater courage to create good, respectable art. But how the hell do we do this without indirectly exhausting ourselves?

I always see other creative individuals post on their social media channels about their "lack of inspiration" because they find themselves in a "creative rut". And -- I must admit. I don't really consider myself to be the type of person to find myself in a deep hole where I necessarily feel that way. To cohesively collect my thoughts on this matter of contention, I’ll give you two huge tips that slaps me into place whenever I feel down about me or my work:

I. ) ONLY create work that you’re passionate about.

I’m serious. Don’t waste your time photographing subject matter that you’re semi-interested in.

I hold the very beautiful and unique opportunity to take pictures get paid good money for it. However, freelance jobs vary immensely. Some shoots make a lot of money, some shoots make no money at all. But the money is only part of my outlook when it comes to being commissioned…

When I receive inquires or emails about particular jobs, I take a GOOD look who’s contacting me and what is it that they want from me.  If it’s a clothing company, I want to assure that they not only produce their clothes ethically and responsibly, but that they cater to an audience that matches mine. If someone who inquires a wedding or portrait session, I make sure to tell them EXACTLY what sort of look or vibe I am aiming for. Same goes for anyone, anything, or any one entity that contacts me to hire or collaborate with me. I do not beat around the bush for what it is that I aim to photograph because I don’t want to waste my time with anything I’m no keen on doing. It sounds simple but — it took a while for me to figure out. I’m completely over working for big names like Brandy Melville or doing “Skinny Tummy Tea” sponsorships because they’re all bullshit (oops — yeah, I went there). I want to keep my work honest and reflective of who I am as a person.

Taking action on this mindset, however, was hard at first. I began to turn down A LOT of jobs from people or brands that I wasn’t interested in. My schedule became more open because I wasn’t working on a butt load of projects at the same time like I was used to doing. It was gut-wrenching, nerve wracking, stomach twisting, and mind numbing. 

But guess what? It was the best thing that I could have ever done for myself. Why? Because I was literally ONLY doing jobs that I was passionate about doing. Better yet — I was attracting better, high quality clients to focus on bigger and better jobs. Jobs that were for ME. Not the other way around. My professionalism increased, my motivation levels advanced greatly, my editing got better, my audience increased, and my passion for photography GREW SKY HIGH, BABY! 

Seriously. Don’t work on things that you’re only semi-interested in. The minute you stop creating for yourself is the minute you need to stop and take a damn break.

II. ) Find inspiration from the OUTSIDE.

First and foremost, it's important to note that not just one thing inspires me to create art. There is a magnitude of collective entities that inspire me to pick up my camera. My brain is firing electric happiness just thinking about it! 

Yes, I'm a photographer. It's not only a hobby, but it's my primary job. But just because I'm a photographer doesn't mean that I only look to other photographers as my main source of inspiration. In fact, I would argue the opposite. 

It’s critical to look outwards for inspiration in order to digest creativity more easily. It thrives as a human’s spring broad for imagination, as well as a facilitator for progress towards a certain goal. The vital importance of searching for inspiration comes in many, many different forms. Quit looking at your Instagram feeds or Tumblr pages and search beyond the ordinary: pick a wildflower and press it in your journal, listen to your favorite song at 2:00 in the morning, cook your mother a nice meal, spend a morning outside without your phone, nap in the sunshine, read a book at a coffee shop, visit that place you’ve always wanted to go to, make love on the kitchen counter top, and take your time in museums.

Among all of these beautiful heart-filled facets, however, I would argue that the one thing that inspires me the most stems from my experiences...

Experiences; my travels, my relationships, my joys, my hardships, and my little moments sprinkled in everyday life.

For those of you who have seen "Stuck In Love” on Netflix (so good, by the way!) might have recognized this statement from a scene within the film. A father, who’s simultaneously a famous writer, sneakily looks through his son’s journal and becomes increasingly disappointed by his dull writing. He then explains to his son that his work is “boring”, “unimaginative”, and “too simplistic” because he has yet to gain any experiences to pull his creativity from. “Go gain some experiences. Go in a fight or something, man!” the father screams at his son. Lovingly, of course.

This scene got me thinking. Photography is a real-life depiction of a particular moment captured within a distilled frame. Photographers’ work that reach out to my the most are the ones that travel the world, capture controversial issues, and stay relevant to modern times. They get out and make shit happen. I want to be like this, too. So yes, father in “Stunk In Love” whose name I cannot remember, I applaud your advice given. 

So -- go out and grab those stomach twisting memories you've been waiting for. But for fuck's sake, make them real. Don't just take a picture to say you've done something "cool". Stay in the present moment and feel. Be.

For those interested in a condensed list of who inspires me to be the photographer / person I aim to be, here ya’ go. Notice there are more than just photographers, yeah?:

 I.) Photographers:

  • Molly Steele
  • Sally Mann
  • Ansel Adams
  • Theron Humphrey (@thiswildidea)
  • Foster Huntington
  • Benjamin Heath
  • Joe Greer
  • Kevin Russ
  • David Alan Harvey
  • Steve McCurry
  • Parker Fitzgerald
  • Colin McCarthy
  • Rick Smolan

II.) Videographers / Filmmakers:

  • Ian Durkin
  • Caleb + Ariana Babcock
  • Wes Anderson
  • Quentin Tarentino
  • Casey Neistat
  • Andrew Kearns
  • Werner Herzog

III.) Artists:

  • Beth Kirby (@localmilk)
  • Stella Baer
  • Rebecca Green
  • Sam Larson
  • Maddie Gordon
  • Bekah Stewart (@awelltraveledwoman)
  • Hannah Henderson

IV.) Adventure Seekers:

  • Alex Strohl 
  • Renan Ozturk
  • Robin Lee Grahm
  • Jimmy Chin
  • James Barkman
  • Robyn Davidson

V.) Intellects:

  • Jane Goodall
  • Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  • Neil Degrasse Tyson
  • Carl Sagan
  • Rupi Kaur
  • Taylor Freesolo

VI.) Magazines / Podcasts / Organizations: 

  • National Geographic
  • Kinfolk
  • Collevtive Quartlery
  • Dirtbag Diaries
  • LiveFast Magazine

That's all folks. Go out there and gain some damn experiences.

Document them.