It can be really difficult, daunting even, to get to a point with our photography where we start feeling like we want to try something new. After all, once we find a style and voice that is working for us, willingly putting aside that comfort is kind of counter-intuitive. Why would you invite that kind of potential failure into your art?
There are, I think, a number of good reasons.
The first is something that I’ve spoken about in a previous post, when I referenced a few of my artistic influences. I believe it is important throughout our creative careers to understand and appreciate where we have come from, acknowledging those people (artists or otherwise) who have directly influenced our work. However, there comes a time when you should consider taking an artistic direction that isn’t working within somebody else’s aesthetic. Absolutely, use what has come before to your advantage, and be comfortable in shooting in your “usual” way. This is our foundation. But, just remember that you won’t get anywhere new by just recreating what you, and others, have done before.
Similarly, if you are creating work that is always pleasing to yourself, that you automatically accept, then I would suggest that you are only treading water. If everything you create seems to be ticking all the boxes, seems to be exactly what you were looking for and exactly fits within a selection of your other work, then it might be fine, but if you are looking for progression then it also might be a sign that you’ve hit a wall. You know where you are because you've either been here before many times, or someone else has, and there are only so many ways of doing the same thing before it becomes stagnant.
On the other hand, if you venture into an area that you've never encountered before, and makes you think and really analyse what you’re doing, I would now suggest that you are growing. Stir the pot, throw a few new ingredients in and see what happens. That doesn’t mean that everything new that you produce will immediately be brilliant; exactly the opposite is more often true! But that’s exactly the reason why you should do it. Growth takes time, effort, and experimentation. You’re not forced to show the world your results if you don’t want to, and you will not be judged by anybody other than yourself.
Great work comes from going it alone. To make a mark you have to be different, and to do that, you need to move away from others and find your own path. This, I know, is incredibly hard, maybe the hardest thing of all, but at the moment I believe it’s the only way possible to reach any kind of success. Try to stop obsessing about the work of others and what they are doing. This can only come from some kind of confidence or self-belief, and that only comes if you give yourself the permission to experiment. You need to give your creativity the freedom to be what it needs to be. Too much control, from inside or out, and we will only ever produce things that are bland and derivative. Sure, everyone might like it, or understand it, but that’s only because they’ve seen it all before.
If we only keep within the realms of what others think is permissible within the creative sphere, then we are in danger of becoming lost. We won't be pushing the boundaries of the medium, and most importantly, we won't be finding out who we are, or what we are capable of achieving. We will simply be losing ourselves to someone else's story and ideas that have all already been seen before. Step outside your comfort zone. Let yourself explore and experiment. I promise that there will be some disasters, but sooner or later you will begin to grow again and produce some wonderful new work