The Blank Space

dandelions, photograph

“The blank space can be humbling.”

– Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit

Tharp is referring to the empty room in which she has to choreograph a new dance, though she also mentions the virgin canvas in front of the painter or the empty page staring at the writer. Most artists have their equivalent to the “blank space”. The first step beyond that blankness can be the most challenging.

I’ve been thinking lately about whether photographers face that same situation in our work. We can always create an image by clicking the shutter – it may not be a very good image, but going from nothing to something is pretty straightforward.

But I am familiar with that feeling of “how do I start?”. For me it comes when I try to think of something to photograph that I care about. Which images to capture is my blank slate.

I’m part of  a small photography group that meets monthly and all the members have to decide upon a long term personal project to work on next year. What to do? What will challenge, inspire, interest me? While I don’t often feel I’m looking at a blank canvas once I have an idea of what I want to shoot, getting to that point puts me in the same mental space. It’s one I have to work to get beyond.

I’m about to choreograph a dance of images and I’m feeling a little humbled right now…

3 responses to “The Blank Space

  1. I am enthralled practically each day with the images you capture in our life together. Like this one! It’s like you’ve peeled away the ordinariness of the everyday and revealed its inner light.

  2. Although I can understand your dilemma, I think I would find the project stimulating. I’d love to be in a creative group that would challenge me and provide the (often needed) kick in the pants to work towards a concrete goal instead of going wherever the wind takes me.

    Love this image! And I’m confident you will sail through this project with ease and end up with an inspiring set of images.

    • Thanks, Roberta.

      A friend of mine and I started this group over a year ago and it has been great! Each month we have assignments and we’re complementing this with the long term project. As you say, it gives us some direction and makes us get out there and do the work.

      I was inspired to do this after reading Ted Orland’s wonderful book, “View from the Studio Door” where he speaks eloquently about the importance of peer groups. He has even been in groups that never meet physically.

      Even easier today – my group, for example, also has a very active private facebook page where we can continue to share and discuss between meetings.

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