It happens to everybody who creates things. one day, the juices just stop flowing. You find your self doing the same shit over and over and your not satisfied with anything you do. Your creative life just stops. I am not sure when it started but its like a spider’s bite. You don’t really know when you were bitten but suddenly you find yourself scratching the spot.
I started scratching when I came down to Florida last November. I did not notice it at first but I suddenly found myself visiting the same spots I always do when I am here. The beach, Lake Worth, Palm Beach,— the same old shit— more shitty pictures. I knew I had to change my style a bit but how?
This is not the first time I have been “blocked”. Creative block is a frequent guest in my psyche. It like recessions; they come around very regularly at certain intervals and some are worse than others. This one is a middle-of-the-road one and over the years I have developed a method of working through them. I might still visit the same old haunts but I expect very little to come of it, but every now and then, I am surprised. I bring my camera everywhere but shoot very little—I don’t want to be caught off-guard. I look at my old images a lot and try to figure out where I want to go next. I also see if anything can be done differently or where I can improve.
But most of all there is the technique that I have used for over 30 years (Yes, it has really happened over and over). If I were ever to write a book on photography, this would be one of the main chapters because this technique has worked so consistently over the years. I call it the freebee technique and it works like this.
People are always asking me to take pictures of their shit that they sell, their relatives, insurance claims, their dogs, for passports, etc. I hate doing it and always graciously decline, but not when I am blocked. During these periods, I always say yes on the assumption that one never really knows whats around the corner.
Last Thursday night, Sharon and I had dinner downtown at Sushi Rok, and then decided to take a stroll down to the park in front of the library to see a free concert. When we walked out of the resturant and crossed the street, there were these four black guys talking in front of a storefront. One of them said something to me which I did not hear so I went closer and and asked them to repeat it. He asked me If I had ever been to Africa and I replied no. “We are from Zimbabwe” He said, “we have just opened up this store”, he went on, motioning to the store behind him.
One of them was very tall and had wonderful dreadlocks. “May I take your picture” I asked. “Sure” he said, “and all my friends too. We can send it home.”
This is not what I had in mind but what the hell. We all went inside and he gathered up all his partners and they all stood in a line and all of a sudden this little kid ran up and stood in front of everybody and I took the snapshot. I asked the kid’s father if I could take a picture of the kid alone and he said sure. These guys were very warm and friendly and were delighted when I offered to come back and take their pictures (this time on my terms) later in the week. One of them then asked if I could take a few pictures of the store for publicity and I said sure, why not, no charge.
I have a feeling that my creative block is coming to an end.