Have You Got Your 25?
Right. So we are continuing from the last blog post, The Little Game (from The Online Photographer), and at this point we have tried to put together a list of the 25 most frequently recurring categories in our photographic practice. The next step is here: you put the list in order of priority. At the top goes whatever you think is most important and so on downwards.
This takes a bit of thinking about. If you generally go out and shoot whatever is in front of you – that is, you prefer not to preconceive subjects but to take whatever comes – well then, I think that one of your categories should be ‘Spontaneity’. But even within that you may find recurring themes that give you further categories. So the first part of the exercise is kind of retrospective. I found that I tried to approach the second part analytically but then it morphed into something more intuitive. It didn’t seem possible to take all twenty-five and put them into a straight table – partly because there were overlaps and partly because some just weren’t that important in the scheme of things. So the lower half of my list was pretty indefinite but the upper half certainly had significant order.
Now you go to the third and final part of the game. This is that you take the top five categories and you concentrate on those to the exclusion of all others. You might say that you don’t want to do that – but remember, I undertook this because I was a bit blocked and I needed a way of getting round that. If you are not in the remotest bit blocked then you won’t need to. Or the reverse may be true: you suffer from a kind of photographic incontinence – you take photos of anything without thought or purpose. This could help with that, too.
In his commentary on part 3 of the game, Mike Johnston characterises anything outside the top five priorities as distractions. For those looking to sort the wheat from the chaff doubtless that is true. For Blockies like me I see another possibility.
In Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance the narrator, Phaedrus, talks about a time he was teaching creative writing. He asked his students to write about their home town. One of them comes to him later and says she is finding it impossible. He tells her to write about one street in her home town. She comes back later: still impossible. He tells her to write about one building on one street in her home town. But she is still blocked – she can’t get a word down. So he tells her to write about one brick in one building in one street in her home town. She comes to see him a day or two later. Guess what? She can’t stop writing.
The lesson, it seems, is that too many possibilities will paralyse. Focus is a discipline and discipline is essential. Otherwise, it’s just playing tennis with the net down (not my phrase.)
Well, I got my five – which I will share when I’ve had a bit of think about them.
That’s enough for today.