Here’s a quick way to get ideas developing, whether you’re facing a severe case of photographer’s block or just have ten minutes to kill and want to spend it creating: expose yourself to a random word, and turn it into a photo!
There are infinite words available, but there are two distinct general approaches to this idea, which are creativity-through-restriction and creativity-through-overstimulation.
- Grab a book—a meaningful favorite or whatever happens to be closest—open it to a random page, point without looking, and commit yourself to the word upon which you finger lands. Or…
- Head over to randomwordgenerator.com (or similar), defocus your brain a little, and smash that “Generate Random Words” button until one drives a hook into your mind.
You don’t have to take a picture of your word, of course. If you get “shadow,” your creative addition might not be what casts the shadow but rather by what light the shadows are cast—a great opportunity to try out new lighting equipment* or use what you have in ways you haven’t before. If you get “flow,” maybe you need to connect with your local fire-spinning group for some light painting or maybe you need to break out the neutral density filters and head for the river. In any case, I encourage you to stretch your concept as far as you possibly can to maximize the mental exercise.
I’m a man of the written word by trade and by tradition, but for the sake of today’s challenge I chose the latter method. It was surprising even to me how many images popped into my mind, almost fully-formed, after I got into the creative-associative frame of mind. I managed to get a few. The first:
I happen to be a visitor in a retirement community frequently, so I thought this would be delightful word with which to experiment. The result:
Between the golf cart as emblematic of retirement, the request to retire your golf cart, and the blatant disregard of the golf cart in the background—”retire yourself, sign,” muttered Mr. Morrow as he swerved across the perfectly manicured lawn—I thought this was a home run. I’ll certainly enjoy it forever… and that can never be overstated as a metric for your own photography.
You’ll find a few more I did for a few other words in the gallery below. If you’re feeling ambitious, a fun activity might be to make a “scavenger hunt” sort of list and share it with your fellow photographers. You and your friends can race to catch them all, then find out how differently your brains work!
Please show off your mental gymnastics and symbolic mastery with the rest of us by sharing your words and photos, either on our Facebook page or Instagram tagged #mymikescamera #halfweekhomework. Hope you enjoy yourselves!
*I got a LitraTorch 2.0 and filter set for Christmas and I’ve been thinking about photography in completely different ways, just excited by my new capabilities. I collaborated with my wife on some really cool long-exposure shots with the filter color changing throughout and I’m highly motivated to explore that technique further. To be seen in a future blog post, perhaps…