Minus One

This week’s challenge is centered around the number -1. How do we photograph -1? Well multiply any number by -1, and you obtain its opposite. And this week is all about the opposite.

Setting and breaking rules

In the past weeks, we already explored breaking the rules. We first went beyond perfectionism and went against the so-called “rules” of photography and turned flaws into strengths. Then we rebuilt the world by turning social and cultural expectations upside down.

So far, we mostly tried to break rules that are set by others. However, our photography in the end also obeys rules we set ourselves, consciously or not. Sometimes we set those rules to achieve our own personal vision, sometimes we set them based on what people expect of us.

Setting rules for our photography provides us with consistency in our work. It’s what can lead to having a distinct photography style. However, consistently following the same set of rules can also become detrimental in the long run. It makes us stay in our comfort zone by reapplying known successful recipes. In the end, this can make our work stagnate and run the risk of becoming less personal and less creative.

The Challenge

This week, the challenge is to break our own rules and do the opposite of what we are used to. It’s about trying to boost our creativity by doing something we never expected we would do.

First, find what recurring elements of your photography are personal to you. What rules do you follow, consciously or unconsciously always systematically? What could you do differently that you would have told yourself “no way I’ll ever do that”?

Then this challenge is to make yourself do it. The goal isn’t to completely change your photography and start doing the opposite of what you want to achieve. Instead, it is to try something you never really expected to do and see where it leads you. Maybe it won’t fundamentally change your way of making pictures, but perhaps you will learn something new about yourself that you can use to make your photography even more creative.

For this week, the hashtags are #sipgoestgif_minusone and #sipgoestwentytwo

My personal take

For me personally, this challenge is strongly related to my creative rut/burnout.

For years, I had been used to take photos outdoors around sunset and sunrise, using very soft light and a short depth of field. I was an unconditional color photographer and it seemed I would never produce black and white photos that I would be satisfied with. Going out to take photos in the middle of the day would be something I would only do if I had no other choice and with very low expectations of the resulting photos. The same could be said of cloudy days, particularly in winter.

Last year, I realized I was growing tired of recreating the same images over and over again. At times, it felt like I wasn’t creative and I was just applying known recipes. Over time, my interest and creative vision also evolved and I was growing unsatisfied with my own images. They felt less personal and following the set of rules I had put on my photography. I realized that some of the images I wanted to create couldn’t be made using the same recipes. I had to create images in a very different way than what I was used to.

To get out of the creative rut, I decided to break those rules. I decided to set my camera to black and white by default. I forced myself to take photos in the middle of the day, both on cloudy and sunny days. And finally, I did the thing I would have the least expected: I moved away from short depth of field and bought a pinhole lens.

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