One of the questions we like to ask photographers is how they deal with creative blocks. Do you find that because your inspiration comes from dreams that you can’t stop, do you still have creative blocks?
My creative blocks are a little bit different. They’re caused by not being able to physically do them because it just doesn’t make sense in real life – either I can’t get the budget for what I need to do or I can’t get to the location I need to be in for a certain concept. I try to keep those ideas on the back burner.
I often get stuck with some ideas I can’t put into visuals. Sometimes I have a concept in my head that makes sense, but it doesn’t look right in the physical world. In order to fight my creative blocks, I’ll do a bunch of Google image searches, or maybe go onto scribd.com to look up a bunch of old books or PDFs. I’ll search Leonardo da Vinci’s Codices or I’ll look at woodcut books, carving books, anything that comes from the past that I can look to for aids in symbolism.
If research doesn’t do it, I’ll go and explore. I will sometimes let location itself lend its influence to what I’m about to create. For example, maybe I’ll find a ditch somewhere and I’ll say, “Oh, I can fill that with water and do something there.” Or maybe there’s a broken down tree somewhere that I can incorporate. I think breaking a creative rut is cured through going out into the world and exploring, scouring the internet, and transforming old ideas into something new.
Your approach is more work through it, then?
Yes, definitely. Exploring different mediums to me is very important. For artists, exploring a new medium can help stir up your brain a little bit. When you’re working with your hands and new materials, you’re engaged with what you’re doing and that intrigue might help birth a new idea in your main medium.
Do you have a favorite book that you would recommend to other creative people?
I would recommend the book Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke. It’s a very small book but it has amazing guidelines for motivation and gaining perspective on life. It’s a unique story and it’s a pretty easy read. It could really help anybody. You don’t have to be a literal knight in shining armor to be a hero to someone else or yourself.
Do you have a favorite image that you’ve taken?
It’s hard to pick a favorite. I would say the most successful image I’ve shot is Sorgere, the image where I am climbing the submerged ladder. This image was the true start of the project, where even the act of creating the image was almost reminiscent of the sleep paralysis experience itself.
I was out there in the pond kicking as hard as I could to stay afloat with the ladder. I wore a full suit and shoes which became soaked with water. The weight of the clothes made it increasingly difficult to stay afloat. I kicked my feet has hard as I could while holding the buoyant ladder up, hoping that my camera timer was taking the shots that I needed, and also hoping that I had enough energy to swim back to the shore. That image was probably the most difficult to create and I really enjoy the end result.