Sally's Insights - Where do you find inspiration?

Tasmanian Landscape © Isamu Sawa.

Sally Brownbill considers the quest to find inspiration, and what you can do to make the search a rewarding one.

I was a young photography student before the introduction of computers and, obviously, social media. I drew my inspiration from my surroundings and the people in whose company I sat, discussing darkroom techniques, the best film stock, and life in general. They were the great photographers of the past; many still operating now. I recognise how important this inspiration was to me and now, more than 20 years later, see inspiring others as a large part of my role in our industry. There is much white noise out there and it can create confusion, anxiety, and over-thinking.

Recently, a celebrated Melbourne commercial and fine art photographer, Isamu Sawa, wrote on social media that he was offering a “Print Give-Away for someone you care about”. He went to on to say, “I’m sure we all know a friend, a relative, a partner who is finding life (as we know it) a little hard right now, so I am giving away eight prints to those who could do with a little love at this time”.

I was touched and inspired by Isamu’s sentiment and immediately wrote to him about the sadness of not being able to celebrate my father’s 91st birthday on 12 September with him (as a result of COVID restrictions in Victoria). Isamu was moved by my story, and I was fortunate enough to win one of the beautiful images to give to Dad. Isamu also included a heartfelt message.

We all need to tap into someone or something that inspires us. For Isamu, it was offering something he’d created to those who most needed it. For me, it is helping others have a clear vision of what alternatives are out there for their photography, where their strengths and weaknesses lie and guiding them in feeling more confident and moving forward with purpose.

As a photographer, you need to inspire those to want to hire or work with you. The best way to do that is to be true to yourself and trust your gut instincts. Shine when you show and talk about your work, and be individual. Always choose to see the glass as half full. It’s an old saying, but no less true for that. We all want to be around positive energy, and collaborators and clients are no different.

In the commercial world, you are the vehicle that brings their ideas to life. If you can do this with positivity and inspiration, you are more than halfway to doing justice to their faith in you.

In the art photography world, inspiring others with your work is also a great aim. Whether it is about telling a story, documenting a moment, or producing work to reflect your inner thoughts, it’s all about being inspired.

When looking for work, commercial photographers must remember that nearly everyone who looks at their folio probably has a photographer they are already comfortable working with. It then becomes imperative to offer them something different, the excitement of the new, something that only you can offer.

This difference begins and ends with you, for you are the major point of difference to any other shooter. If you draw on your individuality, the way you see and respond will be unlike anyone else. To be confident in this, be fearless in your pursuit of inspiration; never stop looking, listening, caring, and observing. And then bring it all to life, as only you can.

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