There is a widely held belief that creative people have a nervous disposition and are prone to exhaustion and mental health issues. However, this is not backed up by research. We hear a lot about creatives who suffer breakdowns or die due to addiction issues but nothing about those who quietly go about their lives without drama, so the narrative is almost certainly skewed.
Having said all that, I don’t know of any successful creatives who don’t put a part, and sometimes all, of themselves into their art. This is particularly true of composite photographers. While other genres of photography are essentially record shots, composites are wholly the work, emotion and imagination of the photographer. Hours, sometimes weeks or months, of preparation goes into each picture and you can’t give anything that much attention without leaving an imprint of yourself behind.
In common with many successful artists, I create my best work when I am emotionally down and am least productive when I am emotionally up. There’s something about being really happy and content which makes me lazy and lacking in inspiration and I’m not alone in this trait. You only have to listen to some of the world’s best loved songs to know that most of them contain angst or heartbreak.
This being the case, it’s important keep a check on your emotional well-being as a creative photographer. The past twelve months have been super stressful for me in my personal life and just when I was on my knees with exhaustion along came the pandemic. I am a carer for elderly, disabled parents and also took on the care of an elderly, disabled friend during the Covid crisis and it was a lot to deal with. The emotions garnered by the pandemic, however, made me incredibly fertile as an artist and inspired some of my most creative work during the 3 months of lockdown, but by June I was on my knees emotionally. I simply had nothing left to give.
There is a lot of pressure to be continually productive as an artist. If you sell your work you have to keep up your SEO rankings and if you enter competitions there are continual deadlines for submissions. But no-one can be ‘on’ all the time. We all need to take a break, regroup and recharge our batteries without pressure to ‘perform’.
I haven’t picked up my camera in nearly two months. I’ve deliberately left it behind on my daily walks with my dog and have done zero studio work. I’m not going to lie, though – it makes me anxious. I worry that I will lose my mojo and not produce another photograph as long as I live, so my one concession is to write down any ideas I may have for pictures and if I see an image which can’t wait (for example, the heather is currently in full bloom on the fells) I’ll get shots of that, but otherwise I try to be strict with myself on resting and recharging my creative batteries. My house has never been so clean 😉
As we approach the start of September, however, I’m itching to get back creating. I have two children in my village who I use as models and as they are back at school shortly I want to get them in the ‘studio’ (aka my spare bedroom) for some pictures. The harsh sunlight of summer is fading and in its place are the dark, moody skies of autumn which make brilliant backgrounds. I have re-gained my emotional equilibrium, am brimming with ideas and am excited to get back to doing what I love. I have, however, benefited from the break and feel it’s vital we give ourselves permission to rest because our work will be all the better for it.