A funny thing happened a few years ago when I left my 15-year career as a journalist to write books and take pictures: I could think again. And I owe it all — or a whole lot of it anyway — to my lack of media exposure.
Like a lot of people, I spent much of my life online, and when I wasn’t digging up or researching stories about popular culture trends, I was reading magazines, sometimes 50 to 75 per month and reading at least three books per week. It wasn’t until I stopped completely that I was able to truly develop my photographic style and gain confidence in my work.
It may sound counter-intuitive, I mean, how are we supposed to measure our work unless we know what else is out there? In art school, students study history and influential practitioners and when those students make the leap to professionals, it’s almost expected that they keep up with the latest-and-greatest in their field. But can so much media exposure inhibit the creative process rather than encourage it?
For a year-and-a-half I shunned all magazines and newspapers, most books as well, and spent very little time online, only checking my email and perhaps uploading some photos. It was only then that my imagination (the way I had imagined it was long ago, a least) rebounded and flourished. My brain was clear of clutter and I found myself finally being able to create the images I saw in my head without second-guessing myself or wondering if anyone would like them, or who I might be compared to, or what anyone would think at all.
You don’t have to work in media to be overwhelmed by it and not even know it and I think at times this information overload can cripple our confidence and make us doubt our vision.
I do read the occasional magazine these days and spend more time online, but I’m acutely aware of the media’s affect on my work. And aside from leafing through my collection of vintage periodicals and the work I find here on Lomography and on Flickr, I don’t pay much mind to what’s happening in the photography world at large. Sometimes, it’s just better not to know.
How much are your images influenced by the media around you? Share your thoughts and images with me!
Pamela Klaffke is a former newspaper and magazine journalist who now works as a novelist and photographer. Her column appears weekly in the Analogue Lifestyle section of Lomography Magazine.