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[by Francis Zera]
Once you’ve been in this business for a while, it sometimes happens that you find yourself in a creative rut. Fulfilling client requests and preferences keeps those clients happy and coming back for more, but can feel like you’re simply checking items off of a to-do list rather than genuinely creating something.
Creativity comes in myriad forms. We’ve all come across photographs that have made us feel like amateurs by comparison; other times the accolades heaped upon someone’s work seem undeserved. It’s all subjective, of course, but we are all content creators of some form or another, with the emphasis on creators.
So what to do when you get in a rut, start feeling creatively stagnant, like you’re a technician rather than an artist? Find a pet project, one that will allow your creative juices to run wild.
Through a series of chance meetings, and living in a metro area with four jet-capable airports in close proximity (they don’t call Seattle the Jet City for nothing), I started taking photos of aircraft for fun. And I found it really fun. And inspirational. I kept doing it, not caring to share the photos, just taking photos because they made me happy. I experimented with unusual angles, scouted some great vantage points, and joined a community of like-minded folks who think aircraft are akin to kinetic sculptures and worthy of documentation. I also discovered that I really like to fly, so much so that I’ve taken several lessons in both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
The collected experiences from that personal work (which I still avidly pursue) has led to numerous aerial assignments from both new and existing clients. Those assignments are fun, invigorating, and give me the opportunity to shape my clients’ concepts and creative goals, simply because I genuinely have something to offer.
Personal projects really can invigorate a career, lift you out of the creative doldrums, and rebuild confidence. What do you find yourself making photographs or videos of when there’s not an art director or client in sight? What things do you keep coming back to? In these things lie endless possibilities.
Francis Zera is a Seattle-based architectural and commercial photographer. He currently serves as education chair at ASMP Seattle/NW, teaches the business curriculum in the photography department at the Art Institute of Seattle, and holds an M.A. Ed. in adult education and training. You can check out his work at zeraphoto.com and follow him on twitter and on instagram.
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