The Art of Creativity

The Double Lives of Photographers

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When you’re a photographer — or any kind of artist, really — there is an easy trap to fall into, one in which you begin to lead this double sort of life. One portion of your life, usually the larger portion, is devoted to the day to days. This is the time you spend at work, the time you spend with your family, time spent shopping and doing chores, essentially all the things that you need to do to survive healthily and happily.

And then there is that other life, the almost secret life, your art life, the time you spend seeking privacy so that you can enjoy uninterrupted creativity. These are the times you spend walled up in your office, post processing photos while listening to your favorite music or the quiet afternoons where you find a peaceful spot to catch up on your reading. These are also the times when you strike out on your own to create new photographs.

The problem with this sort of divide between your everyday life and your art life is that when your time becomes so compartmentalized, you quickly find that your creative time dwindles to nothing. Everyday life just comes with so many demands that you suddenly find yourself blocking out a chunk of your weekend or some other part of the week as “me” time. All of that “me” time is suddenly devoted to artmaking and you find yourself with very little time left to relax, unwind and clear your mind. It’s a recipe that can lead to a sort of creative burnout, one in which you find that those few hours per week that you devote exclusively to photography are perhaps not as productive as they could be. It can be frustrating and counter productive. Worst of all, if you’re allotting yourself two hours every Saturday for art, for instance, then it becomes depressing when you realize that 52 Saturdays per year multiplied by two hours works out to a mere 104 hours devoted to art over the course of an entire year.

So is there a better way to make more time for art? Is there a way to abandon this double life and the frustrations that come with it? I think there is and I think the way to do this is to look for ways to blend your art life with your everyday life. Here are a few of my thoughts on that.

Make Use of Technology

One of the best ways to get more art time in your life is to put technology to work for you. For instance, put your phone to work. With the myriad available e-reader apps out there, you can load your phone full of e-books that can be read anywhere that you have your phone. Laptops are also an invaluable resource. A laptop loaded with Lightroom is a great way to get some work done while spending time with the family. Sit on the couch or wherever is most comfortable to you during the time that you spend watching TV with the kids and you’ll be able to review your collection and make minor adjustments to images, all while enjoying your family’s company. Of course, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to get involved in intensive editing using a laptop touchpad but even so, there are lots of smaller things you can accomplish on a laptop. Between phones, e-readers, laptops and tablets, there are lots of portable ways to include more art in your life.

Find Ways to Work and Spend Time with the Family

Speaking of spending time with the family, look for ways to include them on your art adventures. Editing photos during TV time is one way to spend time with them but there are other ways to include your loved ones in your art life. When you go to the park with the kids, take your camera along and look for photographic opportunities as you play. Turn your outings at state parks or museums into interesting adventures by asking your loved ones to point out things that catch their eye. If they find something interesting, then chances are, you’ll be able to turn it into an image — and you’ll enjoy all the benefits of a day at play with the family.

Turn Wait Times into Something Productive

When you think about it, you’ll quickly realize that a large portion of life is devoted to waiting. Maybe you take the bus or train to work, in which case, you’re spending the commute time doing nothing in particular. Lunch hours are devoted to eating and not much else. You spend time at the store in the checkout line, waiting for your turn, and you’ll find yourself at the doctor or dentist, sitting in a waiting room just…waiting.

Turn these times into opportunities. Load your phone with e-books, PDFs to look at, photographs to give you inspiration, bookmarks to websites that you wanted to check out and so on. Then, when those wait times roll around, you’ll have several things that you can do, all of which are related to photography, things that turn all of that waiting into something productive.

Combine Daily Activities with Photography

Do you go for a walk or jog each day? Turn those excursions into a photo outing. If you’re a walker, take your camera along. Maybe you’ll happen to think of an interesting photo and maybe you won’t but at least you’ll have an opportunity to take photos if the need arises. If you like to go jogging, then invest in a small digital recorder and keep it in your pocket — or, alternatively, use a recording or note taking app on your phone. This way, you can jot down notes about potential photos that you’d like to come back and take later.

You can do the same with your car rides but if you’re the driver, then find a safe way to take notes on the go. Use your phone’s hands-free settings or a digital recorder. Or, if you spot a photo opportunity, find a safe place to pull over and jot down notes about it. By combining your daily activities with the search for new photographs to create, you’ll soon build a log of ideas and you’ll be able to design productive day-long photo excursions around the ideas you’ve been logging.

If leading a double life between day to day activities and your art life proves problematic, then the solution is to find as many ways as you can to combine the two lives. Get your family involved, utilize the technology at your disposal and always be thinking of ways to multi-task. You’ll find that you’ll be able to get a lot more done than you would on those Saturday afternoons that you’ve been reserving for your art.

Will Moneymaker


About the author

Will Moneymaker

Will is a photographer, family historian, a husband of twenty-five years and devoted father of four. The arts have always been a part of his life. Join Will as he shares his thoughts and adventures in photography.