Ideas Into Pictures – A Two-Part Photography Assignment.

Freewriting is a proven way to get in touch with our creative selves. Writer Julia Cameron devised a tool for all kinds of artists to get their subconscious onto a piece of paper – a tool that she calls “The Morning Pages”. Cig Harvey, a fine art photographer, designed a similar assignment of all aspiring photographers where he asks them to grab some paper and write for twenty-five minutes non-stop. This way of free writing helps in getting out what’s inside. He forbids not to direct it at all – it is not a to-do list.

What should you write? If you have a clear concise thought in your mind, that you can clearly define, start with that. If your brain is empty, or if you are feeling tired or blocked, then start with, “I am sitting in this room and…” It’s better to start with an empty mind and see where the creative writing takes you. This writing is only for your eyes – be comfortable that no one, absolutely no one, needs to read it, and be as honest as you can. Honesty and openness – these are the two non-negotiable criteria while doing this exercise. Put it inside a glued envelope if that makes you comfortable. Burn it later, if necessary. Write fast. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. If you get stuck, keep going. If you get emotional, keep going.

After the free write and take a red marker pen. Take five minutes to mark any important insight that has come up or an idea that you will like to work on. Distill the essential themes of what you have written into one word. Where you end up in your writing is often more interesting than where you began. Be mindful while choosing the word. If you are uncomfortable with your choice of word, choose a synonym, or maybe, even an antonym.

Draw a circle in the middle of a fresh new page, and write that word inside it. This second part of the exercise takes about twenty minutes. This exercise aims at the free association. Avoid being too linear or symmetrical. Do not write any sentence, use only words that you associate with your original word – nouns, verbs, adjectives, and pronouns. Make sure you cover each of these categories: metaphors, symbols, gestures, weather, animals, landscapes, emotions, light, depth of field, palette, frame, format, and motion. Try including at least sixty words on the page (so use a large enough page) and make sure a lot of them are nouns and verbs. The verbs will tell you what to do with the nouns. Avoid cliched metaphors at any cost: no gravestones, crosses, roses, love hearts, or lobster traps.

At the end of your session, you will have your own unique and elaborate shooting map – a guideline about what to photograph next, and how to express your unique voice through your photography. It is a list of heightened-awareness about what to be searching for to be fulfilled as a photographer.