The Yellow Brick Wall
December 31, 2017
For several years now, just like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz”, I have been joyfully following a clear yellow brick road in pursuit of a goal – in my case, creating meaningful art through photography, of life in general, but with a focus on highlighting the beauty of women. There have been many lessons on the way, and, in common with Dorothy, I have met a number of like-minded souls following the path towards realizing their own artistic goals.
In the last few months, as happened to Dorothy in the bewitched field of poppies, I have lost my way. The yellow brick road has morphed into the unyielding yellow brick wall. The prospect of creating images no longer charges me. The challenges of making such images happen loom larger than the thrill of seeing art emerge from whole cloth. For the first time, a photo session seems more like an oppressive obligation than a creative experience. I look at most of my images – and many of those of others – and I am unmoved.
It’s not that I have been rendered completely incapable. Indeed, some of the work I have done recently has gained more profound emotional response than usual. In one case, intended as a tribute to a passed friend, the images as a set are powerful. But the process was more autonomic, letting my emotional reaction guide the imagery. It was something I needed to do. But it was not something, nor have sessions since been, more than a temporary lift for my soul. Most ideas indeed seem tired, trite, a reflection of vanity more than the creation of emotional art.
So, like Dorothy and her compatriots under the influence of the spell, I feel tired and rather than continue, feel more inclined to lie down, in my case in a state of ennui. I don’t have the drive to shoot, but I also have no alternate pull at my soul. In the absence of direction, I am rusting in place, becalmed, facing what has become in my mind a giant opaque barrier. Unlike Dorothy and her crew, though, there is no fairy godmother handy, nor red slippers, to break the spell.
Creative blocks are not new. I know most artists get them. I’ve had times on my path when blocks appeared, but more as barriers to be hurdled. I can rationalise reasons for this black spell. Tremendous changes in my personal life, moving, renovating, living out of suitcases, the true recognition of aging. Many influences converging on this moment to stun my creativity into submission. These are just rationalizations though, and while my intellectual side wants to know the cause with a view to “fixing” the problem, my intuitive side has a different perspective. Maybe these are just signals or even self-induced reasons to pull back, take a more detached view of what I want to do, what will lead me further on my life journey?
My focus on photography has expanded my creative vocabulary, has allowed me to express myself in one dimension, and has given joy to a number of people. It’s developed my sense of light and shade, of colour. And it has given me a window into the minds of a younger generation. In doing all these positive things, though, it has dimmed other aspects of myself. For one, my ability and inclination to express myself in writing. Being able to just enjoy events, without framing them in terms of camera angles and imagery. Focus is good and necessary to make progress in any endeavour. But humans are neither uni-dimensional nor unchanging over time.
I am inclined to believe this wall has manifested, for me, for a reason. Looking back, I had tried to push through my reservations, to do yet more in order to restore that sense of wonder I experienced in the early stages of the journey. The harder I pushed, the more barriers, external and internal, emerged. It’s time to accept that the path, as originally envisaged, is finished. To surrender to that awful emptiness of lack of purpose, lack of reassurance and appreciation. And to hope that a new or altered path will emerge in time.
Will I give up photography completely? Not at all. It is an important part of how I communicate. But I will aim to be more selective, and not pursue shoots that have little potential to inspire – either due to the concept or the attitude of participants. I have learned much while on the yellow brick road, and maybe I will look to encapsulate some lessons for others. But primarily, I will be on a creative time out. Time for me to reflect, read, absorb. Waiting for the yellow brick wall to fall and open up the hidden vista of the path forward.