“If you grow tired of photography, you have grown tired of life.”
These were the wise words of one of my photography mentors Adriaan Ooshuizen, who worked with me at Media 24 Magazine’s in-house division between 2002 and 2003.
It has stuck with me ever since.
We are creatives and we need to be inspired. It is true of all humans and it must be nurtured and honed. Being free to create teaches oneself to think outside of the box and I truly believe it restores our souls. God is a creator and we have been created in his image. When we create, we do something that is an intrinsic part of our design and of our Designer. Maybe that’s why we feel so “connected” when we do have this opportunity to create?
But creating takes a tremendous amount of energy, if we are to stay true to ourselves – something not very easy in a world of commercial clients- we must give ourselves a chance to recharge and be inspired.
So I travel to prevent my eyes and heart from growing dull.
I travel every year for 3-4 weeks and immerse myself in creation.
In 2007 one of my closest friends Helmut Meijer (also a creative – a music producer from Stellenbosch) and I climbed a volcano in Chile and then spent 10 days hiking 146km around the magnificent Torres Del Paine National Park; staring up at 3000ft sheer granite rock faces, enduring gale force winds flying at us over icy azure lakes and enjoying the view of a 20km wide glacier, grey stretching out before us.
2 years later I went with two other friends, a journalist Annemarie van Wyk and a Metallurgic Engineer to visit the other side of the Andes. We watched the sun rise on the magnificent spires of Mount Fitsroy towering over a glacial lake. We hiked on one of the world’s few advancing glaciers, “Perito Moreno”, we ice climbed with ice axes on glacier Viedma and finally ended up eating the best lamb shoulder in a cosy tavern Ushuaia- the last piece of land before you reach Antarctica- the Tierra del Fuego: Land of Fire.
Last year a group of 6 of us cycled 900km through the deserts of Sinai in Egypt and the Negev in Israel to reach Lake Tiberias, famously known as the lake of Galilee where Jesus grew up. We swam in the Dead Sea, scuba dived in the red sea and experienced first hand the arid land through which the nation of Israel wandered through for 40 years.
Why? To be inspired. To recharge. To see again. To breath deeply and drink in the world around me. There is just so much of it.
For me, if I want to be truly original I cannot look for inspiration in other people’s work. I can learn a lot about technique, style, trend etc. but that will not help me create something new. I will still be tweaking a copy of someone else’s masterpiece.
I need to immerse myself in nature and humanity and find what true creativity looks like.
Anyone who has ever been on top of a high mountain they have climbed, knows what I’m talking about. Or in a magnificent canyon looking at the rock formations. We are so impressed by famous designers but even the best ones pale in comparison to what nature has to offer.
Through my travels I have been so privileged to see nature in action that I cannot forego the opportunity to watch and learn. There is no better place.
For some, my adventures are a bit extreme (and for some really wild guys, probably still a bit tame) but that is not the point. If you want to create, get yourself into creation.
Even if it’s just a national park or a botanical garden. Go see the flowers in Namaqualand if you can or at best watch BBC’s magnificent nature documentaries like Planet Earth, Life or the Human Planet.
Of course people are also part of this great creation, so if going “into the wild” is not quite your thing, just by being in different cultures and enjoying the differences between all the nations of the world we learn to see the same things differently.
It inspires and if you really try to see, you can translate those scenes back into any field of visual work.
Ever wondered why side-lighting works to create a feeling of winter? Ever seen how long the shadows are in winter because of the low angle of light in winter? That’s side-lighting.
Why does backlighting your subject give us the feeling of summer? Ever been on a beach with the sun high up in the sky with the white sand reflecting straight into your eyes. That feels like summer.
Why does green and blue work well together? How beautiful is a landscape of rolling lush green grass hills against a blue summer sky?
I can name so many examples of techniques we use in photography that work visually, because that’s how it is presented in nature. Anthropologically we are wired to expect that certain visual elements connect to certain experiences.
As photographers, we should not only be using a bag of tricks to make things look funky. That’s probably why I have a certain aversion for fish eye lenses, HDR and Lomography mania!
We should be trying to create something emotive. We want to MOVE our viewer to be able to experience our message. If we know what emotive character certain scenes in nature produce in people, we can recreate it and thus carry our message clearly to our viewers. We can help them FEEL what we feel … hopefully for the right reasons.
So I will continue to travel yearly or else I will grow tired of making pictures. Tired of life.
I hope you can do the same and if you don’t have the means to travel. Look around you. Open your eyes.
There is much to learn.
To see more of Dawie’s travel photos, visit our Facebook page or our website