I had a photography professor once that was fond of saying, "I'm most interested in the images you make once you run out of ideas." She would advise us to shoot until we had taken all the pictures we were thinking of, and then shoot at least 2 more rolls. "Those," she would say, "are the shots I want to see." And she was right; once we got all of our preconceived notions and "perfect" shots out of the way, more interesting stuff began to happen.
I am participating in two shooting challenges this year, each of which requires a weekly response to a theme. Sometimes, the assignment feels easy; I immediately have an idea of what I want, and it is achievable. Other weeks, I am stymied. Such was the case this week, when the subject was simply "shadows."
Perhaps it was the simplicity of the assignment that made this difficult; after all, anywhere there is light, there is shadow. I played for a while with chasing shadows in the natural world, but came up short, discarding all of my first round of images as feeling like cheap snapshots, neither interesting nor meaningful.
Uninspired and running out of time, figured that at a minimum, I could fulfill the assignment with a still life, which is a style I don't play with that often. I constructed a (very rudimentary) black box on my kitchen table, using a few pieces of black foam board and some duct tape. I balanced a flashlight on a coffee cup, and cast around my home for some objects with interesting shapes, ultimately settling on a gnarled pine cone that has been floating around on the counter since the autumn, and a tiny, jewel-like Roman glass jar.
The end result bears absolutely no resemblance to the image I was originally chasing, but in many ways is much better.
And that, I guess, is the point.