Some time ago I ran into that big space of emptiness we all encounter from time to time. I had been through a stressful and extremely hectic period of time working almost day and night for various clients. I knew I needed some time for myself to wind down after I was done with the work. Thus I set aside four days after the last job was delivered to do nothing but photograph some personal work.
I had no idea what I would do, only knew I needed to work on something that mattered for myself and absolutely not in accordance with any demands of my clients. As I was busy all up to those days of personal freedom, I had no time to think about a project or even consider if I wanted do something else. Something would emerge, I thought. But when the day finally arrived I was blank as an empty box and no ideas had emerged.
The world was open to me—or at least the world I could reach within those four days. I had all the time for myself and no practical limitations. I could practically do whatever I wanted. But that unlimited universe of options got me all numb and restrained.
Almost every artist in almost every medium—not only photographers but also novelists, painters, musicians, sculptors and any other kinds of artists—has confronted the so-called horror vacuii, which is Latin for fear of empty space. It stifles your creativity or even kills it. It all starts when you desperately search for something to do—anything. The unlimited amount of possibilities almost imposes a mental constrain, makes you think you have nothing to photograph.
Part of the problem is the vastness of the blank page. When you can write anything—or photograph anything—why is a particular subject worthwhile? And where do you start? At least I started to think I had to doing something special now that I finally had a chance, something that would matter and something grand, maybe. And of course that made my creativity all curl up into itself.
The very vastness of the array of possibilities can be paralyzing. Throughout the ages—in whatever medium—artists have confronted empty spaces, blank pages, white canvases, and just trying to figure out what the heck to create. This is no different with photography, except maybe even a bit worse because it is so easy to simply press the button.
The universe is a big place. A photo is a two-dimensional representation of a «chunk» of this vast visual space. Paralysis can set in when you think of all the possibilities. The full range of possible captures using the equipment in an average camera bag is far beyond the capacity of the human mind to visualize all at once.
An answer to this «analysis paralysis» is that it doesn’t necessarily matter so much what you choose to shoot. But you don’t want to spend time staring into space or gazing at your navel. So get out there and start photographing! As difficult and as easy as that. It doesn’t matter what you choose to photograph so long as you are photographing something.
That’s exactly the prescription I followed myself. I just began photographing kids in the neighbourhood and did that for the next couple of days. It was liberating to limit myself and just begin with anything that came to mind. It will not be a project that will change the world, but then, hardly any do, do they… This was anyway for me, first and foremost.
How do you deal with horror vacuii? I would very much love to have you share your experience and dealing with the vast emptiness.
Facts about the photo: The photo was taken with a Canon Eos 5D with a 16-35 mm lens and the zoom set at 16 mm. Shutter speed: 1/640 of a second. Aperture: f/4.0. The photo was processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.