How did you react when you read that word? It’s a virtue that has rather gone out of fashion in an age known for ‘instant gratification’, along with words like discipline and fortitude. All photographers are aware that, if you are struggling to get images you are pleased with, it is all too easy to put your camera to one side, drop your latest project and move on to something else. Perseverance - it’s the quality which is needed when there is that gap between what you are producing creatively and what you wish you were producing.
Alex Norris Webb, a street photographer, describes his experience of the need for persistence and perseverence like this “Street photography is 99.9% about failure. So often I feel defeated by the street. I sometimes find, however, that if I keep walking, keep looking and keep pushing myself, eventually something interesting will happen … it’s almost as if I had to go through all those hours of frustration and failure in order to get to the place where I could finally see that singular moment at day’s end.”
So what do you do when the joy is leaking out of your photography? I have found that, to recover that place where creativity is a joy again, I have first to remind myself that my work, whether professional or for my own enjoyment, has potential. To help me cultivate perseverance I have employed various strategies:
Meeting up with other photographers to share tips
Joining a class (whether online or physical)
Attending my local camera club
Rewarding yourself with a treat, for example a morning photographing piers definitely progresses more easily when accompanied by ice cream or a bag of chips
Watching photographers’ clips on You Tube
Choosing a playful project (eg letters of the alphabet, shapes, colours)
I have done the last two successfully by photographing pictures with orange in them, and spotting circular shapes in my immediate environment.
Similarly, I have found riches in persevering with the creative endeavours of others. Picasso’s Guernica became even more moving when I took the time to find out more about the context it was painted in. Something that was already powerful took on deeper significance. There are many painted images of Christ on the cross, but it was one by Salvador Dali that I found impacted me the most. The perspective is stunning. I am generally not a Dali fan but again, by persevering with his work, I have come across what is (to me) a gem.
I cannot imagine the perseverance and imagination needed by Barbara Hepworth or Michelangelo when faced with a lump of stone! What they did not have to contend with was all the likes on Instagram and Facebook. Over the ages some of our most creative people have had to persevere without external encouragement. Think of Van Gogh working away but not acclaimed in his lifetime, for example.
Finally, some quotes from artists that I hope will give strength to your creative endeavours ...
Paul Gauguin: “I shut my eyes in order to see
Henri Matisse: “Creativity takes courage”
Salvador Dali: “A true artist is not one who is inspired but who inspires others”
Frida Kahlo: “I paint flowers so they will not die”