Fill Your Well

In a recent conversation with David duChemin, we talked about the ideas of how vision drives story and how important it is to continually, as David put it, “fill your well” creatively in order to tell better stories. So often, we get stuck only reading, listening or watching things that pertain to what we do. As photographers, do you find yourselves drowning in books, magazines  and podcasts that are only about photography? We have a tendency to get so caught up in our profession or craft that we forget to look beyond it for the inspiration that really drives it.

“I think that probably I collect things I wish I’d made…” –Dennis Hopper

It is often by throwing yourself into someone else’s creative process that you become inspired and, as a result, are allowed to grow in your craft. Take for example the video below, in which actor Dennis Hopper talks about how he first became interested in art as a vehicle to inspire his other passion: acting. It was through exploring the process and work of others that his creative trajectory changed and became more interesting. Though most knew him as only an actor, Dennis was also an accomplished painter, photographer, director and art collector.



Five ways to get inspired in or around your city:

1. Visit a museum or gallery

Museums are a fantastic way to spend an afternoon with a variety of different types of art. Many museums, such as The Getty also offer  lectures, discussions, musical performances and more, often for free. If you don’t live near a museum, check your local gallery scene. Local galleries are a great way to not only support a wonderful community, but also a chance to meet some very interesting people.

2. Go see live music or theater

Check the entertainment or weekend section of your local paper to see what’s happening. Try checking out a band or genre of music you’re not familiar with. You may be surprised. As for theater, some of the best theatrical productions I’ve seen have been in smaller venues, which tend to be less expensive than “bigger” shows, but offer just as much heart, craft and entertainment value.

3. Watch movies

This may sound like a no-brainer, but many a photographer has been influenced by film. Lighting, color palettes even composition can often inspire or jump start a photographic project.

4. Read more books

Again, this may sound simple, but consider the following statistics:

  • 33% of U.S. high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
  • 42% of U.S. college graduates never read another book after college.
  • 80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
  • 70% of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

I would even go so far as to say there is something about holding an actual book that goes far beyond the content contained in it. I love my iPad, but simply the smell of a used book store is inspiring to me.

5. Talk to people

Talking to people, particularly people you don’t know, can be wonderfully inspiring. We often get so caught up in our own “stuff”, that the simple act of a stranger saying hello throws us. Slow down, take some time, especially if you’re a street photographer. There are some fantastic stories out there just waiting for a willing listener.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but hopefully it’s enough to get you out of your head and out in the world, filling your own well.



The image used at the top of the article is detail from a piece by one of my favorite artists, Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg continually pushed the boundaries of his art, often abandoning a particular style or technique when it became “too easy to reproduce”. Throughout his career, he explored areas of painting, screen printing, lithography, photography, sculpture and paper making. If you would like to read an incredibly inspiring account of the life and work of Robert Rauschenberg, pick up a copy of Off The Wall: A Portrait of Robert Rauschenberg.

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