I took these photos a few weeks ago while I was overwhelmed in school, work, my personal life, feeling like I was alone and unsure of how to proceed. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with apertures and finicky tripods, much less capture and memorialize my mood. But I needed an instagram for that night (steady content correlates with engagement which correlates with a feeling of success, something my overtired brain craved), so I set up my camera, put on clothing that made me feel like the best version of myself and pretended everything was alright.
Creativity is a tricky beast. Sometimes it strikes in moments when it should come: after the second coffee, a good night’s sleep, a motivational Nike advertisement. Sometimes it comes half way through a fourteen hour plane ride, the moment your phone battery dies, while you’re reclining in the dentist’s chair. For me, the creative impulse is that moment of clarity when all you want to achieve seems within reach, like the world, though big, isn’t quite so scary anymore.
The first photo is one of the best pictures of myself I’ve ever taken. One of the best pictures, period, that I’ve ever taken. The colors are faded but strong, the lines unexpected yet approachable, the mood serene and joyful. I love the way the light hits my face, blending profile into wall, no clear end of beginning. The moment I took it, I was done with the shoot, the rush of creativity over but leaving me behind with the memento of a photo I could love.
Looking at these photos, I’m proud. Not just of their aesthetic or artistic merit, which still shows that I’ve got lots to learn when it comes to photography. But mainly because I can be both the girl who’s writing three papers and studying for midterms and unsure of everything around her and still be the girl pausing for a moment, eyes almost shut, taking in a breath, hand on her hip while she feels the moment. Social media, photos, art, can all lie, but they can also reveal another side of the story, an alternative, often airbrushed narrative, but one that reminds us that things might turn out okay.
I had the opportunity to attend a talk with American Ballet Theater Principal dancer Isabella Boylston a few weeks ago, and her biggest piece of advice for young dancers was to keep creating. She talked about how as a beginning dancer she used to come up with choreography all the time, to constantly be creating and making something new. As she rose through the ranks, she stopped, and only recently remembered how importance the act of creation is. Though I won’t be slipping on pointe shoes any time soon, the core of the importance of continuous creation stuck with me.
It’s impossible to know when creativity will strike, when creation will result in something good. It’s not about the headspace, the gear, the ideal conditions. Sometimes, just the act of creation can be enough.
Note to self: keep making things.