I’m going to go a little off the beaten-path for this week’s inspiration article. Typically, we spotlight the works from our Flickr group. But this weekend, I learned – or rather I realized what I had already known – about one of the most obvious forms of inspiration: Location.
This past weekend, I met up with fellow photographers for a photo walk at Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP for short), an abandoned prison in Philadelphia. The event was organized and hosted by Scott Wyden Kivowitz (@scottwyden for you twitter users), a professional photographer from New Jersey. Now I have a bit of a confession to make: Despite growing up in the shadow of ESP – despite its widespread appeal to photographers – I had never been before this weekend. Now I am kicking myself.
Lately, I’ve been in a bit of a funk with my photography. My primary job has kept me at the office late hours as workloads are building and schedules are unpredictable. What little spare time I’ve had hasn’t been spent with my camera in-hand. Sure, I have a lot of ideas in my journal. But sometimes, you just want to get away from it all to jump-start your creativity again. What I should have done was make the time to get away – a day off to wander about the city, an afternoon to shoot at a nearby park. But I dragged my feet on taking the time. That is, until Scott came along and organized the trip to ESP. Suddenly, getting away was an event with a set date and time. I registered immediately and circled the date on my calendar. I was getting away.
For those of you unaware, ESP is a stabilized ruin. Some of the areas have been restored only to the point that they are safe to tourists. But most of the areas suffer from severe decay and neglect. Doors sag, roofs on the verge of caving in, peeling paint and rusty stairways. The old prison has a lot of character. The perfect playground for a photographer. The photo walk itself took about three hours, then we all went to grab some lunch at a nearby pub. I returned after lunch to shoot some more. And despite all my time there, I’m convinced I could go back again and again and again. I got lots of great shots, tried a few experiments and had a lot of fun.
A specific location can be all the inspiration and motivation you need. Inspiration garnered from browsing the galleries of strangers or reading books cannot compare to the amount of inspiration you’ll find within yourself by visiting such a location. The destination should be a place that you find interesting – even without the camera. If you find a location that is appealing to you, then your creative juices will flow.