Music as Inspiration – Why I Need to Grow Before I Continue


A few weeks ago, I placed a challenge upon myself to try to use music as an inspiration for my photos.  I thought it was a great idea and tried to accomplish a lot.  Perhaps a bit too much.  The bad news is that it didn’t work out.  In the weeks that followed, I spent time trying to find songs that would inspire my photograph.  I quickly learned that I have not yet matured as a photographer capable of finding inspiration in such abstract sources.

If you’re interested, I go into more detail below the cut.

At heart, I feel that my curious nature pulls me into analyzing everything, including my own failures.  In many cases, it has helped me to understand myself, which is always a good thing.  Normally, I don’t share my analysis, but I feel that sharing it at this time is important.  First, it helps if I feel a little altruistic: I would like to believe that my analytical look as to why this project failed will help you to better understand yourself.  Second, and perhaps a bit on more of a selfish note, providing something of a explanation helps me to justify my failures.  I guess the idea is that if I learned something, then it was a productive exercise.  So lets talk about what worked, what didn’t work and my hopes for future projects of this nature.

What worked:

Before the Shutter is Pressed – While I don’t feel I captured many great images, I gained experience with my camera.  Using your camera is a bit like a music instrument (an appropriate analogy, this day):  If you do not practice, you will lose your skills.  This time around, I feel that I not only stayed in shape, but I feel that I actually learned a couple of time saving tricks.

Planning – This project required me to think differently.  With landscapes and architecture, my primary muses, I’m in the habit of identifying a subject well before I determine the appropriate angle, camera setup, and lighting.  With this project, however, my intentions were the very first thing I determined.

The Review Process – When I have a project like this, I feel that I am more critical of my work.  The more I review my own works, the more I learn.  Most of the time, however, I have focused on technical aspects of my work:  Exposure, focus, saturation, and so on.  But I found that when I was trying to review my works for a project like this, I first looked at the aesthetics, then I evaluated the intent, and the technical aspects were last to be considered. I think I need to consider this type of evaluation for the future…start broad, then drill down to the details.  Too often, I think I missed the “gut reaction”.  This project opened my eyes.

My Failure

Honestly, I think my shortcomings for this project can be attributed to artistic vision, or lack thereof.  There’s an old saying about art where you need to first learn the rules, and then learn how and when to break them.  Yeah, I’m still learning the rules.

Using music as a basis for insipration, I am naturally drawn to the abstract.  Literal interpretations of the music into photos yield weak results.  For example, I could easily take a picture of a wall to represent Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  But that doesn’t sound very interesting, and it wouldn’t look good either.  But abstract imagry is not my strength.  I feel that I have an awful lot to learn before I can let go of the rules and deal with the abstract.  And for that reason, I feel that I have a lot of growing to do before I am able to successfully approach this project again.


I intend to come back to this project.  It may have been too complicated and challenging for me at my current skill level, but it could prove to be interesting a few years down the line after I have acquired much more experience and much more wisdom.  For the time being, I will approach projects with much simpler and much more specific goals.


About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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