Finding inspiration through subtraction

by Lucas Westcoat February. 19, 2020 1169 views

Creativity isn’t a light switch. It rarely can be called upon at a moment’s notice to deliver, and when forced to do so it often retreats. People have suggested limiting one’s self to a single lens, or a tripod as a way to trigger creativity to spring forth and compensate. While that sometimes works for me, it isn’t guaranteed. This reality often has me swinging like a pendulum between phases of frustration, and bursts of (relative) brilliance. I described this familiar pattern in one of my first posts on this platform.

Recently, I’ve been in the depths of frustration with photography. I’ve gone several months without touching my well-loved 5d mark iii. Of all the opportunities to emerge, a message came from one of my most regular subjects asking for some fresh photos (ironically the same subject featured in the aforementioned blog post).

We spent 90 minutes with one strobe (with a beauty dish), a reflector, and camera. The equipment was relatively minimal and very familiar, the subject was also familiar. I was searching for a hit of something new and fresh to spark something within me, and there was little to consider. The one new piece of this equation was the small, worn, and windowless space we were in.

The studio was a blank-slate theater. Black drapes hung from all of the walls. The floor was black except for where the scuffs and cracks showed the underlying wood and concrete. The chairs, apple boxes, and ceiling were black. There was absolutely nothing about the setting I could rely on to help give flare to these photos.

After we got started, I found I was directing my subject differently, finding variation with movement and facial expression where I might otherwise look to a new backdrop or changed setting. The resulting images are unlike any others in my portfolio and would've been unlikely to turn out this way if I hadn't been forced to compensate for the austere studio space.

A lesson learned for me, and humbly shared with this community.

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