Do photographers have slumps?

Seems reasonable, but I don’t think there’s a great body of research on the subject.

Last week, I had two appointments with winemakers to do portraits and I felt like Tim Lincecum on the hill without his fastball. I had nothing, not an idea in my head. I couldn’t seem to find a situation that worked; even when I had a decent location I couldn’t find an interesting composition. It wasn’t just the fastball, couldn’t get the curve or slider over either.

What is it, what causes it, and how do you deal with it? At the time I just kept pushing, hoping for a gift that didn’t come. In both cases I kept moving and moving my subjects until I sensed that time was up. If I had a manager, he would have pulled me long before I quit. When I got home I didn’t really need to look at the photos, I knew.

I imagine it’s somewhat akin to writer’s block; it feels like there’s a vacancy where your creativity used to be. It’s one of those dreams where you show up late for school and realize you’re naked. Maybe it’s not enough preparation, not taking it seriously, maybe I was just tired or forgot my medication.

There’s fear too, that maybe I’ve just run out of ideas, have nothing left to give, or maybe I’ve exhausted the subject. Or wait, here’s another, ADD. Just can’t seem to concentrate. Watching Lincecum this year, I thought that was his problem, maybe it’s mine. That might also explain why learning French has been so hard.

That’s enough of that, what I need here is a new approach to portraiture with a consistent style that I can exploit through a body of work. I don’t think we’re talking Avedon white backgrounds, but I’m not sure. The environmental, let’s go out to the vineyards thing just isn’t working anymore.

So send me your suggestions, or prescriptions, I need to get back out on the mound soon.

In the meantime, here’s something I did recently that I do like.

Potter’s Hands ©2012 Ron Scherl

Quiet Period

I haven’t written recently but I have been busy. I managed to open a bank account although I’m not allowed to have checks because I don’t have a salary. I can, however have a debit card so that should suffice. I bought a car – 1997 Renault Twingo – insured it and even, in a clear victory over the forces of bureaucracy, managed to register it.

So now it’s time to get to work, starting with evening walks in the vineyards. I wanted to revisit sites I had photographed in January just to set the scene and because I think the land and a connection to it is a key element of this story.

This is Marcel Buhler’s vineyard in January, looking like an open-air witches’ graveyard:

Vines in winter
Grenache Vines in Winter: ©2011 Ron Scherl

And this is the same vineyard today:

vineyard in August
Grenache on the Vine ©2011 Ron Scherl

Sorry, took a short break there to get a glass of wine.

These are Marcel’s vineyards and he is one of the people who represents the changes going on here, in wine and, as a result, in the society as a whole. He is Swiss and came here to make wine. Why are people coming here to make wine and what results from that? Why here and now? There’s a glut of wine, who needs more? What happens to the economy of a rural village? How does it affect the society beyond those involved in wine? And what creates the passion? Because this is backbreaking work and the rewards are uncertain.

Here’s Marcel pruning in January:

Marcel Buhler pruning the vines in his vineyard in Maury
Marcel Buhler pruning vines: ©2011 Ron Scherl

OK, I’m going to try to answer these questions by talking to Marcel and others, some new to the area, some who have always been here. I’m going to try to capture portraits of the people and the village in photos and words, but keep an eye on the land. It’s old and tough and difficult to work. It’s beauty is hard, not seductive like a Caribbean beach or a Hawaiian sunset, but it’s always part of the picture.