The “i” Word

Inspiration.

In the past few months I’ve done a few interviews with some blogs and online journals and the question “What inspires you” seems to be the most commonly asked question. I wish that I had a simple enough answer, but I find that much like other areas of my life, it’s a theme that doesn’t have a particularly concrete answer. I would say that at least once a day I ask myself that very question; “Where does my inspiration come from?”

Sometimes I think that the answer could be as simple as “the World!” or “my imagination!” But it’s more than that, sure I’m inspired by nature but trees and water call out more to me than rocks and squirrels do.  It’s broad at times but it’s also equally specific, if that makes sense.

Yesterday while walking through the forest, a place that does tend to spark my imagination and inspiration, I was thinking about this very topic and trying to form a solid answer. I’m inspired by both the ideas of reality and how we can bend it. I’m inspired by taking something ordinary and making it extraordinary. Take for instance, a coffee mug. On it’s own it’s a coffee mug, a recognizable shape and size but what if you make it HUGE, or what if you have 200 of them rather than one or two, or what if you make it fly or float or balance in a stack that looks like one breath will knock it over. The idea of something so normal being seen in a way that seems impossible inspires me, it’s like being a magician or an illusionist.  

Aside from creating those impossible possibilities, nature does inspire me. I’m fortunate to live in an area of the world that provides me with an almost endless expanse of trees, mountains, lakes, fields, and every size of animal from mouse to grizzly bear. Growing up in this environment has given me a deep respect for nature and the natural world around me and has now provided me with the opportunity to incoporate itself into my work. If photography is my art form, the natural world would be my canvas. There are few things more beautiful to me than an open field with a wide view in the background, these spaces inspire me to fill them with imagery. Like a dancer wants to fill a stage with movement, I want to fill these natural stages with art, even if it is temporary or digital.

Another inspiration for me is popular culture, not so much in the broad sense but certain parts of it. I like taking something like the Harry Potter books or Kermit the Frog and finding a way to interpret them in my own way, putting them into my life or me into their world. It makes it seem like the line between reality and fantasy doesn’t exist. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a HUGE fan of all things Disney (when I was a kid and asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always ‘a disney animator’) and I love being able to take the imagery from those films and incorporate them into my life. For me it’s like taking a recipe and adding a few different ingredients to turn into something just a little bit different, it’s a new way to see something that already exists. I think people like Walt Disney and Jim Henson  are good examples of artists liked to blur the line between reality and fantasy.

Inspiration is something that constantly evolves, what inspires you one day might not inspire you the next. You may walk past the same tree or field or doorway every day but maybe one day you’ll see it in a new light, with a new perspective and it will provide you with a bolt of inspiration. For me, I try to pay attention to the small stuff, those coffee mugs, a stack of books, a leaf. They’re all normal on a basic level but if you look at them with a slightly skewed vision, they can inspire you to create something brand new.

Now that you know where my inspiration comes from and what inspires me, I’d love to know what inspires you?

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9 thoughts on “The “i” Word

  1. Well, this is indeed not an easy question…
    First I want to say, that I like your spelling style. I love your shots and follow you for a long time. I wish I would have your photoshop skills…

    I get my inspiration from my daily routine. Everytime I go out of my home I look around me. I try to keep every little detail of my ambience. On the other hand inspires me the photos from other photographer. To see all this creative stuff from the flickr universe is an awesome inspiration. To keep my ideas I write little notes in my iPod this is a good way for me to keep the inspiration from the environment in my mind.

    Excuse me for my bad english:D
    If you want, you can watch my pictures on http://www.flickr.com/photos/in-dependence/

    Thanks for sharing your ideas!
    Greetings Nico

  2. First at all, I wanna thank you, I definitely have found a new blog to read all the time. It’s good to see how your imagination-brain team works, and it makes me understand better when i see your pictures. To me, It is the concept of surrealism what insipires me, i think in the same way you make it, for example, what if i put an elephant inside this room, or how would it be if you could see another earth from this earth. Anyways, thanks for your posts.

    Here, you have avid blog-reader, big hugs.
    Travis.

  3. The whole idea of taking something ordinary and making it extra ordinary is what inspires me. I work with models so the shoots are different than what you do, Joel. I have to get all my shots done in 3-4 hrs and then I’ll spend months going over them and making composites.

    It’s fun and very crazy because you have to get all your material in one sitting! Someday Harold and I would love to come to Canada and you can show me how to do it in real life.

    I find one of my biggest sources of inspiration is Flickr. I have some amazing friends there and their streams constantly inspire me. : )

    http://mtphoto.us

  4. well for me, you are on of the most inspiring people in the world. as for inspiring things, that is a hard one. I would say just seeing/smelling new things and places gets my inspiration flowing.

  5. Well I said in a previous comment that your photos inspires me but now that I’ve re-read this post, I realized that I feel inspired every time I feel something extraordinary by looking, listening, tasting something. I mean, there are times when I experience something that touches a deep place inside my soul and that little something makes me feel like I’m having a revolution of ideas in my head and then I feel an adrenaline rush.

    Us artists, are always looking for inspiration, is a basic part of any creative process.

    Greetings from mexico to all the blog buddies.

  6. It really depends…the other day I stumbled across this funky house sale…I was inspired by all the vintage goodies. Lately the weather has been inspiring me. The fall colors and the wind… And then there are all my photo buddies that continue to push me!

  7. So many things inspire me: my children, music, light slanting through my window, the energy of being in a space filled with art. Gardens and nature inspire me as well; they’re my current photographic “muse.”

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