The Well Worn Path Kills Creativity

One of the traps I seem to fall into quite often with street photography is walking the well worn path and expecting to find inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, beauty can manifest itself around every corner & cross walk, but as a place becomes more and more familiar to us, our brains tend to dull the repetitive stimulus. Case in point: your first apartment. It probably smelled like a Denny’s dumpster in the summer but you never really noticed. I’m half joking but I do think it’s a good way to make my point; as your brain receives the same daily stimulus, it becomes your baseline as your senses adjust; the same goes for your visual environment.

Yellow Car, William J Simpson, 2017

Yellow Car, William J Simpson, 2017

For me, my route is always up Market Street, hang a right on Stockton and down into China Town. Same storefronts. Same signs and landmarks, and often times I find myself in China Town having not pressed the shutter once! That’s called auto pilot folks and when it kicks in you are no longer observing. Your mind is assuming what’s next, both subject & setting. Break this habit on your next walk! Head down the “boring” street - every initial reaction, do the opposite - leave the bustle of high traffic areas and see what presents itself on unfamiliar avenues. In my opinion, having a clear head free of expectations or end results is the best mind state to be in when creatively photographing on the street.

On the contrary, photographing the same stretch of real estate over the course of years can be an awesome long-term project idea. What’s old will become new again as fashion, technology and trends are constantly changing - see what you can produce by setting some long-term photographic goals on the same corner or part of town.