iSights – “It is hard to shave your legs when they are covered in goose bumps” – by Janine Graf
Yes!!!! Our fabulous Columnist Janine Graf is back, with a vengeance! Fresh in from taking the Overall Winner Prize at the MIRA Photo Exhbition (see here), she’s on a roll. I just love this article and I’m pretty sure you will too, whether you personally suffer from ‘passion block’ or not. Don’t miss this, take it away Janine…(foreword by Joanne Carter).
“Hi everybody! It’s been a really long time since I’ve written last; I blame my eight month long creative funk, or what I’ve dubbed more appropriately, “passion block” (it started as a simple funk and morphed from there). For this article I’d like to share with you some things I’ve been through and some things I’ve learned over the months; some relate to my passion block and some I thought were just worth sharing, because I have a tendency to over-share. But we artists all go through it; we all have times when we lack the passion. And let’s face it, it’s hard to be creative when you lack passion. My passion for bacon cheeseburgers on the other hand has never subsided, go figure”.
So for starters, last October my family and I moved from the west coast to the east coast for the sole purpose of adventure, and there are several things I’ve learned since moving from Washington State to Massachusetts:
- In the wintertime it is hard to shave your legs when they are covered in goose bumps. I don’t know if it’s entirely the fault of the goose bumps, or if my razorblades were (always) dull, or what, but I’d come out looking like I had road rash. Decided going “au natural” in the winter is the smartest, and warmest, route (can also read as: laziest).
- In the summertime humidity is a game changer. There just aren’t enough oil blotting papers to keep my face shine free. I’ve officially given up. If you see me coming, put on your sunglasses.
- There are amazing birds in New England. If you have ADD and you install a bird feeder outside your kitchen windows, prepare to never get anything done again. Side note: I do appreciate my traveling-tap-dancing-squirrel-circus of a brain. And I’m not the only one who “benefits” from my squirrely brain either; I provide amusement, and a purpose of sorts, for my family while we are out in public. For example, they have created a game and it is loosely called, “Where did mom wander off to now? First one to find her gets M&M’s”. Hint: I can usually be found in an aisle or department with shiny objects, or anything colored orange, or anything containing large amounts of sodium. Also, if there are fish tanks nearby, check that area first.
- But probably most importantly, I learned that just because you move to a new state on a new coast with new scenery, doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you left your creative funk behind. Apparently I packed it up with the rest of my junk and brought it along with me. Harrumph.
When we hit the open road heading east in early October of 2013, I was on the cusp of a creative funk but easily dismissed it. I believed my muse would return with a vengeance as soon as the moving truck was unloaded and life returned to normal. Wrong. I landed on the east coast assuming I’d feel refreshed and awake creatively, eager to get out and start taking pictures of my new home state. Wrong. What actually happened was the exact opposite.
By December, I found myself disinterested in photography, I just didn’t care anymore, and that made me both sad and sort of freaked out. For many years photography was all I thought about it and it gave me immense joy; how could I suddenly no longer care? What the Hell was happening to me??? Not only that, but being a photographer had become a part of my identity, so who in the Hell was I supposed to be now?! So here I sat on a new coast, with no family, no local friends (Connecticut and New Jersey don’t count as “local”), and no identity. Awesome.
On January 1, 2014, I thought that maybe the solution to my dilemma was a 365 photo project. I figured if I was “forced” to take at least one picture a day and upload it somewhere for the masses to see, I’d fall in love with the craft again. Wrong. I ended up resenting the project almost immediately. I think I lasted 22 days and 80% of the images were total garbage.
Winter passed and turned to spring; spring gave way to summer and by this time I was officially done with the entire photographic / artistic process. Done. Game over. I started feeling anxious and unhappy; my husband was getting concerned about me. I told him I was feeling lost. I went for long walks and focused on fixing my now screwed up spaghetti sauce recipe (the ingredients I used to rely on aren’t exactly available over here – jeez, maybe this relocation was a mistake after all?) . . . and I began to wonder what my next hobby could possibly be.
As is the case with all things in life, nothing lasts forever; I started snapping out of my funk about three or so weeks ago and it began with an email. Stefano, one of my very first contacts over on Flickr, wrote to tell me he was worried about my absence. Said he missed seeing my images in his contact stream and wanted to know if I was ok because it wasn’t like me to be absent for so long. That email, that reaching out, really took me aback. I was surprised anyone even noticed I was gone. So I decided to stop feeling so lost, because quite honestly I was starting to hate my identity-lacking self, and uploaded an image to Flickr as I yelled a battle cry, “For Stefano!” It was an image I took while playing in my backyard with a Styrofoam airplane glider. I took that pic for a girlfriend back home months earlier, and I liked it just barely enough to share on Flickr.
I was shocked at the response I received on Flickr. Fellow photographers I really admire and respect wrote to tell me how they missed my work; how happy they were to see me back. Many asked where I had gone off to and several told me not to leave again. And just like “that” [snaps fingers], I felt a rush of newfound enthusiasm I haven’t felt in nearly a year. I didn’t realize how much I missed this photographic community! I felt almost tingly in my fingertips . . . it was either from the newfound enthusiasm or a mild heart attack from all the bacon cheeseburgers.
The following day we drove to Provincetown, Cape Cod and I saw this as a great opportunity to put my newfound enthusiasm to the test. I was standing on the beach and was literally giddy with excitement over the fun I was having taking pictures! I think I even danced a little jig in the sand. I felt whole again! After the long day, I came home, excitedly went through my camera roll, and started going to work on making some surreal type compositions. The images I created from that day trip have become some of my personal favorites to date. It’s only been a few weeks but I feel like I’m already back to my old enthusiastic self. My iPhone camera roll is now full to bursting with new pictures just waiting for me to do something with. Hoooo-ray!
Thank you for reading my little story of self-discovery, or re-discovery, or whatever you’d call what happened to me; an identity crisis? Here’s to a very productive, passionate, and funk free rest of the year, for all of us! Btw, there have been many birds at the feeder and it took me nearly three days to get this article out of my brain and into a Word document . . . the chipmunks chasing one other outside haven’t helped either . . . and my spaghetti sauce still needs tweaking . . . but my legs are smooth so I’ll consider that a win, until wintertime.
Thank you so much for this venue to share my squirrely brain thoughts, Joanne! 😀
Hey, I love that brain, it’s beautiful! x
squirrels provide comic relief. 😉 xoxo
Janine ~ I have loved you and your work for like forever! I am so glad you are out of your funk…and your new images are incredible!!! It always makes my day when I come across a new Graf image on Flickr…and of course I always check those tags!!
Aw, David, I have appreciate you too, like, forever now! I’m so glad we’re friends! 😀 You are so sweet, so thank you! Now let’s think up some interesting tags! 😉 xo
I LOVE THIS JANINE!!! I love the African Queen. What a great writing style, and such great edits!
Thank you Joanne and Janine for this.
Oh, Gina, thank YOU!! 😀 Did you notice while on our photo booth crawl that I didn’t take any pictures while we were out walking around? Yeah, I’m ready for a total do-over now! 😀 xo
Love the images!!! Great style and mood!
Thank you SO much, Martin!
Absolutley Brill, as well as your pictures I now like the person even more. Nice to meet you and see you back to full flow. I am sure the sauce will be perfect one day…..
Thank you so very much, Gerry! I really and truly appreciate it. Oh my poor sauce . . . it was such perfection back on the west coast, and now it’s just “meh”. I’ll keep working on it. 😀
It’s a pleasure to meet you! Great article that I’m sure every artist can relate to. Congrats on the images, they are wonderful
Thank you so much for your kind words, Lorenka!
I really enjoyed reading your post. Thank you for sharing.
Despite not knowing you- I have appreciated your work. Love the whimsical composition. Your vision leaves a lasting impression. A delightful contribution to my photo stream. And Definitly acknowledged in its absence. ( Especially artist like you who represent the begins of mobile arts)
Oh I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed reading it! Thank YOU!
And thank you so much for sharing that with me; I really appreciate your kind words a lot! 😀
Cara Gallardo Weil
Love you J! This was a great read… your honesty will help many out there who are in the same boat. You know I’m a big fan no matter what right? Hugs xoxo
Love you too, Cara! I’ve always appreciated your unconditional support! I’m so happy you like my “keeping it real” (I love that expression) way of conducting myself. Kind of can’t believe I confessed that I let my legs go this winter, but hey, if the rest of the article helps some people feel better then that’s fine by me! 😉 Hugs xoxoxo
OMG my dear Janine … can I hug you … can I send a chocolate latte … can I ship warm boots to New England? FUNK FUNK FUNK is where I have lived … for months … I can feel it slowly melting like the proverbial iceberg … but still hanging on. And to know my hero with hippos has experienced it as well … at the same time … there is a future rainbow over the horizon. This will not last … hooray!!! A much needed post … and if I could meet you and provide you with a BLT I would. Someday soon. Cheers my friend!!
My dear Colleen, you too????!! I will accept that hug, chocolate latte and a BLT! It’s a future date! I’ve learned that a really good creative slump is sort of like a really good rash; it wants to hang on no matter how strong the ointment. 😉 So sorry to hear you are experiencing this right now, but trust me it’ll go away; if mine did, so will yours. I really appreciated your support and friendship since day one. Hang in there!! Mmmuah!
Tracy Mitchell Griggs
I thought I would know what to write by the time I got to this screen :/)
Sometimes one has to sit in places of extreme discomfort and not try to force, fix or solve.
The spirit needs a rest for renewal and rebirth, which you experienced. A cross country move is traumatizing, however it might seem cloaked in “adventure” – I have done it twice – once west (the adventure lasted 15 years) and once east to return “home” – the move east back to “home” was shockingly worse as it was no longer “home” as I had been telling myself. It took two years both times to fully acclimate – everything was disrupted.
So be kind to yourself if you find you are having “moments” or phases. Not to sound obvious or condescending, but disruptions like the one you experienced can be a sign of clinical depression, especially when accompanied by other symptoms. I would invite you to not dismiss this consideration in your future self examinations should you find yourself experiencing something like this in the future, Clinical depression, as sufferers will tell you, is sneaky, and knows no boundaries. If was the first thought that came to me as I was reading your narrative. To end on a positive note, I will only repeat what others above have expressed; delighted your muse finally caught up and found your east coast address. Next time, give her a GPS or at least download the app.
Hi Tracy! Boy, I think it’s an understatement to say that a move across country is traumatizing, as you yourself can attest to. What’s funny is that this wasn’t my first big move to another state; I think I got cocky in a “No worries, I’ve got this!” sort of way. That’ll teach me. I’ve never gone back “home” before, so I can only imagine how that would feel if the return to home was anything but.
Thank you for your concern about clinical depression. Actually, considering all I’ve been through this year, having only misplaced my muse is near short of a miracle. This winter a friend of ours was murdered, then this spring I lost the friendship of someone I loved dearly (still not sure what went wrong there as I never received a reason, but it is what it is), and a close friend of ours was diagnosed with cancer . . . so, yeah, I think I’m a mental super hero of sorts now for having survived all of that, on top of the move, with only having lost my muse; I think “she” was relaxing somewhere along the Mediterranean Sea, drinking sangrias on the beach while I was buried under five feet of snow. Sheesh!
I want a cape, and I’d like it to be orange. 😉
Thanks so much for your concern and comment, Tracy! I appreciate it. 😀
It’s always a pleasure to read what you write using your distinctive style and I’m glad you get out of the tunnel and I have to say that I’m still there…. but I see the light! I’m happy to see your wonderful images again!! 🙂
Aw thank you my Sci-Fi brother! Oh no, you’re in a funk right now? I need to go over to Flickr and see what you’ve posted last. I’m glad you at least see the light at the end of the funk tunnel! Ha, that reminds me of a pic I posted to Flickr a few years ago; it was a shot of light at the end of the tunnel and the title is, “There’s always light at the end of the tunnel . . . unless there’s a cave-in, in which case you’re screwed.” Don’t be screwed, Fabio! 😉 oxo
Did somebody say “bacon cheeseburger”? Is this a food blog now? I’m so confused….
I’m always talking about bacon cheeseburgers, Todd. 😉
Janine, this is such a sweet, funny, too-close- to what I often feel and go through piece. You made me smile-and realize that we need a reunion at Otto’s soon!!! Thank you for this!
Is it evil for me to say I’m glad to hear that it happens to you too, Gina? I’m not glad you get in funks, but glad to know even you’re not immune to them. 🙂 About a year or so ago someone said (on Facebook) that they never get into creative ruts . . . I unfriended them. 😉 I’m so glad you liked the article, Gina, thank youuu! And yes, we DO need an Otto’s reunion! xo
Oh, and yes, I noticed you were not taking photos at Otto’s or anywhere! Mid-October…what do you say? Photobooth tour#2? Redux??
Yep, no picture taking during that get together in April, and no picture taking back in November during that big photo meet up. I kind of felt like a poser / fraud being there with everyone excited about photography and I was all, “Meh”. 😉 I neeeeeeed a Photobooth tour 2.0! I’ll shoot you an email. 😀