Why Photographing What Matters Unleashes Your Full Creative Potential

October 10, 2017  •  1 Comment

Tim Layton With 8x10 Large Format CameraTim Layton With 8x10 Large Format Camera I have been going through an interesting time in my creative journey, and I thought sharing some of my personal thoughts with you may help you too and provide an opportunity to reflect on the idea of why photographing what matters is so important.  


Anytime you have been doing something for a very long time; it is easy to get bored, distracted, off track, or even disinterested.  I have experienced all of the above over the last 30 years as a fine art darkroom printmaker. 

As I have been reflecting on the fall season and thinking about winter, I realized that continuing to photograph the subjects that matter to me has been the key to all of my success on every level.  

Setting aside the financial aspects for a moment, I have always photographed my ideas and passions versus trying to create a product that was marketable.  While this hasn't always lead to financial success, it is the one thing that keeps me creating new work and moving forward after 30 years.  I call it failing forward for all the right reasons.  I started to wonder how many other photographers are experiencing the same type of thoughts, feelings, and emotions?

In regards to financial success, no one can define that metric for you.  If you are a full time professional, then you may be more likely pressured to do things for income versus for other more noble reasons, however, if you let the financial drivers dictate your photography, only bad things will happen in the long run.  


I can only photograph subjects and scenes that have a deeper meaning and purpose to me.  I find it very difficult and undesirable to just go out and photograph "pretty things" and make prints for sale.  I believe that I am at my best when I have a purpose in my work and it is aligned to something bigger than myself.  

For example, I have been creating platinum prints of the historic architecture in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this year.  It has been an interesting and also very disappointing experience for me.  I was originally motivated to create the archival platinum prints because wildfires swept through the park last year and came very close to destroying a lot of the historic buildings and cabins.  I thought this was a good wakeup call and I needed to do something before the history was lost forever. 

I have been shocked at the amount of defacement to the historic buildings and I wasn't prepared for that.  It is beyond my ability to reason why someone would take the time to visit a national park and then deface the very thing they went to see.  I am now standing back to think if I want to include these horrible defacements in my prints or if I want to let the project go.  I am not sure what I am going to do at this point.  

I believe that photographing what matters is the key to unlocking my full potential.  The magic happens by "doing" things.  So many times,  I have unlocked something magical by just staying in the game and creating.  If I weren't inspired to create the prints in the first place, my interest would fall to the side and I wouldn't actively stay engaged.  

Send me a note or submit a comment below and tell me about your thoughts and experiences.

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