On Being Creative

PhotoMuse Austin 2011
Somewhere over New Mexico


I hope you had a wonderful start to your holiday season


I hope as well, that you don’t mind the gaping silence since the last post.

PhotoMuse Austin 2011
Morning light, Hyde Park, Austin

Truth is, the trip to Austin exceeded expectations in every way, and then some. Here I am, three weeks later, still decompressing and working through all the ideas, inspiration, anxieties, hopes, dreams and fears that came up during the week. It was intense, exhausting and powerful, and these words that I’m conjuring do little justice to express the depth of the experience.

As my silence showed, we didn’t have alot of time to post scenic “postcards from the road”. Every ounce of energy went into talking, doing, living and breathing all things photography, from ‘boring’ stuff like photo archiving and backup options to getting awestruck at a presentation of George Krause‘s work. The week was billed as a “spiritual and creative tune-up”, but oh, it was more than that. So much more. PhotoMuse was my coming out party – as a creative person. I came home realizing that I no longer wanted to be ‘theoretically creative’, to paraphrase Hal Fields in Beginners, that it’s time to stop living in my mental space of “If onlys” and start living in the world of “Whys, Hows and Why Nots”.

PhotoMuse Austin 2011
The "Penny Sandwich": Ed Zwadzki, Penny De Los Santos and Denise Woodward

When you spend an entire week within an ecosystem of creativity that pushes you beyond your limits, and in the process, understand yourself a little better, growth happens. Midway through the week, I realized that I had become more sensitive to the world around me. I started to slow down as I began to really *see* my environment, and to take my time with making pictures. I even started to say “make a photo” instead of “take a photo”. I finally understood, what it means when a photographer says “it’s about seeing”. Because what she really means, is that photography is about paying attention – to your subject, your environment, and to yourself, the photographer, to what disturbs and confronts you and piques your curiosity and fuels you. It takes training and constant, dedicated practice, but it’s a practice that’s not only about mastering the latest gear or software, it’s a practice that trains your eye and heart to be more sensitive, that trains you to open up and be more receptive to what the world has to offer, and to be patient while the process happens. It trains you to learn to tune in to yourself, to be comfortable when you’re uncomfortable, and to transcend that. Photography, is, ultimately, about the craft of getting in touch with yourself, your vision and what you have to say.

PhotoMuse Austin 2011
Sisters: Winifred Simon and Janet Sanders

No reflection on PhotoMuse would be complete without mentioning the talented group of people I had the fortune to meet. I realize that this starts to gild the lily of effusiveness in an already dramatic and gushing post, but believe me when I say that the words ‘talented’ and ‘generous’ barely touch the surface. In just five days, they showed me what a powerful photograph looks like, and what it means to be a part of a community, in a real and honest way. Considering my historical aversion to the ‘C’ word, its use in this context is no small thing. I saw it at work in Oregon, and I saw it at work here too, only this time I got to be a part of it, from beginning to end. And it continues, even today. The relationships forged over that week were seeds in fertile soil – for us as a group and as individuals – the best gift I received out of that week were the friends I made as well as the gift of seeing.

When Thanksgiving rolled around last week I thought about how far things have come in just one year, and how immensely grateful I am for all of it. Last year, I was celebrating the gift of being alive, and while its still relevant, I can’t deny that the biggest gift of 2011 has been the gift of community, whether it’s here, Etsy, Twitter, Instagram or on Facebook.

I’ll be back in the next couple of days with a light and easy recipe that will fuel you through the madness of holiday shopping and baking. Till then, have fun browsing through a slideshow of our work from the week, and a wider selection of images on my site. My project was to document the lives and stories of a local band, and photographing them in their sleep counts as the most outrageous thing I’ve ever done. So far.

PhotoMuse Austin 2011
Gathering, PhotoMuse 2011


  1. Beautiful post, D. Can’t wait to go check out the band photos on your site. It has been a pretty monumental year — don’t you remember just sitting (was it at Out the Door or??) and you saying you think you want to work on your photography more?! Now look at you! Truly amazing. xox.

  2. What a gift. I felt a simliar creative rejuvenation where I had a week we me and my camera in a place that was completely new to me. It was so inspring and fulfilling.
    So happy you had this time and that is is pushing and growing you. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. That had to have been an unforgettable and incredible experience. I wanted so badly to sign up, so I’m thrilled to live vicariously through you. I’m looking forward to spending some time browsing through the links. The idea of embracing my own creativity is something I’m working on as well, so your intro really resonated with me. I’m looking forward to seeing your site and creativity evolve. I’ve really enjoyed it so far. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I really liked reading this post, Danielle—so much so, that even though I read it this morning, I’m still thinking about it and still processing what exactly I think about it. Here’s to seeing, really seeing the world around us and the people in it and to making photos as we do. Love that.

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  6. Whoa! I just stumbled on your site and now I am truly crying in my cup of tea as I read this. I signed up for this workshop in advance and had to cancel, one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I will be following your blog, and am so grateful to be able to glimpse your experience.! I hope to be able to take a week for myself and my camera in 2012. In the meantime, I will feast my eyes on your images and just keep on taking baby steps. Thank you!

  7. So inspiring! I recently embarked on a new career path as a writer and consultant and definitely relate to the challenges and rewards associated with coming into contact with and then articulating one’s own vision. Scary but so satisfying tosee what comes from exploring it. Your photography is beautiful and I am glad that this experience was so rewarding for you. Keep up the good work.

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