Part of my motivation behind The Lightbulb Project was to push both myself and other creatives to work outside of their normal styles. It’s easy to get stuck in our usual styles of creating, I know I’m guilty of it to. I get very comfortable creating in my own style and workflow but I’ve noticed that in the last few months I’ve noticed that it’s actually limiting me.
When I first started taking photos I would dabble in all different styles while learning how to express myself through imagery. I found that because I hadn’t clearly defined “my style” I wasn’t hindered or pressured to create in a certain way and it was easier to dip into styles as often as I liked. Sometimes they didn’t always work out but even so, it allowed me to have a bit more of an open mind while coming up with ideas.
Over the years as my own personal style developed I felt a bit more pressure to stick with what felt like “my style” and in doing so I closed those tiny doors in my own creativity that led to different ideas or ways of shooting. I didn’t want to be too out of what “joel does” and so I stayed in my lane.
With The Lightbulb Project though, I want to give people (and myself) the chance to safely explore new themes and styles and this conversation has come up a lot in the last few days. I had randomly assigned this week’s theme to be Black and White in my calendar and it was perfect that while the conversation of “style” was going on I had chosen something I don’t often shoot. So I decided to fully embrace it and shoot a concept I don’t normally explore.
With Halloween coming up I thought a good way to express Black and White without just turning the saturation down on the image, then I thought of a skeleton or skull. I picked up some halloween makeup on the way to a photography meetup with friends in Pennsylvania and thought “I’ll figure it out on the way”
Slowly the image started piecing together. I spent about 30 minutes painting my face in the hallway mirror before the group of us headed out to a forested park with some cool stone walls. In the pile of props that everyone brought were small mirrors and butterflies (of course!) and I was drawn to both.
I wanted my image to convey some hope or lightness instead of just dark. I wanted to play in a new style but not dive head first into full on creepy or scary. So I started shooting, just freely as my friends watched. It was entirely different than my normal process. Shooting my face up close which I’ve lately been more uncomfortable with, shooting with facepaint on, shooting while others are watching in a style that isn’t my comfort zone. It was all different. But I loved it.
Eventually I settled on a story of life and death mixed with a bit of a spin on midas touch/death eater. I wanted this skull to be sort of this misunderstood being, something that seems scary but looks for the beauty in the world. And when he touches something, most people assume he’s broken it but in reality he’s allowing something beautiful to happen. A chain reaction of beauty.
It’s definitely out of my comfort zone, it’s definitely different than things I’ve done recently but it’s also become an image I really love because of that. Because I didn’t just fall into my “joel shoes” and do what I could do easily, I tried something new and it was a test.
Now to wash my face for the 10th time.