Jean-François Cléroux | Flâneur & Lens Creative
Different Lens, Different Story!

Motivation vs. Inspiration or, “A Kick in the Ass”

“L’accordéoniste” (The Accordion Player) Pedestrian Bridge in Paris, France.
(C) 2022 Jean-Francois Cleroux

People often read photography books or take classes or workshops to “get inspiration,” as they say. When asked why they are not shooting, ”I need inspiration” is often the answer. They would rather sit on the couch, watch TV or do anything but head out.

From experience, firsthand, and based on fellow photographers’ responses when questioned, it is often not inspiration they need but rather “motivation” they need. Or what I like to call “A Kick in the Ass.”

I have seen this many times. If I call someone up and ask them to head out and shoot, it’s not the inspiration I give them that makes them come out; it’s the motivation, the little nudge or push. I have even had photographers not want to attend a weekend workshop they have already paid for. After a little coercing, they relent. Usually, after I remind them about the money they spent, is money, or the potential wasted money, inspiration, or motivation?

I have often thought about why that is. Why do they use “I need Inspiration” as an excuse? The answer is  L O V E.  Ok, not hot wild passionate love of another person, but passion for the photography you do. I have found that those wannabe street photographers usually only head out in groups or with friends. They never head out on their own. On the other side, passionate street shooters tend to want to head out all the time. When in town in Vancouver or any other city, I always want to head out and shoot. I have even found myself heading out without a camera just to “observe” people, the streets, the city, and the hustle.

Even in the non-street genres, many “photographers” only head out with others. It’s not photography but rather the social aspect of shooting with someone else or with a group or club that many people love. And frankly, that’s OK.

But, as an active instructor, teacher, judge, and photographer, I have noticed firsthand that photographers who often head out on their own create the majority of the best images I see, whether at a club, in competition, or within artists’ circles. By heading out, I mean shooting on their own, even just in a studio or darkroom.

These photographers are not loners, well, not all of them, but rather they are fixated on their task of shooting or creating. It’s the photography and not the social aspect that drives them. It’s the love of the craft and the art that both motivates and inspires them. It is easy heading out when you love to do something or be in a situation or location that allows you to photograph what you love, whether in the wilderness photographing bears, on the coast shooting seascapes, or in the city shooting the streets.

Whether these photographers love the situation or location more than doing the photography itself, I do not know the answer. Still, I will get some answers from fellow photographers in the weeks and months ahead.

Where do you fit in? Is it about photography, travel, location, friends, or social interaction? Do you find yourself heading out on your own or just with others? Is it Inspiration or Motivation you need? Do you even know what the difference is? Let us know.

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