On the Lack of Motivation

Originally written on October 29th, 2019 for another platform, so some things might be out of context.

Three months. That's the time I haven't made any photographs with a clear, concise message or story that I want to share with everyone that followed me. I suppose it's clearly potrayed in the last two photographs that I've uploaded - there's nothing accompanying the photographs. No descriptions, no backstory, no motivation, and most importantly: no story at all. Part of me feels like this come from my frustration because of what I did a couple of months back.

Last July, I was travelling to Pulau Tengah, Jambi, Indonesia as a part of a research and documentary team. For me, it was a completely new experience - before then, nearly all of my photographs were "basic" photographs, or just general event documentation. These genres of photography were fairly easy to do, because they had virtually no detailed planning. But then, boom, all of a sudden I'm in the middle of a pretty huge documentary project, and I'm the one responsible to create the photographs that suits the narrative that we wanted to bring. It wasn’t an easy task for me since I never had any experience in doing that, but since I had no choice, I took the shot.

Honestly, most of the things on the field went pretty smoothly. There wasn't any major problems on the field, but there was one moment that really ruined my experience there, and I think reaffirmed my belief on working alone or on a small, trustworthy team as a photographer. I was assigned to make portraits of the local dancers, and the time that I got was only less than an hour.

It was hell. I wasn’t able to focus at all duirng the whole shoot. I had to set my lighting up and do a test shot in mere minutes, because the dancers had to go home before dark. I was planning on making headshots a la Jan Banning's Comfort Women, but what I ended up was chest-level shots that had poor lighting and contrast. During the whole shoot, my friend kept standing next to me, taking videos of the dancers that I was trying to photograph, which causes some of the dancers not making eye contact with my camera.

That experience was dissatisfying enough for me that it kinda put me off doing any conceptual shoots (especially one that involves many people on the set). But then, a couple of weeks after I went back to Yogyakarta, I had to finish my photography project, which was about a "natural, back-to-basics" school in Gunungkidul. It was pretty stressful since I was only a month away from the exhibition, and I can only photograph the activities there on weekends. In the end, the final results weren't up to my expectations and I feel pretty discouraged because of it.

Those two experiences, I think, were significant enough that it kinda reduces my motivation and desire to create new photographs. It was also the point where I realize that any new knowledge that I learned about photography will always make me go back to square one. I still feel a little ember of motivation to photograph living in my mind, though. I hope that one day, that ember turns into a big, huge fire of desire and motivation. Until then, I guess I have to work on it, step by step.