A Creative Falling Out

Four years ago I was a working fine art photographer with a photo kit that so many dream to own someday. I was extremely fortunate, to say the least. But today I shoot with a Canon SL1, the lowest SLR on the almighty Canon totem pole. You might be wondering how I got here? Or what happened? I wonder that sometimes too, but for me it makes sense now — although it may have taken some years to realize it.

Roads Traveled — Craig Melville

To clarify for the camera nerds out there my kit that I had acquired over the course of about 10 years consisted of a 5D Mk II, 24–70mm f/2.8L, 70–200mm f/4L, 17–40 f/4L, and a 100mm Macro just to name my favorite pieces.

Traveling back to early 2013 I was working full time as a fine art photographer doing landscape photography and selling in local galleries. I did alright for myself, I didn’t make it big but I got by. Unfortunately I was quickly becoming unsatisfied with the work I was creating. I realized that I was succumbing to the burden of business. I was deeply analyzing every sale, recording trends, analyzing profits, even going as far as developing my own software to track sales trends by subject, print size, color, frame, location, day of the month, etc. In hindsight I was learning what it took to be an “artist” and perhaps I was on track to become very successful, but at what cost…

This is when I decided I needed to throw out the data, ignore the sales and create what I wanted to create. This in turn created a new problem.

I decided to simply put my best selling photos into my galleries and stop shooting new photos based on sales data. I had a series in mind that I wanted to shoot that I had planned on being about a month’s worth of work, easy enough. I could afford mentally and financially to let go for a month. A month turned into 2, then 3, then 4 and before I knew it 10 months had passed and I didn’t have the series I wanted. I had a series, but it wasn’t what I wanted, and the whole point of this exercise was to create what I wanted to create.

After 10 months creating this series, I am basically still at square one, I’m getting desperate knowing that the one year mark is approaching quickly. I had no set deadline for this project but mentally speaking, spending one year on something with no results can be soul crushing. I knew I had to do something big to provoke the creative powers from within. That’s when I had the idea to sell all of my gear.

Why did I need to sell my gear? Simply put I needed a change. And at the time I felt I needed the change so badly that I didn’t even want my old gear hanging around the house. Not only did I want change, I wanted simplification, I needed pure creativity and I decided eliminating as much technicality as possible would help that.

After almost zero deliberation I knew that I needed the Fuji X100s, why, I have no idea, but it had an allure that I could not resist. It also had a “look” to the image that I felt really pleased the eye.

So I sold all my Canon gear and bought my x100s. It was an amazingly liberating experience. And it worked. I spent the next 2 months creating the series I wanted to create. It is one of my proudest accomplishments. I was able to show the series at one of my galleries shortly after completion, and the response was astounding. Unfortunately no sales though. I left the gallery several months later for personal reasons and subsequently the fine art world as well.

The series had completely drained me, I had spent 14 months on one project. But contrary to what it seems the experience actually drew me into art even further, it started a fire in me that still burns. I knew I needed time away to recover from the project, so I took that time, and now I’m back at it, rested and ready to go.

This brings us to today, a point where I am at another crossroad. I feel as though I have exhausted the Fuji X100s and I need to move on, the problem is this time I have nearly zero budget to buy a new camera. That is why I am starting this new blog series, a series that will follow me on my journey to create the ultimate budget camera kit, a kit that will be accessible to the masses and with any luck will afford me the opportunity to create another photo series that I can truly be proud of. I hope you will follow along, if not for the budget friendly tips for the art.