Have you heard of the concept of flow-writing? Flow-writing is a writing activity where you set a timer (usually in the range of 15-25 minutes) and write without stopping for its entire duration. The idea behind it is that, by letting your writing flow without stopping to think, you tap into the subconscious part of your mind. That can help unlock clues to things that have occupied your conscious mind, provide answers to problems you may have or simply give you some insights about your life. When you’re flow-writing, you don't worry about grammar, sentence structure, spelling, or even word choice. Just put your pen to the paper and keep writing.
A lot of people use this as a creative writing exercise to get their thoughts flowing. It can be used as a precursor to journaling. It can even be its own type of journaling.
You should give it a try, the exercise is freeing and can unlock a lot of new ideas!
I've been trying to apply the concept of flow-writing to photography. When I am "flow photographing" or "Flowtographing", I let my mind go blank and don't think about form or composition. I just respond to outside stimuli and shoot the scene in the most organic, free-flowing way. Although the pictures may be wonky, loose, or not optimally composed, they tend to be more personal.
Going through a session of flowtographing is a great way for me to understand myself better. It informs me about what catches my eye, what I subconsciously look for, my trigger points. It's also a great way to find new ideas. And more than anything, it's also a lovely way to release me from the pressure of getting the "perfect shot".
Street Photography is as much a craft as it is an art: composition has to be precise (especially if you want to get that perfect illusion or juxtaposition), you have to look for distractions to avoid, you have to press the shutter at the right moment to capture the decisive moment. But spend too much time working on the crafty "aspects" of your photography and you risk getting results that can start to feel clinical: well-composed, clean but lacking soul.
A session of flowtography, in contrast, feels like a jam session, where you riff on what the streets offer you and improvise from there. If during a session of flow-writing you write without thinking about syntax or grammar, its equivalent in flowtography, would be to take pictures without worrying about composition. You don't stick around for more than a handful of seconds to work the scene. You're always on the move, looking, pressing the shutter more than you would normally.
When I approach street photography like this, I feel like I am performing the visual equivalent of freestyling in hip-hop (don't ask me to rap or freestyle please!): I respond to the visual queues that the streets offer and recite lyrics (ie. take pictures) without any particular subject in mind. There are sentences and rhymes (subject matters and compositional rules that are embedded in me) that I already have in my repertoire and I will mix and match them to the situation that's in front of me.
People often reach out to me asking me for advice on how to overcome the "photographer's block" they sometimes feel. Flowtography has been a great way for me to overcome my own blocks.
It is a beautiful way to tap into the infinite pool of creativity that lurks just underneath your conscious mind. These sessions can really feel magical and refreshing 😁.
Why don't you give it a try and let me know how you feel after it?
Here are some images I captured during a few such outings.
As always, thanks for reading, and see you next time.