Limitations are a part of human existence. Some of us face more limitations than others. All of us, however, have the ability to respond to limitations in either a positive or negative fashion.
I was listening to photographer Anne Liebowitz speak to some students. She talked about limitations. She even suggested adding limitations to their photography in order to enhance their creativity.
By nature, limitations produce or strengthen creativity in someone who chooses to push through them.
It seems that when most of us talk about limitations we speak of those that are physical or mental. While these are types that will make it difficult for people to deal effectively in life, there are many other kinds.
Creativity must have a release. I have watched my wonderfully talented wife live her life for close to thirty years now. She suffers from severe Fibromyalgia among other health problems.
When I met her she had just returned from a four-year apprenticeship with a master scultor and painter in Florence Italy. Her painting is truly amazing. I have said many times that she is the most creative person I know.
I began seeing problems almost immediately but it was years before the disease was diagnosed.
She has a hard time painting now although I know she will do so again. I have noticed that even if she cannot get up and move around much, her hands are going full speed. She knits hats and gloves. Makes presents for people, the creative impulse drives her to create.
A number of years ago she decided to become a writer and jumped into it full steam. She wrote a book, and it was pretty dang good. It is a wonderfully imaginative story and she used writing it to learn more about writing.
She is now getting close to finishing a completely different work. It is a fantasy-romance novel that will be a ten (or so) book series. It is pretty much written. Thousands of pages are now being separated and edited into the first novel and those to come.
What I have read is remarkable. She has created a world with different rules of reality and characters you cannot help becoming involved with. She explores good vs evil, love, friendship, loyalty and so much more. I am amazed.
I think her physical, mental and even emotional limitations (caused by 24-7 pain) have given her insight, and empathy, and her artistic drive propels her to create.
She has chosen to let limitations be a source of creativity rather than misery and loss. Doing this takes guts and a creative spirit that will not be denied. I am so very proud of her.
My own experience with limitation is much different. Sure I have dealt with injury, disease and other things but the one that I have to fight on a daily basis is spatial.
I will not go into the how and why I have talked enough about it in the past and the thought of doing so makes me nauseous.
A few years ago we found ourselves broke and having to start over. The only job I could get at my age, even with multiple degrees and decades of experience was driving a school bus.
First of all, as it turns out I love the job and thoroughly enjoy seeing the kids each and every day. They are amazing and so much fun. I am fortunate they all are rural and farm kids, they are respectful, but kids just the same. This job has taught me much about myself. It is a job and experience I never would have chosen if not forced into it, and it has become one of the best of my life.
The downside of the job is it is only part-time and while it has increased lately, for a number of years the hourly wage was pathetic in comparison to most driving jobs, especially when one considers the responsibility the job entails.
To help out with bills I picked up the camera again. I had been a fashion and advertising photographer years ago and thought I could do some portraits and even weddings to help out. While it hasn’t been easy it has been quite the learning experience.
Also, I shoot and sell what I call Earth Portraits, not quite landscapes but an attempt to capture the spirit of a place. I haven’t talked much about this and I love it when someone gets it and mentions that I have made that connection.
The limitation comes in, at least in my mind, when I see friends who are great photographers sharing photographs of wonderful places all over the earth and I am stuck here, seldom traveling more than a few miles from my house. Even thinking this way makes me feel like I am acting like a crybaby. I realize I am fortunate to live in a wonderfully beautiful place, have my health and a wonderful family, but still, I feel the limitation in my bones, as I have always been a wandering spirit.
So I made a decision. I would shoot and shoot here in my little patch and attempt to convey the beauty I find all around myself. I began a series I call Out My “Office” Window. The office is my bus. I get to drive in the hills above the Willamette Valley in Oregon and it is beautiful. I have been driving the same route for almost eight years shooting the same couple of places. I can only take photos between routes, so sometimes I must go back and shoot something I saw during my drive when I am off work.
Some very good photographers who are my friends have suggested creating a photo book about my office window, and I am thinking about that.
The limitation has forced me to look and look again, to see, feel, and experience in a way that is much deeper than I would have if I could just go anywhere and take photos in iconic locations.
Probably the biggest reward personally is I have come to know more about myself, especially what in my personality gets in the way of happiness, creativity, seeing and basically the experience of life as a whole.
I have tried to touch on many aspects of this experience in my blog series, Photography as a Spiritual Pursuit.
Richard Bach says it like this, “Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly”
Embracing the limitations thrust on me by loss has allowed me to grow creatively. In that growth, I have found fulfillment and happiness. If for no other reason this made it all worth worthwhile.
Yes the love and acceptance of my wonderful wife has helped, and in a great way, facilitated the personal work I have done, and I will be forever grateful. Her endless encouragement and remarkable ability to look past financial concerns and find the positive in almost any situation cannot be underestimated. What she does naturally, has not only been my inspiration but it has been my goal for living and impetus for moving forward.
There are countless stories of folks who have lost so much more than I have been talking about here, and used to it jumpstart their creativity and overcome whatever was before them. They all can be an inspiration, and the power of their story cannot be underestimated. Nothing is as powerful as the decision to find a creative solution and make that first step.
When that step is made things begin to happen. The universe begins to move things your way. A personal belief of mine is that one of the attributes we share with our creator is the desire and ability to create. The power behind this ability is love and in love, we live and move and have our being.