Often when counseling students, we'll talk about taking their photography to the "next level." That may be a bit cliche, but it has a ring of truth. Many people have a lot of experience shooting, but they feel stuck, and are not sure what to do next. I think what happens is that sometimes new photographers find a style of shooting that feels comfortable and gives them confidence. They get good feedback, and tend more and more to stick with that style or practice. But over time, shooting the same way can get boring, and you don't feel like you're developing as an artist.
That's where Roxann Arwen Mills comes in. Her Master Photographer course Developing Personal Vision is all about getting out of your comfort zone and learning to express yourself in new ways. She asks her students to keep photo journals of thoughts, ideas and inspiration that may spring into their heads, which is a great way to get going creatively when you feel stuck or can't think of a project. She also pushes them to experiment, sending them into the street to shoot from the hip, ignore the viewfinder, and think about composition in new ways.
I can personally vouch for the fact that the work her students produced in the last class was really exceptional (you can see samples here, here and here). Though it may have been frustrating at first, I think they all really benefited from being pushed to think about how they could make their work more personal and emotionally effective.
Roxann herself is also pretty much as inspirational as they come. Professionally, she has an endless list of commercial credits, and her fine art has an ethereal quality that is haunting. She is an endless source of energy and creativity, and she makes every project seem like a grand adventure. Since her work really spans a huge range of subjects and styles, I chose a few of my favorite pieces to include, but I definitely recommend going to her website and checking out the galleries. Her artist statement quotes the poet Rumi, which I think is a beautiful coda to her work:
"Everything you see has its roots in the unseen world. The forms may change, yet the essence remains the same. Every wonderful sight will vanish, every sweet word will fade. But do not be disheartened, the source they come from is eternal, growing, branching out, giving new life and new joy. Why do you weep? The source is within you and this whole world is springing up from it."
- Jelauddin Rumi
Images via Roxannarwenmills.com