The charme of surprise in overcoming creative blocks

Tropical heat, thunderstorms – and stories which turn out to be no story at all« .- can be a very frustrating experience on assignment. Sometimes that ends up in serious creative blocks, which I tend to call „black holes in motivation“. The best way for me to overcome those moments is – to take a break, immediately. I consider it most important to focus on something completely different. Depending on schedule and situation, it doesn’t really matter if this change in perspective is just for taking a deep breath, for a few minutes, a coffee and maybe a cigarette – or  for half an hour.

The other day: After fixing some car problems, a complete switch of the schedule due to weather conditions and some urgent mails, a morning walk at Lake Constance has been my personal choice to start into work and load my batteries. On my way to complete the story with a few photos, I quickly grabbed my Leica and just two of my favorite lenses; no burden, neither literally spoken nor in the physical sens – just a comfortable minimum of equipment which allows works and doesn’t block the photographer. Annoyed, definitely not in my best mood, struggling with a heavy thunderstorm related headache, I slouched along the shore of the Lake.

Dorothy and Roland at Lake Constance - © 7.8.2013 - All rights reserved. While strolling, I enjoyed the panoramic view of Lake Constance; the foggy air slightly started to clear off as the sky with the low clouds did. Suddenly sunshine – and a couple on a bench caught my attention. With a soft voice, they were talking to each other, leaning towards each other in a very tender way. As I approached, they looked up and smiled to me. A mutual, joyous »Good morning!«, I asked them whether they would mind that I’d take a photo of them, which was actually a start into a lovely conversation. And we found out something truly remarkable: we’ve already met, without taking any notice of each other. The evening before, we all sat at the same small pub, with a drink, and watched the arising thunderstorm, listening to the sounds of nature.

Dorothy and her husband Roland, married for 57 years, are on vacation at Lake Constance. I’ve been fascinated and very touched, either by their loving tenderness towards each other and the couple’s admirable youthfulness in thoughts, humor and attitude. We spent around half an hour in a deeply inspiring conversation; about the beauty of this morning moment, the light and its changes, about arts, literature and music. When I left to continue my work, Dorothy unexpectedly came back to music, obviously struck by a sudden idea. »You have to go to St. Stephan’s church at noon!“« she proposed, »They give a small concert with Johann Sebastian Bach’s beautiful organ music – I’m sure you’ll enjoy that very much!“ Wishing each other a splendid day, we left the place.

During our conversation, I didn’t mention that Bach belongs to my favorites in music. I often listen to his beautiful works, especially in times when I need concentration, try to focus on certain aspects of my work or start into writing. Still perplexed by the couple’s proposal, I went to St. Stephan’s at noon. Passed the entrance door, entered the nave – and there they sat, Dorothy and Roland, waving at me and inviting me to take a seat besides them. This time, we didn’t talk at all. But, with a smile on our faces, we enjoyed together the midday concert and its inspiration. Unnecessary to mention: the photo I took inside the church (of the couple, absorbed in thoughts and by Bach’s music) was exactly the photo I needed to complete my photo series.

The wonderful encounter with Dorothy, 81, and her husband Roland (87) has been a surprising, very intense lesson in overcoming a creative block. I feel very grateful for this moment which I consider a truly precious one. I don’t believe in blind chance, but in serendipity.