Quite often when I’m browsing my Facebook photographic communities I see posts from people who are depressed because they have lost interest in their hobby. They usually say that they can’t work up the enthusiasm to get out there and photograph anything and that they haven’t even picked up their cameras in weeks, months or even years. They have lost their ‘phojo’ and they wonder if they’ll ever get it back.
Well, I’m here to tell you that that is absolutely fine to lose your phojo, that you really ought to stop beating yourself up about it, and that buying a new camera or lens will almost certainly not ‘fix’ things.
I’m a pretty serious photographer. Commercially it’s a side-hustle for me, but it’s definitely my number one hobby by a long way. I spend more time than I care to mention out and about taking landscape photographs and it has been that way most of my adult life.
But as much as I love taking photographs and processing them and sharing them I often go through phases where I lose interest in landscape photography, when I sleep through the alarm rather than getting up for sunrise, when I stay home and watch Bosch with the missus rather than photograph a sunset.
During these periods my photographic productivity nosedives, my social media sharing dries up and my camera sits idle. And you know what? That is absolutely fine.
All the things we do in our spare time are driven by a simple love of that past-time, hobby or pursuit. Those precious hours when we are not working should be filled with things we love and that we want to do. The moment that a past-time, hobby or pursuit starts to feel forced or work-like or that you’re just going through the motions, you probably ought to take a break from it.
It’s absolutely fine to leave your camera on the shelf.
Our interests rise and fall like all the natural cadences of our lives and if you force yourself to carry on you’ll probably end up making things worse in the long run. If your photographer friends are out there taking cool shots and filling their social media feeds with great imagery — so what? They’re on the upswing of their interest in their hobby and you’re on the downswing.
Sometimes that downswing lasts much longer than the upswing, but I can guarantee you that one day in the not-so-distant future, your friends will be in the same position as you.
Some photographers try and compensate for their lack of interest by investing in new equipment — a new camera, a new lens, some filters — but this doesn’t seem to help much. Sometimes photographers put down their cameras and they never pick them up again. And that’s perfectly cool too.
I know a local photographer who was so successful that he had begun transitioning to full-time professional. He was producing great images, killing it on social media and seemingly on a rocket-ride into the upper echelons of the photographic community. But one day he just quit. He had a few tepid comebacks where he’d post on his Facebook page and say things like, “Sorry I’ve been so quiet here guys, here’s an image I took,” or “Having a break from photography but hope to be back at it soon.” Next thing I knew, he’d put all of his camera equipment up for sale and invested in fishing gear instead.
He hasn’t taken a hobby photograph since, though he does post images of himself and his family enjoying themselves. And I say good for him. He recognized that photography was no longer for him and rather than forcing himself or bemoaning the cost of all the kit he’d purchased over the years, he pulled the pin. Maybe he’ll return to photography later on in life, maybe he won’t, but the bottom line is that he’s never been happier.
Our lives are cyclical. Daylight has physiological effects on our bodies. The changing seasons alter us mentally and physically. As we age, our bodies change over time and our brain chemistry with it. The problem is that we have stopped recognizing this.
Often we validate our photography through the lens of social media and begin to treat it like a job. We ignore those natural periods in our lives when things naturally enter a lull. But we dare not give the photography a rest for a while in case (the horror!) we lose followers. The end result is usually something we’re not very proud of and that, my friends, is the exact opposite of what a hobby, that we choose to pursue in our precious free time, should be.
If you genuinely love doing something then the outcome is utterly irrelevant, but it should feel like something you are proud of however objectively good or bad it is. And if you’re ignoring the natural cyclical nature of your interest in photography you’re probably making matters worse.
Learn to accept that passions come and go, give your interest in photography some breathing space, and you might well find that you come back to it, reinvigorated and instilled once more with a sense of fascination, adventure, and joy.
As the song goes, “Let it go…”
About the author: Andy Hutchinson is a photographer and journalist based in South Coast, New South Wales, Australia. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work and words on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram. This article was also published here.