If you’re feeling stuck in a rut or frustrated by what seems like a stagnant career, maybe you need to play around a bit.
Seriously. Think back to why you became a photographer. You experienced the pure joy of creating images. You experimented and found inspiration all around you. You were having fun.
Somewhere along the line, you stopped playing. You started building a career, making clients happy, managing numbers, and worrying about all those real-world concerns that go into establishing a sustainable business.
Maybe it’s time to start playing again. Jeff Harry, a consultant recognized in 2020 as one of America’s top human resources influencers, says that entrepreneurs can address some of their biggest challenges with a play-based approach to work. Harry, who has worked with organizations including Google, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, Adobe, the NFL, Amazon, and Facebook, points out that we’re all more productive when we reach a state of mental flow by embracing play and by taking creative risks to tap into our fundamental sources of inspiration.
“It’s time to challenge ourselves about the risks we’re willing to take to not only stay relevant but to rise above the competition because the status quo doesn’t cut it anymore,” he says.
To establish this play-based approach, Harry suggests creating a psychological playground where you can have fun and are free to make mistakes. In many cases, people have an idea they want to act on, but they need a figurative space where they can pursue it without feeling overwhelmed. He recommends a set of steps to create that space and to take advantage of the benefits it provides.
Why is the freedom to play important? It goes well beyond being more successful in your job. Photographers take on the responsibility of sharing people’s most significant life events. “When you think about it, you are portraying the essence of who someone is with your photography,” says Harry. “You’re capturing them in their best moments, and when you can do that, people are truly grateful for what you’ve done for them.”
To understand the value of play, ask those grateful clients what your photography means to them. Hearing the impact your art has on people helps remind you that this work is important. It reminds you why you do what you do.
“We see our work as so much about us and not always about the ripple effect it can have on other people and even other generations,” says Harry. “This is so true for photographers. You’re catching magic and history. And if that doesn’t create a joyous, childlike essence, then I don’t know what will.”
Jeff Kent is editor-at-large.