The Creative Mama » inspiring art, encouraging women

Filling your Creative Bucket

I’ve taken pictures for as long as I can remember.  It started with a Kodak Disc camera (does anyone remember those) that I got for Christmas in sixth grade.  I snapped pictures of my little brother, my friends and scenes from our summer vacations.  This love for photography and creating art grew, as I did, eventually landing me in the land of DSLR, learning the elements of digital photography.  Not long after, as so many have, I started a business offering my services to families, newborns and seniors.  My first love in photographing people was to catch the unguarded moments, the details of faces and the motions of life.  Posed, traditional images were not my style and often left me uninspired.  Yet, these traditional images were the ones that sold.  Many times over the course of my seven years in business I tried to sell my journalistic style, moving away from the traditional requests of clients. Time and time again it was the traditional images that made up the bulk of my orders.  It left me feeling empty creatively.  I began to question my ability as both a photographer and artist.  The thing I loved most, taking pictures, began to feel like a chore.

So, after much thought, conversation and prayer.  I walked away.

I closed my business of seven years.  It wasn’t easy, but then again, it kind of was.  Because deep down I had felt it coming for awhile.  I was finally giving in to what I wanted to do and closing the door on what I thought I *should* do.  Don’t all mamas with great cameras and a gifted eye open a portrait business?  Yes, at the time I began, it seemed like they did.  Walking away, being secure in directing my own creativity not only re-ignited my passion for taking pictures, it strengthened a confidence in knowing myself. Knowing, that what I needed as an artist, would not look like what anyone else needed and being okay with that.

Part of this new found knowledge was that I also knew I would need to find a new way to fill the void left by closing my business.  As much as I love taking pictures of my boys and our days, I knew, that wouldn’t be enough.  Around that time, I viewed a Creative Live talk by Penny De Los Santos, where she talked about her life in photography and how to grow as an artist.  One of her number one recommendations was to always have a personal project.  To give yourself  a ‘dream assignment’.  What would you love to photograph most?  Do it.  Unsure how?  Find a way.  By shooting what you love, you will grow both as a person and a photographer.

This resonated with me, and I instantly knew what I wanted it to be.  I took a chance and emailed a local, organic farmer to see if I could document their upcoming growing season.  I have a passion for locally raised foods and farmers markets, so why not take it a step further and photograph the folks growing it?  To my delight the farmers agreed, and I will be forever grateful for their generosity.  Over last six months, I have met with them weekly, photographing their work on the farm.  My ‘Farm to Table Project’ has been fulfilling in more ways than I could’ve imagined. As a photographer, I can see the growth in my images, as an artist my creative cup has been re-filled many times over.  I would recommend the idea of a dream assignment to anyone, photographer, writer, whatever kind of artist you may be.

So, how about you?  What would your dream assignment be?  How do you keep your creative cup full?


About Alison

Alison Bickel lives in the heart of the Midwest where, along with her husband, they raise their three boys. Whether it’s in the garden, the kitchen or tagging along on her boys’ latest adventure she looks for the simple beauty in everyday from behind her lens. The photography bug bit her in sixth grade, upon getting her first camera, a Kodak Disk. She has been chasing light and subjects ever since. On her blog, ‘This Homemade Life,’ Alison shares tales of mothering, her passion for vegetarian cooking and obsession with farmer’s markets.

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  • Chris

    Thank you for posting this! I too have decided to shut the doors to my photo biz and for a variety of reasons. One of them being that I’m continually asked to ‘mirror/copy’ another photographer’s style for the sake of getting this ‘awesome shot’ and it started to give me anxiety and I started to dread photo shoots. I started out in medium format, landscape and I’ve decided to shut my doors and go back to that direction as it gave me the most satisfaction. Good for you for listening to what is going to make you happy and pushing toward it.


    Such courage to close the doors and follow your heart! My dream job would be a travel photographer. I started another blog to document my travels…but travel is expensive, especially if you have kids. So, in between traveling I am working on my mountain love series. I am taking a photography workshop next week through the bristlecone forest near Mt. Evans. I am so excited!

  • Sara T

    Wonderful post. Bravo, Allison! xoxo

  • Angel Smith Jones

    I am excited to hear about your passion bring refueled. Shoot on. I am being drawn to small towns. I am from one, moved to one, work in one, actually a very liitle one…800 people. So I am working on a small town love series. The first is Stoneville, NC:!/photo.php?fbid=320978907951728&set=a.320978717951747.72781.249221035127516&type=3&theater
    Here’s my garden shots for your enjoyment:

  • Denise Easley Hunt

    Excellent idea! Kudos to having an idea, and acting upon it.

  • Clair Dickson

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful insights. I am drooling over your close up leafy greens picture- so interesting and beautiful.