Taking a Break from Photography with Photography

Many professional photographers use personal projects to keep their love of photography and their creative voice alive. Personal projects allow you to do what you want instead of what a client needs.

When I retired from commercial photography a few years ago I thought my work would be nothing but personal projects. While it is true that I shoot for myself, it also became a passion to share my love of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. That passion has turned into leading more photography workshops and writing a book on photographing the Pine Barrens.

Now instead of client work filling my days, I’m organizing and promoting workshops and selling books. It’s not that I don’t love doing it, I totally do. Yet, sometimes that passion to share interferes with the primal passion to create.

When that realization hit me, I decided to take a break from the Pine Barrens, a short break, and photograph something else. In this case, it was an abandoned factory and was just the liberating and creative experience needed.

Normally I would research an abandoned site, learn its history, pre-plan the shoot, and do the necessary scouting before setting up a camera. In other words, doing this would be another a project and I wasn’t looking for another project. Instead, I just showed up and shot. Fortunately it was pouring rain which created some amazing light and even a waterfall inside the building.

The goal was to just shoot and below are the results. This is a group of images that are not tied together outside of the fact that they were made in the same location. Instead of a project telling the story of a location with a group of photographs, they are simply individual images that I call abandonscapes and I hope you enjoy them.


Unintended Waterfall by Richard Lewis 2021


Abandoned Production Equipment by Richard Lewis 2021


Engine 002 by Richard Lewis 2021


Interior Downpour by Richard Lewis 2021


Blue Spool by Richard Lewis 2021


Mesta by Richard Lewis 2021


Spools by Richard Lewis 2021


Stacked Steel by Richard Lewis 2021


The other goal of this trip was just to mix things up a bit. Although I’ve photographed a lot of abandoned places, this one was done without any thought to documenting or even honoring its history. So this shoot was for me, sorry old factory. It was all about finding interesting things, creating compositions and working with the light. In other words, the essence of creative photography.

The lesson here is to be aware that your photography can actually get in the way of your creativity. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Sometimes you realize it, sometimes you don’t. I know photographers, very good ones, who are taking the same photos they took years ago. While it is great to have a style, it can also be a trap that leads to getting stuck in that style.

Complacency can lead to creative stagnation, so always look to challenge yourself. Successfully meeting a challenge leads to growth and growth helps refine and evolve your creative voice.


Note: I may holding a workshop in this old factory in 2022 so stay tuned.

See some more abandonscapes here

Want to photograph a very unique Airplane and Automotive Graveyard?