The Unconscious Influence of Taking Photographs

Photographer concentrating on getting the shot, oblivious of me who had just missed the shot!!!

I use photographs a lot for my work. I am always looking for inspiration from the world around me and use my camera to capture these moments. Recently, when reviewing and rearranging my current online shop collections, I recognised subtle influences from my photography. I had been searching through my various memory sticks of stored images to freshen up my product listings. It was clear from comparing dates on the files that after a few sessions of photographing some summer garden flowers, shades of peach started to appear in the pink scarf I was painting at the time. Although I was not directly using the flowers photos as source material their influence was quite obvious with hindsight – up until then peach was not included in my work.


I also opened my Bury St Edmunds memory stick.  There were plenty of photographs of the glorious stained glass in the cathedral, both motifs and colours from the glass I have since featured directly in my silk scarf designs. However, after working in the cooler tones of the glass for a few months I can see I gradually moved to a palette of warm, rich colours. This was not the conscious process as before but I think the beautiful rich red windows had left their mark. Looking at the dates on these files I think the autumn weather was also a factor.


It hasn’t only been colourful images that have unconsciously influenced my work. When you are looking for a good shot you examine your surroundings with more attention and details so often overlooked are literally brought into focus. Shapes I hadn’t thought I had noticed at the time have been added to my stock of motifs such as the details on these sculptures.


In the end though sometimes there is no obvious inspiration for the colours of a scarf. With one of my favourites, this blue and green scarf below (long sold), I worked up the design layer on layer adapting my choice of dyes after each layer was steamed. A less controlled more serendipitous process.  .   .   .   .   .   .   but I had been recently photographing seascapes!!!


Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

17 thoughts on “The Unconscious Influence of Taking Photographs”

  1. I am always so taken with your thoughtful, observant, and measured approach to your work then how it is combined with intuition. I always learn something from your posts and they have helped me examine my own methods at times. Thank you.

    1. Oh I am so pleased with your comment and thank you. I sometimes feel very split between my own practice and then the examination of my work and its progression (or, often lack of it) with my ‘art history’ hat on! Don’t you think lashings of self-criticism comes with the territory when you do anything in creative areas?

      1. You know, I don’t make comparisons much between what I do and others’ work – I do of course admire and enjoy and try to learn from better work, of which there is so much. But I’m not that other person and so their results will never be my results, I know that from the beginning. And it’s not that I feel I am so talented or great in my results, but I do feel that most of the time I achieve what I wanted to, within what I’m able to do. I think this is because I mostly want to release some kind of creative energy built up inside of me and not what the result actually is. So I have less pressure on me. Or else I have come up with this carefully constructed idea to soothe myself! Does this make sense? I’m well aware I’m one voice in billions, that is fine, as long as I can speak. And I think also I feel, well, if this one didn’t come out, I’ll try another. There is always the hope that one day…really good work will result?

      2. I understand what you’re saying. When you are creating something in whatever field you work, you can only really be true to yourself otherwise what is the point. Much of the process is about creative bursts and moments of reflection and critiquing your own work against what you expected to achieve isn’t it? And, that there is always another day to try again is one of the ways we develop our skills. It is interesting to find that some artists destroyed all their early work whereas others have left a long record (including preparatory pieces) of their endeavours for us to paw over.

      3. I’m the latter. If I didn’t like it, I reworked it or…in the trash it went. I didn’t like the feeling of something I wasn’t happy with still being around to haunt me.

      4. I seemed to have the idea that the ugly or bad work would influence the paints or paper of whatever in the new ones, and I needed to get the karma out of there? Or it may have been I did not like to see frustration personified, aka my failed artwork!

    1. Thank you – it is me wearing my ‘art history’ hat that stands back and makes these observations! Sometimes the A.H. Agnes is helpful, sometimes she is a bit TOO critical for the ‘making’ Agnes.

    1. Is that the creative energy you use for your writing? I was wondering do you find the energy extends to editing your drafts or is it primarily there during the initial ideas for your stories and the principal crafting phase of your writing? I sometimes find that I am wrestling with a piece of silk to get the motifs and colours to work even to the point when steaming and doing a new layer for me is possibly equal to a total chapter rewrite.

      1. I’m still making it up as I go along. I found attending writing workshops became counter-productive after a while, because I lost a lot of time trying to mould my style to their suggestions. Also in creative writing classes they will use techniques such as thought balloons and mind maps, and that leaves me cold. As does this idea to sit and write drivel for ten minutes until the ‘real’ stuff starts to flow.

        With the memoir, chapters in the very early drafts, which were all “told” i.e. an account, were sparked by a photo album, or a document, or a piece of music. I found the more I wrote, the more I remembered.My very first draft was not great. It ended up serving as source material. As I matured as a writer, the subsequent drafts became more “showing the reader” – so it reads more like fiction. The crafting really came in those subsequent drafts – which you could call the editing phase – as I moved things around to shape-shift. The editing process was also creative as there were those chapter rewrites you mention, also going deeper into the story and emotions within existing chapters. There were two chapters I had written in the present tense that had to be changed to past, and that changed the structure too, so it felt as if I was creating all over again. The proof-reading was just a slog.

        With this current manuscript, its timeline is chronological using known facts, but imagining what happened and how the characters reacted. And then this strange thing happens, where the characters just decide what they will say or do – much as happened with Liz Thurlow in that serial I was writing a couple of years back. In fact I had to skip ahead in the writing of this current ms, as one of the characters, Lucy, kept pushing herself forward. So I wrote her story, and her sister’s, and now I have had to go back and fill in their mother’s story. The sister, (who is actually my grandmother – although I never met her), turned into a manipulative and conniving person. But perhaps she was only doing what she had to in order to survive? Let’s see in the next draft.

        I don’t wait until I am filled with creative urge and busting to get to the keyboard. I try to write every day, whether I know what will happen in that scene or not. Some days it flows, others it’s like having a day job. When I do receive the feedback from my agent on the first draft, her comments may reflect which creative headspace I was in. I mean, will she love the output of the enthusiastic days more than the “work” days? And will I remember which was which in any case?

        I would liken this first draft to about version 10 of my memoir. So I know my skill is improving. But there is still much work to be done.

        My girlfriend likes to paraphrase Chekhov’s “Don’t Tell Me the Moon Is Shining; Show Me the Glint of Light on Broken Glass” into something that involves clouds and curtains in the windows (I can’t remember the exact words). I tell her at this stage I have the house frame up and haven’t even fitted the doors and windows yet, let alone choose curtain material 🙂

        I guess that’s one difference between writing and artwork. You can build a manuscript up and up, and if you’ve overwritten and overdone it, all you have to do is rewrite. The base is not ruined in the process.

        Of course, there is 30,000 words of another book abandoned in the back of a cupboard somewhere … 🙂

        Phew! More than 600 words for one response. Wish I could turn out the manuscript that easily 🙂

      2. Gwen, thank you so much for taking the time to write such an informative and revealing comment. All those questions budding authors ask about process you’ve answered in a succinct 600 words. Perhaps you could copy it into a Blog post for said budding authors to discover and contemplate. I see you suggest that ‘writing’ needs practice and discipline and working on days accompanied by your muse and also on those days lacking inspiration (good advice for any creative discipline). Question – do you think your Editor can tell the different days?
        I have often wondered about Creative Writing courses as the act of writing is essentially a solitary process, but I suppose it is mostly about the critique and any useful feedback. Did you find the value of your experiences varied with the different people who attended the classes or was it more to do with the type of tutor running the workshops? With all the local budgets cuts in the UK many creative writing courses, especially evening classes, have been given the chop! There are some private enterprises stepping in, offering writing almost ‘retreat style’ weeks, and I think these are being marketed as having the odd session addressed by a famous author too. All sounds very enticing. Hard to see, however, if they are value for money or just a different type of holiday.

      3. I also wondered about doing a blog post after I had written that response. I might just do that. As for the courses. In Australia, you have to pay for them, they get very expensive, and some are better than others, and you don’t often stay in contact with the others in the course. Whether that is professional arrogance, geography, or just the need to be solitary I am not sure. Certainly some in the course are more talented than others, and not all go on to write. The longest I did was 24 hours over six weeks. There was a moment when it gave me a great creative buzz, but I think that was a once in a lifetime moment. My girlfriend did a twelve month course, but I think that would jumble me up. All that stuff about point of view, and narrative voice, and narrative arc, and not switching tenses, etc, etc, etc would just bang around in my head and impede me. I’m more of a “create it first” then tinker with what you’ve got, kind of person. However, “They” do say you should learn the rules before you can break them, and I do have several books which I occasionally – very occasionally – refer to. Having said all that, I am off to a writing retreat for two days in mid September. Another girlfriend put me on to it. It is at the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual Centre, so there will meditation and vegetarian food too. It’s a first time for me – let’s see what happens!

      4. Ahhhh – will be very interested to hear how you get on at the Kumaris Spiritual Centre. It sounds very similar to the courses I’ve seen offered here. I can see about learning rules first and writing well before bursting out and breaking said rules. But, there is plenty of clever writing around which people buy, but never actually read. And after Virginia Woolf ecetera and the avant garde, it’s hard to know where writing is going when now it is/has moved into conceptual art. Do you think on occasion perhaps the bar is set too high and puts people off writing completely when actually there is a lot to be said for simply spinning a good yarn. (And, if authors wrote the perfect piece from the outset there would be no work for editors!!)

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