There was a while through last year when I felt pretty flat and uninspired. I didn't stop photographing, didn't want to stop photographing, but I felt short on new ideas and lacking in direction. I'd go out on the streets of Manhattan and not be sure what to photograph. In Manhattan! There's usually so much going on that it's harder to know what not to photograph, but suddenly everything seemed a bit boring. I'd look through Instagram and everything looked familiar, the same old stuff.
It's hard to change things sometimes, difficult to know how to go about it. It could be confidence, but not necessarily. We all have self-doubt, see others seemingly being successful in some terms or other without knowing the full picture or understanding their own struggles. Social media of course skews this too, making it easy to assume there's a correlation between the numbers and the quality of the photographer. I like to remind myself that one of the most popular accounts on Instagram is the picture of an egg reposted repeatedly. That's not to say that there isn't skill and technique and even artistry in building a large following, but photographic skill is just one factor. There are also techniques and types of images that work well on a small screen. Clean, simple. Repeated color palettes. Cinematic or retro in style. Creating a mood to show off a lifestyle or brand.
I don't know if my funk came primarily from social media, but adjusting my attitude to it has certainly helped. And the solution is fairly obvious. To try to care more about other photographers success than my own. To care more about their visibility and numbers, especially the local photographers that I've been able to meet in person. To seek connections and interaction, regardless of whether someone has 100k followers or 10. Anyway, that guy with the new account might just care more, be more authentic, and might just turn out to be the better photographer.
As others have said, some of it is getting away from the temptation to get jealous but instead seek to be generous. Being willing to celebrate someone else's success rather than looking for a reason why they might not deserve it. And when I don't feel like it or start to envy someone, then try being generous to them instead. Give them a 'like' and a complement. It's being outwardly generous but the real benefit is to me and my attitude.
I've made a few other changes this year too. Activity seeking to get a few articles published (thanks Fujilove and Alien Skin for the collaborations so far) and getting more into project work rather than just individual images. And doing more portrait shoots alongside the street photography. And photographing the family more at home too, being a photographer more of the time.
Maybe that sounds like a lot. I don't know really what has made the difference, and maybe it's a combination of lots of small changes. Maybe it's the new camera (it's not, but it's always nice to start justifying the next one). But I'm enjoying photography as much as ever, street and portraits and events and whatever it might be. I'm excited by what's possible. Not to achieve what someone else has achieved, but to try to do more of what I'm meant to do and to create images that mean something to me, and hopefully mean something to those I'm making them for too.