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We are focusing on building a community, bringing the Mortal Muses photographers together, and making the world a bit smaller. On this page, you will find mission: MUSE, muse university and special features.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

what inspires you?: gillian

mission: MUSE - "what inspires you?"
by guest muse gillian

“If you are not failing every now and then it is a sign that you aren’t doing anything very innovative.” Woody Allen

Failings have inspired me more than any other muse in the art of photography.

I derive most of my inspiration from my failings. Let me explain that the best way I know how.

I began photographing my world at a very early age, always enjoying photography immensely since my mother handed me her Kodak 110 and asked me to snap her and my father in front of a thunderous Niagara Falls one summer evening in 1980. My father prior to that all through the 70’s snapped us growing up with his Yashica, a slick fully loaded SLR. That baby was fully manual. I thought dad was a genius; he knew about apertures, film speeds, and natural light. I listened as he spoke of f-stops and all the knowledgeable photography talk. He would create slides for us; we’d sit around in the living room...macramé plant holders pushed aside to make way for the slide projector aimed at one blank white wall in the living room. To us children those evenings were special-it was a voyeuristic glimpse into our own lives. This was way before the Facebook profiles of today where your average tween sports over 800 profile photos. We loved this little look at ourselves that occurred exclusively outside of our own reflection in the bathroom mirror. It was a kind of magic.

My brother and I were captured in the autumn leaves, wearing our suede shoes and our pointed collars. Mum with her blue jean bellbottoms, plaid shirts and cigarettes. Grandpa’s backyard coal barbeque and his bright orange Volkswagen Beatle. Memories painted onto those cardboard 2x2’s were more glamourous because they were projected in full blown colour, larger than life. I was enamored with picture taking from that point onwards.

However. We never had the means or the finances to pursue photography to any great degree then-it all cost so much money.
Cameras were expensive.
35mm film was expensive.
Slide film was expensive!
Developing was expensive.
Waiting patiently for photos to come back was torture! Seven days and that was considered ‘express’ in those days.
So photography was a luxury kept for birthdays, Christmas, and graduations.
Until we stumbled forward into the digital age and I glommed onto digital SLR photography.

Now my father has picked up a paintbrush-he uses his camera to take pictures of scenes he wishes to paint. (Another love I’ve inherited from him, thankfully.)

But as for my photography, I stumbled into blogging in 2006 courtesy of my mum. I had no idea what a blog was, but once I read the few that were out there I couldn’t stop. It was a daily pleasure for me to read the thoughts of others and even more so to view the images I was now privy to, little glimpses into the sultry corners of the world.

I started my own humble little web space then. I didn’t mind borrowing and giving credit for photos that were not my own in those days. But I wasn’t finding what I wanted after awhile and I began having all kinds of ideas flow and needed to express them in my own voice. I started shooting my own photos and wow did I make plenty of mistakes! I’d post photos that I thought were just fabulous and then realized slowly....surely....there are really good rules to follow if you want excellent pictures. Clearly my photos were not excellent. I had broken so many rules, resulting in failure. Hence this is the part of my story where my failures make their appearance. Granted they’ve always been a part of me, but for the subject matter at hand this is where they feature most.

I failed miserably. I still fail. I am not the world’s most fantastic photographer. Far from it. I’ve broken all the rules of photography and been successful only in my own growth as a photographer. For each time I think I’ve made a breakthrough to the next level, I find that there is always something no matter how small, that I could have improved upon in a photo.

I now consider my 2006 work my ‘early period’. I then had a ‘blue period’, being heavily influenced by work of people who may not have been the healthiest emotionally. So then I feel the resulting failings of such interactions only served me to dig a little deeper into the recesses of my ability.

Each of my failings has blessed me with the determination to improve upon what I already know. I don’t compete with other photographers out there. I compete with me. And only me. So much talent abides out there in flickr, Instagram, Red Bubble, JPG and more. These sites serve up so much brilliant talent it’s hard not to go there and feel inadequate. Yet-do we not all have our own unique voice? Do we not all have our own personal goal setting with photography? YES. And YES.

I’d like to think that my failings have served as my greatest inspiration. For without them I’d never have strived to get outside of my own head and try new ideas, perspectives, or subjects. I use my camera as a salve for anything that ails me; photographing my world while travelling or while my kids are messing around with crafts, or while my dog is peacefully sleeping by the fire...and it mends. I’m mended by the very thing I feel I need to most improve upon. It’s cyclic. I’ll keep failing and keep trying and I’ll have so much damned fun the whole time I’ll consider it to be my greatest success eventually-as having contributed to a most full and vibrant life by opening up my eyes to see afresh.

Gillian da Silva
freelance photography & writing


"what inspires you?" is the the second mission of mission: MUSE series.
You may submit an entry to mortalmuses {at} yahoo.com.
Submissions for "where i live" are still being accepted.


  1. gillian, i enjoyed reading your post this morning. it certainly brought back memories of my own early cameras--go kodak 110! and the slideshows put on by my aunt and uncle were always a much anticipated treat!

  2. It's a wonderful thing to see how photography continues to inspire you and your photos inspire us (as do you)! xo

  3. how beautiful! and i love being a part of your journey... every single step of it.
    love ya gillian!

  4. ladies, you thrill me with your comments and support. thanks a million xoxo

  5. Thank you for taking the time to visit with us and for inspiring us! xo tam

  6. Great interview, Gillian! And might I add, you look so darn cute in the photograph!