creativity

How to transform your model into creepy monsters for 10 euros

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One day I decided to buy 5 kilos of modeling clay (it’s super cheap in any arts and crafts store) I felt inspired by the raw material and though that would be cool for pictures. But a few weeks passed by and I couldn’t find anything. Until I spent an afternoon with my friend Camille from Délicate Distorsion, she saw the clay waiting patiently in my studio and asked what my project was. I told her I wanted to do something photography related but was kinda stuck. She told me about this french artist doing weird happenings and events where he just covers himself in clay and it BLEW MY MIND. 

You can have a look at his work, his name is Olivier de Sagazan, he has plenty of youtube videos. I found them haunting, and highly inspiring. I love how he becomes the creator and the art piece at the same time, covering himself in clay. 

Clay is fascinating because this is the most simple basic boring component when it is raw. But it can give you so much freedom to create whatever you want. 

So i contacted my friend Kevin to do a photoshoot : he is a dancer and a wonderful human being. We have a strong artistic connection and he trusts my vision. 

When he arrives at my place, I am telling him right away « I might have a weird idea, are you up to it? »  I am not giving him any more informations, just that I have clay, and I would like him to cover himself with it. Right away he says « this inspires me so much! ». I am letting him bring his own vision into the creative process. He trusts me to bring strange concepts on the table, and I trust him to bring them to life through his body. He has incredible skills as a dancer, and he uses his body to express his art. The first time I photographed him, he danced in my studio and I was literally crying behind my camera because this was such a damn beautiful moment!!! (I know I am such a wuss) 

So I get the setup ready, really simple, one black background, one light, my favorite! It is also a setup that I know will allow him to move freely, I just put a piece of gaffer tape on the floor to give him an indication of where he should stand, and we are good! I also put music to set the mood. For dark moody photoshoots I love Nine Inch nails (some weird dark electronics instrumental) this music resonates a lot with my soul and inspires me to create . 

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This awkward moment you have an almost naked guy cutting clay in your living room

I waited a few weeks before starting the editing process, and then finally came up with the ideas you are seing. I used only the brush in Photoshop and literally painted everything on the picture. The stars/particles are a handmade brush I am using all the time. And then a bit of color correction on Alienskin and we are all done! 

 
 
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I hope you enjoyed seing the process of creating these pictures, and that it inspires you to do something (weird) as well! What is the craziest weirdest photoshoot or ideas you ever had? 

How to develop your creativity in your daily life

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Too often, we get caught up into our daily life, and we don’t realize it fills all the space in our minds : 
 we are always in a hurry in the morning, getting the kids ready, running after our train, not even taking time to eat breakfast, then we are busy answering emails, calls all day long, try to socialize with our colleagues, taking every minutes of our break to check Instagram or Facebook, get back home, remember to do the laundry, eventually cook something, crash from exhaustion in front of Netflix, and start again the next day. Until we die? 


I can find 1000 problems inherent with this crazy modern lifestyle but the one I want to focus here is headspace : Our brains are overstimulated. Thousands of years of evolution brought us here, but the modern life constantly chasing productivity is only a few decades old, and the domination of screens and social medias and notifications are even newer. The truth is we are not designed to process such a big amount of informations. We all know the consequences of the lifestyle : burn out, depression, anxiety, or just constant exhaustion, which became so normal you are not even paying attention to it anymore. 

I think one of the problems is also that we are not allowing ourselves to be creative anymore. 

Creativity does not have to be having a crazy weird concept for a photoshoot : Creativity is the ability to come up with fresh ideas, and to connect informations together to get something new. It is about coming with a solution when a problem arise, it is about taking the time to imagine what you want for your future, or what awesome cake you are going to bake during the week end, it can be about anything! I deeply believe anyone has the the ability to be creative, it is not a superpower, but not anyone is actually leaving enough space in their lives to be creative. 

Why do people have more ideas in the shower? Because they have no distraction, it’s an great moment, no screen, no phone, just you, being relaxed, enjoying a moment. (Fun useless fact : I never have had any ideas in my shower :D ) 

Creativity needs some space to exist, fresh ideas can’t come up if your brain is constantly thinking about your groceries or if you are pissed of by your boss (even if he deserves it!). So here are a few techniques on how to make headspace in your brain to let ideas arise (tested and approved my myself with love!)  

Get organized

Not everything is wrong with our modern life, and the apps are amazing tools that allows us to be more organized and to have some more space in our brains. I just don’t understand people who says they will « remember » this appointment we just made! I mean come on, just write it somewhere, so you don’t have to think about it anymore! Personally, everything that implies me being somewhere or doing something at an exact date goes into my Google calendar. Every ideas I have on the go goes to my Evernote (for example reflexion for this blog, and I am writing this article on Evernote right now). Every ideas for photographs are in notebooks. My groceries lists are on post it (the old school way!). Trello is helping me keeping track of what I have to do for this blog. And I even have a cool app which tells me when I am going to be on my period! (it helps me know right away if the reason that I feel like crap is my hormones having a party! Super useful girls, check it out) NOTHING stays stuck in my brain! All these tools are like assistants taking care of the details of my life so I can focus on my main goal : be present to my life, my friend, and create awesome photographs and content here with LOVE! 


Fun fact : I heard Steve jobs was always wearing the same simple outfit so he didn’t have to think about what he was wearing every morning, so he had more headspace to do something else. He is clearly not remembered for being a fashion icon, but this guys had ideas for sure!

Allow yourself to be bored

Ideas need space to grow, and if you are constantly distracting yourself, no doubt it’s hard for you to get new ones. Everyone is constantly checking his phone, we are not allowing ourselves 5 minutes of just doing nothing, and this Candy Crush thing is not going to help you solve your problems!
Fun fact : some scientist did a cool experiment, people had to wait in an empty room with no more informations that that. They knew they were here for a test, so they were just told they had to wait to get called to start the experiment. All this time the experiment of course started without them knowing it and they were filmed. In the waiting room there was just a box with a button beside them. This specific box was in fact designed to give them a small electric shock each time they pressed it. EVERY one of them touched the button repeatedly even though they get hurt the first time they did : people prefer to feel pain that being bored, this is how much our human brain can’t handle boredom. 

Meditate

I am not a professional of meditation myself : I find this highly intimidating to sit and do nothing even for 5 minutes. Though I try to be more mindful in my everyday life, to step away from my emotions, and to be more present for example when I am walking in the street. I concentrate on the details of the world around me, instead of thinking about 594 stuff. I can see the difference it makes right away on my mood and balance, and I can’t stress enough the power of meditating. You can try it out with and app, there are great : Petit Bamboo in french is the most famous, while Headspace or Buddhify are great for english speakers. 

Find a stimulating environment

When I was a student, I spent all summer working in a bank. And I though I would die. Nothing ever ever would stimulate my brain : I was surrounded by people with no passion, no dreams, everything was grey and sad, this was the worst environment ever, stuck in an office behind a computer doing repetitive tasks with almost no human contact. I can’t think of anything worst, and the truth is it represents most of today’s office job. This is terrifying to me. Later on I was working in an advertising agency and they would put us in a closed meeting room between 2 and 3 pm and expected us to have awesome ideas for a new campaign. No windows, no nothing. No need to tell you it did not work. Nowadays I am going in a trendy coworking space, I chat with inspiring people during my break, they are building their projects on their own, we always share ideas. Sometimes what I though was a 10 minutes wasting my time chatting brought me the solution to the problem I was stuck in for 2 hours. Be careful of who you are surrounding yourself with and where, because it does impact the way you apprehend your world. 

Go on holidays

I don’t know about you guys but when I am travelling and I take a real break, I am happy to rest the first week and eventually after 10 days maximum, I start to get bored of not creating new stuff so I start to get all crazy excited with new ideas again. I usually get enough distance from my daily life to identify the problems, the things I don’t want to do anymore, the things I want to do more, and I always come back home with a plan to start fresh. I am deeply convinced that holidays make me so much productive and help me define my vision. 

Try a creative retreat

A creative retreat allows you to leave your your environment for a while, it can be in your country or anywhere in the world, in the place of your choice. It is not exactly holidays, because you are not chilling or visiting, but all your mental space is dedicated to created something into the perfect conditions. It gets easier to break through your blocks and mental barriers you usually have during your daily life. No one is interrupting you, you can decide to be surrounded by other creative people, it challenges your habits and your vision of the world. For me that’s is just THE ABSOLUTE BEST to achieve big ass projects. 
This is really common with musicians, a lot of bands go rent a house or a studio somewhere, and spend their time doing music everyday and night, whenever they feel like it. I remember photographing the Half Moon run (awesome chill guys!) and they were talking about the process of creating their new album : they rented a house in Canada by the beach, lived altogether for a while, away from the « real » world, went surfing every morning, and spent the rest of the day writing songs. Creating a « bubble »  is the best for big project, like writing a book or building a business because it helps you focus and gives you so much headspace to create your new masterpiece.
I personally built my portrait studio while being stuck in a farm in the middle of Australia, and I am currently writing this article in Bali where I retreated for a month! And these are probably the two times I was BY FAR the most productive in my whole life! One of my dream here is to organize creative retreats so keep in touch if that speaks to your soul! 

So here is this new topic, I am really passionate about the subject and just couldn’t figure a way to write less! Tell me what do you think about this idea? Are you caught up into you daily life? How big is that problem for you? What are your techniques to get more headspace? 

Lots of love as usual <3

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”- Buddha

From concept to creation - Fun with LED lights

For this picture, I will write about the whole process of creation : from the basic idea, to the picture right above (for those interested only in the making-of, don’t hesitate to scroll down!) 

1 – Looking for an idea

As you may already know, I have a real visual relationship with the music I am listening to. During a concert (but most of the time just laying on my floor) I am often starting to visualize stuff, like in a dream, I let the music create a whole universe in my mind. I don’t do it often, but if I am looking for inspiration to create new pictures, this is 85% of the time, how I would proceed to find inspiration! (favorite song for inspiration : Space oddity – David Bowie <3 )  

This is basically what happened there, the only difference was it is a commissioned work: The guys from Wyve need a new artwork for the releasing of their album! Of course, having a picture I created on a CD is a child’s dream, but this is also a huge honor to be the bone that is going to represent their music. (but also A LOT OF PRESSURE). I put myself into « looking for ideas » mode, exactly as I described above. I was listening to their album all the time, and particularly one song « birth » that is also the name of the album. 
  
I sketched more than a dozen ideas, to be able to bring them different choices. When I am looking for ideas, I try not to get influenced by how-am-I-going-to-do-this? thoughts : the technical questions have to come after so it won’t interfere with the creative process.

My wonderful sketches aheum  So, once I have my sketches, I am like « but now, how? »

My wonderful sketches aheum
So, once I have my sketches, I am like « but now, how? »

2 –  Find a way to make this real

I was imagining the light coming through someone’s eyes, he is covering his face, and the light seems to come from his own body. I am imagining the fingers, getting a bit transparent and red, and the rays of light going through the darkness. Technically speaking, it eliminates straight away the speed lights, because they can’t be hidden in his hands. For the place, it’s going to be easy, just a dark room.
 
 Cool, but how do I do it?
  
I’ve thought about it a lot and I remembered I had already seen similar things with light up eyes in movies (like in Midnight Special for example). However, I guess they probably used big special effects and CGI as they usually do in Hollywood (and probably with After Effects), but I don’t really have 10,000 dollars to create my picture. So the other solution I found was to call my buddy Maxime, he’s a Light Engineer and he works in a Theater. He’s the guy you wanna know when you’re looking for a solution that includes light! Well, also when you need Mojitos! Apparently, I need Mojitos more often. Anyway, he told me about mini LEDs Light that could work. I took a look but did not really like the price so I looked for something else! (but it’s still good to know)
 
I went to ACTION (if you don’t know this store, it’s basically the BEST store in the world, where nothing’s expensive), and I started my quest. I got back home with two frontal LED lights (3 euros each), and LED fairy lights, because it’s pretty and can always be useful.
 
I took a bit of time to take to pieces the frontal lights, in order to only keep the LED system and the batteries (next time I go to ACTION, I’ll buy a tiny screwdriver for electronic devices) but a good pliers and 20 minutes were enough this time. The first test is pretty convincing, I can tape the thing in my hands and it’s not noticeable. Regarding the power of the light, it’s not that great, but you really have to test it to be sure.

#macgyver

#macgyver

3 – The shooting! 

I take advantage of the opportunity to have Maxoo around to test it and I’m not satisfied…the light is too white as well. So we take the LED fairy lights to tape it in his hands. The batteries are taped to his forearms, to be honest he kinda looks like a lousy super hero, or a robot in a B series movie! The result is nicer and the light more powerful, so we try to take a few pictures like this. He can’t really move that much, because everything falls, and I try to hide the cables the best I can so I won’t have a lot of Photoshop afterwards.

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I realize that the idea of the eyes is not that great and that the result is way better when he puts his hands close to his body, that’s cool, I’m happy with my picture and I start to edit it!

An overview of the images without retouching, straight from the camera

An overview of the images without retouching, straight from the camera

I edit it, and as I think about it, I realize that something’s missing and that the image could be richer. I decide to add particles, like a sky full of stars, in order to add meaning and depth to the picture. For the particles, I did not know how to do it so I looked up on Youtube. PHLEARN, (a photographer who gives Photoshop lessons) gives me the answer. It’s in English and if you need to make progress in Photoshop, they’re the best Free lessons on the Internet.
 
Here’s my approach overall. In the end, it’s longer to find the idea for a picture and the solution to make it, than to actually make it!

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Does it make sense to create more art?

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A few months ago I went through an existential creator crisis (just like every others couple of months to be honest ;D ) : it didn’t make any sense any more to create pictures. 


You know, there are already so many of them everywhere! Let’s face it, we are flooded with images and other stuff : more pictures are uploaded every day on instagram than ever before, at a point we almost start to regret the age of the scarcity of film photography. Why would I spend 12 hours to create something with my heart and soul for it to disappear almost instantly, lost into this sad ocean of selfies. And if you start comparing yourself and your work with others photographers, it’s over : so many of them already doing such beautiful pictures, it does not make any sense to do some more! It will never be as beautiful, and even if it’s not that bad, it will never set itself apart from the crowd. That’s it, we are doomed to stay in this magma, lost in the middle of millions other people. I should have listen to my parents/husband/sister/friend and get a real job!

I knew it, I will never be Beyoncé, we are all gonna die, the planet is fucked and the pandas are still not having sex DAMNIT!

Ok, it’s time for a bit of mindfulness, let’s get back on track before we get lost into dark sad parts our mind labyrinth

I want to give you my own most powerful reasons to keep going. This is personal, mostly from conversation with good friends, and this pieces of philosophy help me on a daily basis to keep the spark going!

The world desperately needs the dreamers 

I got this one from my beautiful dancer friend human Kevin : He thinks our mission is indeed vital to the society : We are the one able to see and share beauty, we have the power to move people, to make them feel, this is what’s matters the most. As long as we have the artists, the world will not give up. Don’t let anyone treat you inferior because you are just another creator who wants to live his dream. Everyone loves to go to movies, to watch TV shows, to listen to music : this industries are MASSIVE, they hire thousands of people, and they influence people’s life, who can gather around something great and positive. That’s why every dictature have an absolute control over art and creation : they either use it to promote their own values, or censor the creations that does not fit their views. They understand very well that it can influence people’s point of view. Even in our societies, we need the dreamers to give us hope in a world flooded by bad news ans sensationalism. Especially when medias are playing with our fears on a daily basis. 

The mission of the artist

The artist is a messenger : they are a voice of the society we live in. You might want it or not, but you are a part of this world. So even if you don’t consider yourself as a non-political person, you are still a product of the society you are living in. The creator can use his skills to share messages from people that does not have the voice or the power to do so. When I was still a student in graphic design school, a friend of mine was older and he was already a recognized art director in Paris. He mentored me for a bit and I remember a great lesson he taught me : He said to me « as a designer, you have a power to help others : for example, a charity that helps women victim of domestic violence wants to promote the work they are doing. If they do a poster themselves, and put them it the wall in the street, probably no one will read it. But if you create a great poster for them, with a strong message and an impactful visual, some people will see it and be interested in what they have to say. As a designer, you will have to decide what you want for this world, you can use your power to influence people to buy more useless craps, or you can help give a voice to some people who can’t speak ». I realized this day that if I had a power and a responsability that was beyond me and beyond creating just beautiful visuals. 

The creators are the voice of their time

I will go even farther and say that most of what we admire from the past are from creators : the artists have the power to transcend reality but also time. If a prehistoric guy, thousands of years ago asked himself too many questions about why he was doing this weird paintings on the cave wall and watched netflix instead (wait what?) we would not be able to admire them. And even more important, to understand a tiny bit more about the way they were living. Most of the things we value from our past is Art, Painting, Sculpture, Architecture : these creations reflect the beauty of a past time. We won’t remember the accountant, the banker nor the nurse. These jobs are vital to a society for sure, and sometimes, the artist even help them to be remembered in their own way : I love how Verweer saw beauty and poetry in the life of the domestics working in house : we have to remember it was a time when only rich people got to have their portraits painted. He gives us an insight into the 17th century daily life of workers, and showed us the beauty of it. There are as many different ways to see the world as people on this planet, and I think this is incredible to have access to a piece the mind of other artist, living in other societies, and different times than us. It’s like opening a window to a different world that does not exist anymore. 

Vermeer, milkmaid, around 1658-1661

Vermeer, milkmaid, around 1658-1661


Conclusion

I could give you 1000 reasons why creation will always be a part of my life, this is a highly complicated, deep subject and I have so many more ideas on it (for a change!!). But I love these ones because they are beyond my own personal struggles. They help me see a bigger picture, and as someone who get trapped into my mind labyrinth a lot, it really helps me take the necessary distance to understand that my work is indeed valuable in some way. 

And also, what a waste of a life not to walk your own path :) 
I KNOW IT’S NOT THAT EASY
well it’s another story!

Des bisous!

My (not so) secret in creating anything

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Today, I want to tell you a story that was a great lesson I learnt when I was a kid (I still remember it so that’s how you know it was important :D ) 

I was something like 5 or 6, and as a homework, I had to reproduce a painting (I wanted to add something like « this was the good times", but my job right now is not that far away!!) 
I remember it was a landscape of a sunset, with a lot of red and blue, I would probably recognize it if I saw it right now! 

I remember doing it, not rely putting my mind on it, it was done, my homework were done, alright all good, I was going to sleep and go to school the next day. 

My sister (she is 11 years older) came in my room and saw my art peace. Straight away she went : this is bad, you do it again ». I was like « wtf » I had done my homework I could not understand what was wrong, and even worst, I couldn’t go to bed! 

But she took the time to show me what I should have done, she did her own version of the painting so I could see what technique she used. It was not something magical or mysterious : she was putting LOVE in this. She was actually caring about what she was doing, not just doing it for the sake of doing it. I tried and right away it looked SO DIFFERENT. I was blown away by the result, I had no idea I could do something that look this good and I finally had the best grade of all the class. She made me understand this day that it is not about being good at something : it’s about doing it with care and attention, and it does make so much more difference. 

THERE IS NO POINT DOING THINGS JUST TO DO THEM

I think I am seing so many people thinking they are not good enough, they think they don’t have the skills to have good results, they think it’s all just like this and they will never be good at anything. But the truth is, they forget the main ingredient : it’s LOVE! 

I know it sounds cheesy, but it is absolutely true (plus if you know what I am creating, you know I am not such « spark joy » kind of person :D ) 

If you miss to add this crucial ingredient, I think you can not excel in anything you are doing : if you cook, you have to cook with love, because if you don’t, something is going to end up burnt up for sure! But if you put all your attention in what you are doing, then even if it’s not perfect, you gave it all your love, and it shows, and trust me, people see this things.

It is exactly the same in every area, I will photograph people with love, I will treat my models with respect and treat them as my friends, I will have empathy for my client’s insecurities. And when I am doing my retouching, I am not just applying a mask or removing blemishes : I am doing everything with so much care so the result is the best I could have done. And when I deliver the pictures, I even say it out loud « I created this with love, and I hope you are going to love the result as much as I do! » 

And to be honest with you, if I don’t do stuff with love, I don’t see the point of doing them at all :)

I would love to know if you think this is important. Do you already do it in some areas of your life? 

My 10 favorite ways to find creative ideas

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Inspiration IS a big deal for creative people, especially when it’s not there. Everyone has this misconception that artists are really inspired people by nature, that they get this genius lightning of magical ideas coming from nowhere that make them create awesome stuff. Sorry to disappoint but the only secret is that it’s mostly A LOT of work! And I am pretty sure any random person can have awesome ideas if they put some effort in this. So the best way to start is to actively look for ideas. I was lucky enough to meet Ben Harper and I remember him saying that he would sit and write music everyday. He is not waiting to be magically inspired out of thin air, he is not picking his guitar because he is in the right mood : he is picking it everyday, just like any other job, he puts a lot of hard work in this. Most musicians write 100 songs to get a 10 tracks album! So don’t feel discouraged if everything you do is not perfect, that’s just normal, but at least doing it gets you on the right track and leave plenty of room for improvements! 

First thing first : Take the time to actually write down the ideas! Write, them, sketch them, put them on paper, get a fancy notebook, a crappy piece of blank paper, anything, but DO IT. My most prolific times are when I actually force myself to sit with nothing but a blank page and a pen that I find most ideas coming to my mind!

I have SO MANY of these laying around everywhere!

I have SO MANY of these laying around everywhere!

Sometimes it is not that easy, so here are some tips and triggers that I personally use on a daily basis for fresh ideas (and I am almost sorry to say this does not any drugs or alcool  )

  • Friends

Spend some time and team up with other creative people, brainstorm with your creative friends : make up artists, illustrators, designers they surely have a cool project ongoing and they will be more happy to have pictures of it at some point! Book an afternoon with them, everyone brings food, drinks, ideas, and enjoy this moment! 

  • Music

I will lay on the floor with my headphones and listen to music (which must be a weird sight from outside), just letting go and creating a whole world in my head (bonus point if you have musician friends who constantly inspires you so they have cool pictures for their marketing!) Going to concert is awesome! Live music is the best because you can feel the energy of the band and the public around you. 

  • Feelings

Your own emotion at the moment (the crappiest the more inspiring, sad but true  ) : how would you visually represent this feeling? Bonus point here because letting it out is always better for your mental health 

  • Find a muse!

Someone you can shoot who complete you artistically, someone who makes you want to create and allows you to express your art, someone who share your vision and respect it! He/she could be a model, a dancer, your lover, a burlesque artist, a performer, a comedian, even just a random person that you are attracted to for some reason, anyone! PUT HIM NAKED AND SHOOT HIM (ask for consent thought) Many designers have had muses they created uniques pieces for, and artist are painting their favorite model endlessly, because they always had a new story to tell about this person. 

  • Pinterest

I have a huuuge pinterest board that I love browsing from time to time for visual references, it’s a great mood board. It’s very personal but you can check it out if you are curious. I pin everything and not photography related stuff, it’s a lot of contemporary art mostly

  • Going OUT

Exhibitions, looking at art with your own eyes is pretty different than just checking it on the internet (it would be the same as watching a movie streaming on your phone VS going to the theatre!) 

  • Try a new technique

A new light something new, experimenting with gels? Get a new backdrop? Mixing real paint on top of a picture? Experiment with dry ice? Hell yeah! Go a bit crazy! I think it’s the only time I will look for inspiration into other photographer’s work. I often see copies of copies of pictures, and I feel our work is much stronger when we define our own concepts, when we build our own references outside of our industry. That is what will make our work somewhat unique, and truly reflecting our creative identity. 

  • Reading a book/ stories, go see a movie

Just like music, it’s all about training our imagination and our creative eye. How did you imagine this really nice paragraph you just read? expand your own world, feed your mind.

  • Go for a walk in nature

If I spend a lot of time in my studio I get trapped into my own mind. Getting some fresh air definitly brings fresh ideas! (And I am writing this with frozen hands from my phone in a park so it does work!)

  • Location / travelling

You went to a new place that is so cool you absolutely want to go back there and shoot! Going to a new city, visit new country, immerse yourself in a new culture is great to get surprised and excited again!

Bonus

if you are really stuck and your mood is not for creativity, it can happen : learn to rest and to let go for a while. Do something you would never do usually, sometimes you have less pressure to deliver something you don’t HAVE to be good at : For example My illustrator friend Camille takes pictures of flowers and random stuff to get ideas for drawings, my musician friend Maxime had no ideas for new songs so he spent a lot of his time writing a novel (I admit, some people are extreme  ) One day I bought some modeling clay and spent the night trying to do a skull. The result was awful but I had fun :p