Wednesday, November 9, 2022

What really is a creative block ?

We are so used to always doing, and achieving,  that anytime there is a pause in our lives we do not know how to react. As a child, I was always driven by action because that is what I was told, "do not waste your time."  If you are not 'doing' something it was assumed you are wasting time, daydreaming was never really encouraged.  A full schedule is equated to being productive... it reminds me of a hamster wheel. Fast forward to my present-day life, I am not guilty of sitting in my studio doing nothing and waiting for the world to go by. This is special because when we sit doing nothing ( we think it is nothing)....the seeds of a creative idea are planted.  If one can sit still for long enough,  the idea will sprout. But we never give ourselves that chance.  

In social media or real life, everyone is in a rush, we hurry ...what if we take a moment to pause. The buds take time to bloom, and so does the seed, it takes time to sprout. For me, creative block is a needed pause to clear my mind from the clutter of doing, and from there, something exceptional will emerge. If you have a creative seed in you, it will sprout. You have to give the right environment for it. 

What do I mean by the right environment? In my workshop, I usually see a lot of students start out with disappointments, the burden of expectation is so heavy that they drown their creativity in it. " I am not getting it", "my images are terrible", "no one is going to like my images" ...and so on. I always have one question to ask...did you enjoy taking the pictures. Rome was not built in a day, it takes time to hone your skills. The only true yardstick for success and growth is - are you enjoying what you are doing without judging the outcome? If yes you are on the right path. We burden ourselves with ownership and outcome. If you release that, maybe you will release your creative block. The very word block blocks us ...what if we called it a creative pause instead.

So if you are having a creative lull, maybe a walk outdoors may help. Nature has never failed to inspire. But before you start assuming you are in a block, give yourself a few days or even weeks. 

The right environment is recognition, appreciation, and enjoyment...Start asking yourself - am I  having fun. So, if you are shooting spices and you are not enjoying them, drop them. Go for a walk, and take your camera. Or take some paints and play with them. Find something that gives you pleasure. Go from there. Be, gentle with yourself, self-encouragement is really important, it is a mindset and it really helps one grow. 

The pause should not be confused with laziness and procrastination. I even question laziness I just lazy or am I exhausted at some level and need that break. Only we can sit with what comes from us and we just have to be brutally honest with ourselves. 

This is what works for me, I try not to judge myself ( it is always a work in progress), we are always learning. What really matters is how much fun I am having, I want to be like a child...

So in conclusion I would just say that I do not think there is anything called a block. A pause may be, and for all, you know it may be filled with creative juiciness... just wait and see what unfolds. Remember gentleness and do not forget to have fun. 

A lot of times my students tell me that my prescription is so difficult, it is so hard as adults to have fun and to be light without getting weighed down by the outcome. My dream is to have a workshop in a beautiful natural sanctuary where one whole day is devoted to just using paints and creating fun. When we say creating art, we instantly have an expectation of something spectacular. The mornings are spent watching the sun-rise...where we pick our camera without judgment and we paint with our lens. When we create from that relaxed energy, it shows, appreciation happens as a by-product. When that shift happens, you will no longer be bothered about recognition because you would have had so much fun that you will not care about the outcome. Like photography, this mindset is a work in progress. It is a beautiful place to be. I cannot say I am there yet, but I am surely on that path and it is liberating. 

I would love to know your views on creativity, block, muse, and what is your journey like?

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Thursday, November 3, 2022

Fall Images - 2022

Capturing fall in all it's glory has always been my dream, alluring at the same time elusive. The very reason why it is elusive it is also alluring...because you really do not know what you are capturing but it pulls you in like a magnet. From tree to tree, leaf to leaf and color to color. The music of the wind and the dance of the leaf to that music. To be able to get that in a still is nothing short of magic. I am no magician... but why judge the outcome? I enjoyed every moment of creating each of these images. As I walked from tree to tree ...trying to listen at what the leaves were trying to tell me. 

The process of photography is much like loosing yourself to the moment. Contradictory to the belief that you loose the moment if you are trying to capture it. To me I  become more intimate with the moment when I see it through my camera. Dorothea Lange rightly says, " the camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera" That is precisely what photography has done for me. made me more aware of the silence that hide in things. The little bokeh, the nuaces of the dynamic range. It is nothing sort of meditation. 

When I entered this little forest, I was a strager and I felt I was invading the space: typical  human behaviour ....this is the first time I have had this realization that we humans almost assume that all space ir our space. At first I walked around, sat a bit and just looked ...before I knew it it was an hour....only when I felt my presence was kind of acknowledged that I started to make pictures. I only realized all of this when I got back into my car and looked back at the forest, from a strange place I had never been to, to a familiar place ...the transformation was mutual. As if the trees were ok with me hanging out with them. The clouds gave way to sunshine and magical light allured me from tree to tree.  

Hope you enjoy these images as much as I enjoyed creating them. 


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Thursday, February 17, 2022

Culture and heritage - Part 1


Yesterday I was speaking to a friend of mine and during the course of our chat, she asked me if I had a was her way of telling me to go back to blogging.  I thought about it and realized I do miss blogging, I miss having a conversation and sharing my slice of life with you. Turmeric n' Spice started as a recipe blog to document the recipes that were passed on and my experiments in the kitchen. Soon, it opened new opportunities for me and before I knew it I was deep into photography. With so much time spent doing photography, I had little or no time left to maintain a blog. Like everything else, a blog does take time and it is a labor of love. Then what has changed you may ask? Well, nothing that really meets the eye but a whole lot in the last few years. 

The last few years have taken me to a place where I am extremely conscious of how and where I use my resources, especially time. Having said that, I really want to spend more time on what I love to do. When speaking to my friend, I realized how I miss blogging and maybe it is time to take some time out for blogging and sharing my journey here. It could be recipes, photography, updates, or just sharing. I am not going to obsess about recipes but I will share recipes as and when I can. 

I am contemplating between sharing a recipe or a body of work I created last year. I think I am going to share my work here today and I will come back with a recipe next week. 

Sometimes at the end of last year, I created a portfolio for Adobe that showcased my culture and heritage, there was a lot about food too. It was a unique opportunity and I am so glad and grateful for it. Here is a link to all the images I shot. I will share a few of my favorite images from this portfolio and probably share my thoughts behind them. Each image is curated by a team, I worked with Adobe closely to formulate a concept, work on the logistics and finally shoot. I shot about 1200 + images and we picked about 500 to be included in this collection. 


I wanted the collection to have a mix of still-life as well as celebratory images, where I share how we celebrate not just festivals but how we celebrate our lives. When it comes to still-life, I wanted the images to be bold, colorful, and showcase my culture. I wanted to bring symbolism and color to my images.

 The lotus is a sacred flower. Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu are often portrayed on a pink lotus in the iconography. You can also see Goddess Lakshmi, Goddess Saraswati, Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma, and Lord Kubera sitting on a lotus throne. The lotus symbolizes the inner potential, grown in swamps, it is your inner journey from the web of the material world to the true realization of who you really are. I really wanted to include this symbolism in the still. 

The peacock feather is a symbol of Lord Krishna, one cannot think about the peacock feather without thinking about Krishna. It is often attributed to representing the cycle of time. 

I also used a banana leaf, if you have ever visited the Southern part of India you will see that the authentic meal is always served on the banana leaf. I will not go into the details of the symbolism but on a practical level, it is the perfect biodegradable plate. 

I included the betel leaf and nut - which is an important part of an offering - called tambulam. 

"Tāmbūla consists of a variety of ingredients wrapped in betel leaves. Typically, it includes areca nuts, edible camphor, slaked lime, saffron, and other fragrant herbs. It is one of the 16 offerings in ritual worship, occurring right after food offerings.

There are numerous reasons for elevating the commonly consumed paan to a sacred offering. On a gross level, it aids digestion, particularly after heavy meals. From an Āyurvedic perspective, it ignites Agni, specifically that associated with digesting food. If you’ve ever chewed paan, it’s a delightful experience of the perfect mix of disparate flavors that remains in your awareness long after it is eaten and swallowed. The lingering flavors permeate the senses with lasting freshness.

On a subtler level, it represents our ability to digest the experience. Normally, our ability to digest experience is uneven. We hang on to the unsavory ones and forget all the good that ever happened to us." - - Dr. Kavitha Chinnaiyan

The lamp, Haldi (turmeric), and kumkum are quintessential parts of an offering. To me, it was the five elements coming together: fire in the lamp, water through the lotus, air through the peacock leaf, earth through the betel leaves and the earthy backdrop, and space through the aroma of everything coming together. 



The above two images were shot during Diwali the festival of lights - the two women are decorating the house for Diwali. I wanted to really bring out the traditional elements in a modern setting. The wooden floor is a subtle way to bring in the modern home. 


The image above is a true representation of sisterhood. I have always been extremely lucky to work with strong women. I also believe that when we create together magic happens and this image is really a true representation of that for me. 



The above two images were shot in Seattle in my friend's dance studio. She is a classical Kuchipudi dancer. The shoot was magical. We worked for 5 hours without break and neither one of us realized it, till it was pitch dark outside. I will be sharing a post on the dance form and the mudras ( hand gestures) that I have captured. 

Girl in Sari


The traditional South-Indian filter coffee,  served traditionally in a tumbler and a cup. 
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Monday, May 10, 2021

Basil Berry Moscow Mule

Simi Jois Photography

Simi Jois Photography

It has been such a long time since I have shared a recipe here on the blog. For some reason I have this urge to restart blogging this year. I hope to get on a regular schedule soon.  You can expect me to share not just recipes but a lot of photography  tips as well. 

If you are not following me on Instagram - here is a link to my profile. I have shared the BTS ( behind the scenes) video on Instagram Reels. I have shot the above two images with a back light and a reflector lighting the front. The red petunia was shot in golden hour and the drink was shot in mid afternoon. 

The drink itself is extremely simple. 

1 cup mixed berries 
1 inch ginger 
1 cup water 
1/4 cup sugar 

Preparation: Grate the ginger, mox the berries, water and sugar and let it boil and reduce. Blend and strain. Let it cool

For the drink : 
Ingredients: 1 1/2 oz Vodka, 1/6 oz Lime juice, 4 oz Ginger beer, 2 oz berry compote, basil leaves 
Preparation: Combine vodka and ginger beer and berry compote in a  glass filled with ice. Add lime juice. Stir gently and garnish with basil leaf 
Served: On the rocks; poured over ice.
Traditionally it is served in a copper bug, but the color was so beautiful, I decided to serve it in a glass. 

Simi Jois Photography

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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Photography 1:1 - A three month mentoring program


Last year I was speaking to a very good friend of mine who has also taken a few photography workshops with me, she recommended I start a long-term coaching/mentoring program. Her reasons were valid, she said she wanted someone to handhold her through the process. A day's workshop is great for someone who has a lot of self-discipline and can go and execute what they learned. A long term coaching ensures hand-holding and constant feedback. You may learn all the theory but you may not know what you are doing wrong and why your images are not turning out the way you want them. That is where the teacher and a group of like-minded photographers help. After some contemplation, I launched the three-month mentoring program.  

 I want to keep the group intimate but at the same time have enough students to keep it interactive. I have limited seats (12-14). It is a very interactive program. You are expected to constantly engage and your camera will be put to good use. It is a time-consuming program, both from my end and from yours. 

A little bit about the program - 

Photojournal & critique

I will create a private Facebook group for this purpose. Each one will create an album in the group and post all their images in the album. Practice makes perfect - the more you use your skills the better you become. I recommend you take a picture every day, if not every day at least 4-5 days a week. Post the images you take in your album. Your photo journal will show you your progress and help me critique.

 2 - Partner work

One of the ideas for doing this program is to develop a community so we can work together. I have always seen, when you have someone to bounce your ideas with, we work better. Each member will have a partner to work with. You will critique each other's images on FB. Critiquing really helps us grow, so the more you critique, the more we will learn. This is the reason I strongly believe that critiquing is an integral part of this program. This will help you develop a keen eye for details. You are not restricted to critiquing just your partner's work but I encourage you to do it on as many images in the group as you can.

I also encourage partners to push each other to do better.  You can plan with your partner and have a theme for your photo journal or use creative ways to collaborate & grow.

Once a week I will have a one-on-one call with you and your partner to assess your progress and address your questions, issues, or concerns. I will be critiquing the images from the week with you. This will be a 45min-60min call. I will post the day/time slots for my availability and you can sign up for a slot that works for you. Each week it will be the same day/time you pick. 

You can pick your partner or I can help you with it. It is very flexible.

3 - Lessons 

We will have 5-6 lessons which will be scheduled for all. They will be pre-scheduled and will be about 3-4 hours each. I will be talking in-depth about food styling, lighting, camera setting, shooting in manual, metering, focus, post-processing in photoshop, and artificial continuous light.

To know in detail you can always reach out to me and I can schedule a call. If you are interested in the program, email is the best way to reach me. Email - 

All the lessons and one on one critiques with your partner will be held on Zoom. 

Cost - please email me for details. 

Testimonials - 

"Simplicity, clarity, depth, perfection, artist ... these are the few things that come to mind when I think of Simi Jois, my teacher. This photography workshop amidst a pandemic was supposed to be a good source of self productivity and good use of time when all we had was time. But for me, this investment turned out to be one of magnificent energy and happiness! Even as I write this I am excited as I know Simi has started me on a journey I hope to travel for quite some time. Her calming energy, constant encouragement, gentle handholding, and at times a kick in the rear to do better and dive in deeper always arrived at the perfect moment. I had not held a camera until this workshop. I thought I took decent photos but only with a cellular phone. But little did I know! The camera was unchartered territory. Today I barely pick up my phone to shoot.... And for that, I am forever indebted as a student is to her amazing teacher!" - Anna Sen Venkatesh

"When I enrolled in Simi's classes, I didn't really know what would be in store. Simi is the best thing that happened to me in my photography journey. Her pics have a unique, artistic touch to them. She is a great teacher and a mentor who explains things until you get it right! When I look back at my photos, I see the progress after joining Simi's classes. She taught me how to understand every aspect in a pic, most importantly, light. Her course covers everything from shooting, food styling to editing. My favorite part in this course has been critiquing. I learnt so much by critiquing on others' pics and getting feedback on my pics too. I wasn't really comfortable with this idea initially, but Simi insisted that critiquing is the best way to learn. That was the game changer! Thank you so much Simi, for not holding back your knowledge and expertise. For pushing me out of my comfort zone, motivating me and challenging me to come up with something better every single time. Rarely do I come across artists like you." Anita Hariharan

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