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A Spark of Genius

This assignment ran from May 9 to May 30, 2017.

I have always believed that everyone is constantly in the pursuit of achieving something in their lives. We’re all dreamers who strive to attain our goals or become better versions of ourselves. Our world is improved by the work of problem solvers, creators, thinkers, entrepreneurs and in some cases rule breakers. As a photographer, some of what has been in front of my lens has been the inspirational work of people who have inspired me to achieve greatness, and at other times it has been the beauty and clarity revealed through nature. Now we’re looking for our community to share with us images of who and what inspires them.

Genius is all around us, and inside each of us and we believe transformational ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. For this assignment, think about the different ways ideas take shape in the world, how does it feel to finally have a breakthrough, to solve a mystery, or come up with the answer? What inspires you and how does it make you feel? Where do you seek inspiration? Is there a location you to go to that inspires your creativity? Is there an idea or person who has inspired you? Show me the idea of creativity or genius through images. 

This assignment is teaming with a new project here at National Geographic called Chasing Genius – a digital community designed to inspire, ignite, and unleash the genius inside each one of us. Our work with this Your Shot Assignment will help us visualize what it means to be chasing genius and hopefully inspire people to participate and explore their curiosities, share their stories and turn their ideas into catalysts for change in the world.

For more information on Chasing Genius, go to

SUBMISSION Deadline is May 30, 2017 at 12PM EST.

Curated by:

Matt Adams
Senior Producer, Nat Geo Your Shot
Assignment Status
  • Open

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  • Closed

    Completed assignments—with our favorite photos included—will be published online. Learn more.
  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Jun 5, 2017.
Thank you for your contributions!

Five Days Left

Posted may 25, 2017

I know that an abstract idea like inspiration can be difficult to photograph. How am I supposed to visually represent a private feeling? How can I use my camera to capture the essence of what inspires me?

In the photographs that have come in so far, I have loved seeing pictures of your families and friends. Having close relationships can be a great inspiration. I’ve also enjoyed submissions where photographers used the captions to talk about ways certain photographers have shaped their artistic sensibilities and helped them grow. Of course, replicating the work of another photographer is never easy, but sometimes within our own styles we can see bits and pieces of inspiration we’ve gleaned from another visual artist.

With five days left in this assignment, my advice is to think about what makes you want to pick up a camera and photograph the world around you. What got you into photography in the first place? See if you can capture that in your images, and then tell me about it in your captions. Good luck!

Finding that spark of Inspiration

Posted may 17, 2017

Whenever I’m preparing to launch an assignment, I always think about what types of images I would submit if I weren’t editing the assignment. Sometimes I have an idea right away, and sometimes I may not be able to come up with a creative idea that would make my submission stand out from the crowd. When it’s the latter, I think about how happy I am to take on the editor role and not the photographer role. The theme for “A Spark of Genius” is inspiration. I’m looking for images of what inspires you, our community. For me, what first comes to mind all are the photographers I’ve have studied, or whose work hangs on the walls my apartment. I think about the subtle documentary work of Stephen Shore, the strong portrait work of Richard Avedon, or the beautiful medium format work of Sara Macel. 

If I were submitting, perhaps I would do my best to replicate their work in an image, and then write about the inspiration I received from viewing their work on a regular basis. Are there any photographers whose work who inspires you? Of course, it’s never easy to replicate the work of another photographer. When I gave this assignment to students during my teaching days, I wasn’t asking my students to just copy the work. Instead, I challenged them to study the ways certain photographers used light the way they did, or how they chose to compose the subject with a certain lens.

Another idea is to visit a location that inspires you. Is there a place where you go to clear your head? A local beach, trail, city center where inspiration can strike you at any moment? Or maybe you’re inspired by the people around you. Family members? Friends? Take their portraits and add in your caption why that person inspires you. Or maybe music inspires you. Albert Einstein played the violin as a way to clear his head, and it also bring brought inspiration for some of his work. If you have this in common, show me in your images. This assignment might not seem as straightforward as “Cities in Black and White,” and it will ask you to put some thought into your submissions. But I have no doubt that this community will continue to amaze me with their ideas and photography.

Matt Adams

Matt Adams

Senior Producer, Nat Geo Your Shot
Matt is a Senior Producer on the Your Shot team. He curates and produces the Daily Dozen gallery as well as monthly assignments. Before Nat Geo, Matt was a photography instructor and freelance photographer working for publications such as Wired, Spin, and Pittsburgh Magazine.