follow up on Are you creative


With Rifqui’s comment ( thank you kindly for bringing it up) on mind, maybe there are a plentitude of possible definitions of ‘creativity’. Is it about ‘what’ is creativity? Or a matter of degree; some people are more creative than others. If so, what is the measure of ‘more’ or ‘less’? Maybe it is concerning ourselves with a result that conforms to some specific pre-defined outcome, standard, who’s standard?
Let’s look at that early-morning wardrobe thing. Sure, it may not be new clothing, or clothing that you invented yourself, and we may have worn it many times before. When we consider, however, that specific morning, the specific mood we may be in, the weather, for a woman maybe the make-up she has or ran out of, and the many other variables in combination, we come up with new choices each day.
When does something move from being non-creative to being creative. Is there a line between, and if so where and how and who draws it? What is the difference between being creative and being inventive, as in creating something new. If Claude Monet, and Renoir, are considered the first impressionist painters, inventors of sorts and creative, how creative then do we consider all subsequent generations of impressionist painters.
And let ourselves not be misled to think creative must equal skillful! Doesn’t matter if you can’t photograph and print like Ansel Adams or Imogen Cunningham, or draw like Leonardo da Vinci, you can move a pencil across paper so you can draw. Even creatively as in inventive. Haphazardly scribble a bunch of wobbly circles and pretty much we can assume that there has never been an exact same scribble ever before. Is that creative as inventing something new? Absolutely. Is it creative as in skillful? Not necessarily. Is it creative as in a human being creating something? Absolutely. Do we like and admire and stand in awe of this drawing? Not likely but who cares, that exactly is what the point is not.

This is not to disregard actual work scenarios in which you are drawing, working, photographing, or inventing for a client or any other specific pre-determined purpose, after all, we got to make a living. Concerning yourself with the result-for-a-specific-purpose for whatever reason and intention is certainly a valid concern, though a whole other chapter not to do with ‘creativity’ in and of itself. Here I am rambling about the nature of the human condition being such that we can not but be creative, no matter how much we may tell ourselves we are not, and how that understanding may apply to and moves us, our minds, our actions, work, practices, and our awareness.

mizu wa mina   ne tatsuru yama no   fukasa kana    all sounds of streams   has faded   so deep the mountains  Haiku by Taneda Santooka (1882-19400, Japanese poet, photograph/ink-brush calligraphy in hentaigana script

mizu wa mina ne tatsuru yama no fukasa kana - all sounds of streams has faded so deep the mountains - Haiku by Taneda Santooka (1882-1940), Japanese poet, photograph/ink-brush calligraphy in hentaigana script

This awareness is, as I see it, the central idea around which creativity becomes manifest. It is the mindfulness, attention, conscious intent, even in the least of activities, that make the creative quality apparent and will, almost inescapably, lead to a richer experience. If practiced persistently, it can also become part of learning the skill component of the process, so we can put it to purposeful use, too, if desired.

Not to force and belabor a point construed, quite coincidentally just a few days ago, I came across another photographer’s mention of his father having taught him that any activity done with passion and pride was an art. Be it sports, painting or sculpture, running a business or being a parent. No matter what it is, when done with passion and conviction, it is art. Great father, I’d say.

So when you go out to photograph whatever you photograph, free yourself from seeing the final picture in advance. ( I’ll do another post, shortly, on why it is important to visualize the final image in advance – Ha !  go figure). Instead of going through the routines of our daily chores, photographing the same subject yet another time, or even when copying something that already exists, we may appreciate that this very moment, no matter how familiar it may feel, actually has never been before.
No matter how many times we have done something in the past, what we do in each and every moment is yet again anew.

It appears to me that shying away from defining creativity in specific terms leaves more room for actual experiences of it.

may your day be creatively mindful
peter
http://www.crimsonbamboo.zenfolio.com/

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Are you creative?


Chances are you heard it many times from many people:  the ‘oh no –  I’m not good at drawing/painting/crafts/music …   I’m not really a creative type …’

Well, sorry to burst your bubbly perception, (actually, not really sorry at all), but anyone can draw, anyone can paint, and anyone can make photographs. It requires no special skills to put paint on paper and canvas, to hold the camera up to a scene and click the shutter, to klimper-tinker some sounds from an instrument, and glue some paper together to make not whatever it is supposed to be but whatever it turns out to become; I’ve done all of those, so no making me believe otherwise.

Sure, you may say, but the point is about how well can anyone do those things! Hmmm, really? Does being creative inherently imply doing anything well? And certainly it does not only relate to the so-called arts. Any thought process, act of speech, and physical act is, of sorts, a creative one. Living one’s life, for that matter, each and every day, requires constant and unceasing creative thinking and acting. Anytime a decision is to be made it requires some kind of creative choice, no matter whether minor or major. Early morning I gotta decide which clothes to wear, what to eat for breakfast, leave now to work or 3 minutes later, cross the road here as usual or walk to the next intersection today, sign up for this course or that one, read this book or the newspaper or not at all and listen to music, which kind, pick up the phone or let it go to the answering machine …. goodness me, it’s endless creative options. Coming to think of it, we cannot even escape being creative if we wanted to.

Yet, we still think we aren’t. Maybe because somehow we have come to consider creativity to narrowly only mean being ‘artistic’, as in … well, as in what? Maybe it is because we assume that being creative inherently requires some, often pre-judged, specific kind of accomplishment. Especially, of course, accomplishment in the eyes of others. Maybe it is because we have lost touch with what goes on in our minds all the time, and we don’t pay attention to what our moment to moment life actually requires from us and returns to us.

Here is a suggestion: be mindful of your choices, be they ever so minor and mundane, and pay attention to how and what you feel while making them. This is not about feeling ‘good or bad’ or judging those choices, but simply noticing a sense of the fact that there actually can be a conscious awareness of that moment of choosing to turn this way and not that way, to use these words and not those, to act like this instead of like that. Everything we think, say, and do is creative and will have consequences (take note).

Next time you pick up the brush, the pen, the camera, how attached are you to a particular outcome? Can you be creative simply for the sake of being creative? No worry the outcome, experience the process!

Told you! You are creative!

peter

Knowing


12 october 2011
following up on previous post from 10 october

So there, we like to label things. When first perceiving something new, our brain instantly asks ‘what’s that?’ and we just as instantly try to answer with a name of the thing. Naming and labeling helps us categorize, feel familiar with, make sense of the multitude of things and stimulus we receive from our environment.
Knowing the label we believe to know the thing. Knowing the name of a thing or of a person, we assume to have familiarity with that thing or that person.
Jonathan? Sure, he lives in that house at the end of the road, doesn’t he? Sure, I know him.
Yes I have read that article on the famine in Africa, I know all about it, it’s horrible.
‘Mom! I don’t want you to take me to Europe, I hate Europe. I know, Bobby was there last year with his parents and he hated it, I know what it is like there!’.

But do we really? Can we know anything without having experienced it? Felt it and lived it? It is not a simple feat to distinguish between knowing and mere opinion, even be it ever so based on intellectual learnedness. We can read all we want and listen to as many teachers as we can find, unless we experience with our own bodies and mind our knowledge remains an intellectual construct. This is not to say such intellectual constructs can not be of real-life service. We do not need to jump or fall off the height of a 100 feet bridge to understand the consequences. Yet, even that is still only intellectual knowing and understanding.
Now how does all this relate to photography? Well, consider the last time you were at an art show, whether photography or other. The majority of works, even abstracts, were likely displayed along with a title. I am not referring to image-labels that simply provide a means of archival identification for the individual image, such as ‘Street Scene Paris # 5’, or ‘Yellow Flower’, but titles that say what the image is supposed to mean, to tell and inform, that provide the story.
Clearly, there are circumstances in which it is appropriate to add words to the image. Consider a photograph of a crowd in the street, clearly in uproar, yet the image does not provide any clue as to the reason for the uproar. In a documentary, journalistic context a title and possibly even lengthy words of explanation may be very appropriate. Were the image to be displayed as art, maybe for it’s purely photographic merits, however, how would a title influence our viewing and experience of the work?
We can consider various possibilities. If an image does not have the strength and clarity to express itself, can a title make up for it? Is it necessary for an image to ‘tell a story’ at all? Should the artist provide a meaning, an interpretation, along with the image? Why? Why not? Should we, as the audience and viewer, expect to be served a story and meaning along with the photograph? Every photograph?
When you look at images the next time, try to get a sense of how the mere reading of a label, a name, a title, influences the path our mind takes in interpreting and finding meaning in that work? How it shifts and directs the experience of the image. How it can subtly or not so subtly limit the relationship our own mind could create with the work.


Viewing art is an intimate exchange and communication that takes place within ourselves. It has the potential to find meaning from within the context of our own personal life experience that each of us, individually, brings into this exchange. We all relate not only to art, but to people and their behaviours, and events and circumstances in all areas of our lives, in our own personal ways.

Thus, I also prefer to decide for each image individually and depending on the context of use whether a title is necessary, desirable, or limiting the potential for the viewer, and if a title is chosen, which purpose it may serve and why. The title becomes an integral part of the final work, after all, and deserves the same deliberation as the image itself.
enjoy the autumn colours with or without meaning
peter
http://www.crimsonbamboo.zenfolio.com

Looking or Seeing Images


10  October  2011

Image and Message

There are various approaches to assessing the merits of a photograph. One can look for  technical aspects, such as lighting and exposure, shutter speed chosen, sharpness versus blurriness, tonalities. Then there are artistic choices such as composition and framing, use of colour and monochrome, in printing the choice of papers and presentation. The choice of the subject photographed itself, can be made part of deciding on the merits of the final image; some people may consider a photograph of a socially important issue to be, by mere selection as the subject matter, to have inherently more value or importance than, say, a photograph of a natural landscape; others may decide vice versa.


As in so many areas of life, variable factors, circumstances, conditions, and timing determine case by case how to create, view, and relate to an image; rarely can we, even should we, use final and fixed statements about whether an image is good, great, or not worthy of consideration. It all depends and differentiation is a more appropriate approach when assessing a photograph, or art in general … and other people, for that matter, too!
Differentiation, for example, between images that are of journalistic and documentary nature,  intending to record and present our world as realistically as seen by the photographer; purely artistic purposes, abstract images, or those that show us that same world in a way we have not noticed before; private and personal work that may never be intended to be seen by anyone else. So many options for our creative work.
Then consider the countless and all valid reasons for doing what we do, even within each of the above mentioned types of image work:
we may create
– for our own satisfaction of creativity;  maybe we never intend the image to be seen by anyone else, but to satisfy our own growth as a human being, furthering our own creative process and learning;
– to understand our own life better; for example by observing ourselves, our emotions, hopes, desires, and anxieties, habits, during the process of creating, such as in the practice of contemplative photography ;
– possibly without even being interested in the final image, creating simply for the love of the process of working and experimenting with the gadgetry of camera work;
– for an audience  – to see what we saw   – to appreciate and show natural beauty or to understand a message we see or intend in the image, be it drawing attention to other people’s lives and circumstances; environmental messages; to change the world; encourage others to action, to think, to question;
– to receive approval for our own ego ( neither easy to acknowledge nor to get past … but maybe I am just talking of myself here … ), or to find approval for furthering our recognition as a photographer, artist, our business;

None of these are inherently better or more or less deserving or worthy than another. After all, who is to judge one’s fellow being’s creative process. What is valuable, however, is to become aware of our own intentions and purposes for being creative in a given way. Insights gleaned from such awareness can not only support and further our artistic path, but will naturally transfer to and inform all other areas of our daily lives to become more insightful and aware as well.
Here then are the questions: Does an image require a message? Does a photograph, in order to be a ‘great image’, need to convey a story? Does the viewer need an interpretation for or of an image in order to be moved by it?
Are there differences in the ‘value’ of images that depict a scene of Nature, a poor person in the street, or an abstract image of artistic merit? Can they each affect us deeply wether or not they tell a particular story or deliver a specific message?
Well, as for myself, I admit to rarely letting myself be pinned down to some final and one-size-fits-all definite statement … and this may give you a hint as to how I answer those questions for myself.
Might it be valuable to your own creative process, too, to become more clear about these questions ?

have a good camera day
peter

http://www.crimsonbamboo.zenfolio.com/