Friday, December 19, 2008

Creativity Tips Continue #8-11

Creativity tip
Breaking out of a rut. Creativity is more about your mind than anything else. Sadly, our minds are like water, taking the path of least resistance, which is usually the path most traveled. The more traveled a path becomes, the more like a rut it becomes. The deeper the rut, the harder it is to climb out. Climb out now by breaking your habits. Once your habits are broken, your mind opens up to new possibilities, new ideas...creativity.
Usually, a photographer who is trying to become more creative will work at it from a photographic POV, but developing a creative mind will do more for the photograph than trying something different photographically. This "trying to be different" approach is not creative. Yes, it may seem like it at first, but in no time at all it will prove itself to be just some silliness. Developing a creative mind is a result of exercising all avenues of your life.
Try these for starters: Don't go to your photoshop, go to your kitchen. Take your favorite recipe, remove one ingredient and replace it with another. Plant an herb garden. Replace salt with thyme. Replace pepper with basil. Replace mustard with pesto. Replace your normal breakfast with anything except what you just reached for. Now apply this principle to some aspect of your photography. Next time you reach for a lens, force yourself to use another. If you reach for a posing stool, you can't use it now. If you go for a certain background, now you can't use it. Push yourself to break habits, to reach farther out. You'll be on your way to a creative mind. When your mind becomes creative, your photography will become creative, and not just silly and different.

Creativity tip #9
Breaking out of your rut. Next time your roommate says, "Hey, I'm going to the soda machine. Want anything?"
You say, "Yeah, bring me the third selection down."
No, don't tell me you have to have a certain kind of soda. The soda you drink is not better than the others in the machine - it's just that you've habituated to it. If you are narrow-minded about something as petty as a certain kind of soda, you can't expect to have an open and creative mind about something as complex as photography.
Narrow-mindedness when it comes to racism, sexism, politics, religion, and the color of the kitchen walls will demonstrate your ability to be creative in photography. Don't tell me you expect to have a great new creative style of photography and then turn right around and say to me that you hate turquoise or men or Republicans or New Zealanders or well-done prime rib. Narrow minds are narrow. Great minds are great.

Creativity tip #10
Rules are for fools. If you think you can be creative and still follow the rules, think again. Rules are for people who can't think (fools) or for people who are too lazy to think (whose minds slowly atrophy to the level of fools) or for the narrow minded folk who think there's only one way to do something and that's the way someone did it in the past (rejecting growth is foolish).
Rules help fools reach mediocrity. Beyond that, they have no function. Great masterpieces break all kinds of rules. Go to any museum. Go to any upscale gallery. Now go to a garage sale and pick up a paint-by-numbers picture for 25 cents. Take it home and study it. You will notice that the "artist" stayed inside the lines. The artist followed instructions. The artist did as she/he was told.
If you want to achieve middle-of-the-road artistry, follow all the rules. In kindergarten you'll get a gold star for your efforts. In some circles you'll get an attaboy. But you will never create a masterpiece by following the rules.
If you aspire to mediocrity, if you hope to become average, then by all means, memorize the rules.

Creativity tip #11
This idea changed my photography more than anything else. Composition. This word applies to every avenue of art, from books to music. From movies to whittling. From pottery to storytelling. From dance to sculpture. From painting to photography. By the way, photography, the word, means to write with light. Write what? A story. Photography is used to tell a story with light, recording it with a camera. What is a musical composition? It's a story told through sounds. What's a movie? It's a story told with words, music, and photography. What's a painting? It's a composition of paint and canvas, generally, arranged in such a way as to tell a story.
If you approach every photograph you are about to create as a story that needs to be told, that photograph will be creative, even original. If you approach every photograph through the use of formulas and rules, your "story" will be the same as a million others.
Approach your subject as a reporter - what's the story here? And who am I telling it to? Approach your subject as a movie director - what's the story here? How's the best way to tell it? Approach your subject as a sculptor - what materials should I use? What tools? Approach your subject as a writer - what words will work best in the telling of this story? Approach your subject as a music composer - what notes, rests, tempo, etc. best conveys the mood? Approach your subject as a painter - what size, what colors, what composition will tell my story?
Now get your camera. Ask yourself, what story am I about to tell? What story do I want to tell? What story must I tell? Shall I be dramatic, humorous, or flippant? What if I become melodramatic? Saccharine? Who am I telling this story to? Is this story a documentary? A comedy? A musical? A poem? An epic?.
Now gather your tools.
If stories could be told by formula, and everyone followed the rules, there would only be one story. There would only be one book in the library. There would only be one movie to watch. There would only be one song to hear. There would only be one painting in the museum. There would only be one photograph.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The First Photograph

During one period in my photography career, I actively cataloged rules of photography. I found 97 of them to be silly. For my first photograph in this blog, I've chosen
one that mocks two of those silly rules:

1. There must be detail in the highlights.
2. There must be detail in the shad

This photo is about catching nights.

Catching Nights

Why must there be catchlights in my eyes? Why must there be detail in my favorite green shirt? Why must there be an agreeable lighting ratio on my face? Why must there be detail in the shadow between my legs? Or under my arms? Why must there be ANY light source when that would defeat the intent of the photograph?

Granted, this is an extreme example, but I needed something to prove my point. ANY light would weaken this particular picture. Bringing the aggregate density of the picture to an average 18% gray would bring it straight into the center of mediocrity.