Thursday, August 30, 2018

Photography, Seeing and Connecting

The commentary on the value of creativity has grown louder and increased in the number of variation
on the litany in recent years, but the familiar challenges that creativity presents have not fallen away.

The anxieties about creative processes will remain and they will menace you with the threat of a mythic hydra. Fear, risk, the dynamics of the ego still guard the transition from work, chores and the everyday into creative processes. Procrastination becomes a familiar companion as one tries to get an atrophied creative muscle into shape, but cannot find the proverbial gym or routine to exercise or even identify where or what your creativity actually is.

As the public commentary about creativity and its importance increases in volume, variety and intensity, the recognition grows that it is good, that it has benefits. You might be willing to acknowledge that creativity is like doing the stairs instead of elevators. There may be the familiar inhibition and frustration the occurs when presented with self-improvement, self-help or a dream. You know what to do, know some of the benefits and at the end of the day merely nod to yourself that you know these things. Still, there is reluctance to do it. Worse yet, you may find a certain inner dialogue taking a familiar tone that leaves you in a rut and that may perpetuate a certain dialogue about the willingness to follow through on something, or start.

The ambition of creative expression is daunting. Apart from developing the belief that technical aptitude is required and that it has to be something we are born with, the other myth that may lock up creativity is the sense that it needs to be about something. Songs, movies, poems, painting, movies, books and blog posts all have this stated expectation that they have to be about something. A Statement is to be made. Once you start to work on something there is that expectation that it have a theme and have this impact on other people and communicate with a certain profundity.

No, no, no. Not your first time out. If you wish to pick up the paint brush, pen, or guitar, that expectation looms in the background.

You could probably doodle without the expectation of about. Or is that "ABOUT?"

The camera, be it a refined DSLR or the one in your smart phone, is another mode of creativity that is not going to impose the word "about" on you. There will be no expectation that you connect with a theme or make a statement about the world. Not that the ambition of a theme is ruled out for photographers. However, when you pick up the camera you are simply doing so to take a picture of something. If there is a statement to be made it may occur only out of happenstance or as a happy consequence or accident from a connection between the photographer and the subject.

No single picture has the burden of having to be about something. If it is about anything perhaps it is about, as I said, the connection, or just as importantly, the moment. Of all the things that you could be looking at in that given moment, and for all the times that you have walked through your day inattentive to your surroundings, this was a moment when you saw and connected.

While high stakes loom and weigh upon you with other creative pursuits in music, writing, acting, and other areas, that is less of a case with photography. The changes that have taken place in photographic technology have allowed more people to pursue it and its spontaneity is such that there is almost no time commitment to taking a single image these days. At the same time, the equipment is not that necessary and there is still the risk of fetishizing the gear a bit too much, especially when it is so ubiquitous that anything can be photographed at any given moment. The moment taken, however, to stop and see something and connect with it, whether merely with the eyes or with a camera, is one that can reward you immensely at a very low risk to you.

Without the pressure of having to take a photo about something and the opportunity to see and communicate something that nobody else sees or is able to see in a given moment of your day, creating with the camera is something that poses very low stakes and has the opportunity to offer immense rewards. There will be the occasional pang of fear or risk when making a breakthrough with the camera, but those will be worth it.

For these reasons, the camera is probably one of the most inviting paths to exercising your creative muscles and having those first tentative jostles with the fear and risk that stand between you and creativity. And if you want to wrestle with the question of what a photograph can be about, it is about you.

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