Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

A Beautiful Quote About Creativity

In my January 15th entry, I mentioned Jeff Curto’s History of Photography podcast . This is one of several excellent podcasts that I listen to regularly, and I was planning to mention the others intermittently over the next several weeks. However, yesterday I listened to one that really struck me, so I feel compelled to write about it now.

I am talking about Ibarionex Perello's The Candid Frame. First, a bit about the podcast. In each episode, Ibarionex has an in depth interview with a photographer, some well known and others less so, but always one with something interesting to say or a viewpoint worth listening to and considering. I have listened to each installment and each has been saved. Not a one has ended up in the recycle bin. They are discussions that can be listened to again and again.

So what has motivated me to write about The Candid Frame right now? In the last installment, Ibarionex interviews Brooks Jensen (whose podcast I also plan to write about in coming weeks), the editor of LensWork magazine. During the discussion they talk about the ability of creative photography to, as Ibarionex puts it, “show me the world in a way I hadn’t seen it before”. Brooks goes on to mention that once people have seen, say, Ansel Adams’ prints of Yosemite, the majority of images that are taken of Yosemite tend to be repetitions of what has already been done.…that, in effect, Ansel has taught us what images of Yosemite should look like and we willfully comply. Ibarionex responds by saying that one of the reasons that he enjoys teaching photography to kids is that they frequently come up with incredibly creative images because “they’re not burdened with what’s come before”. Whoa! That really struck me. I was in the car driving but I still had to rewind the MP3 player to listen to that segment again. Creative because “they aren’t burdened with what’s come before”. Burdened.

I found this an interesting insight into the creative process and an absolutely marvelous way of expressing it. Knowledge as a detriment. That might be true only for the creative process. We try to teach kids ‘how to do things right’ and perhaps ultimately end up putting them into a funnel where they are constricted by rules, possibilities are lost, and end results are all similar. Of course, we need to do that for certain things, some of the basic school subjects come to mind, but perhaps we shouldn’t be doing that for creative endeavors.

During a lecture on creativity that Jeff Curto podcasted (is that really a word?) last year, he mentioned a study that reinforces what Ibarionex suggested. I would link to the podcast, but can’t recall which specific episode it was. He talked about an experiment in which a small dark circle was drawn on a piece of paper and shown to adults, who were asked what it was. They invariably responded that it was either a circle or a dot. However, when children were shown the same picture their responses were much more creative and entertaining. The dark circle might be ‘the sun’s evil twin’ or ‘a telephone pole as seen by a bird’. They simply hadn’t yet “learned” that it was merely a dot.

The Candid Frame podcast did invariably return to the possibility that not knowing what had come before could be, as Brooks put it, a “double edged sword”, as one must know photographic history in order not to reinvent the wheel. However, double edged or not, there is a lot here, I believe, to think about. Sometimes, if I am going someplace to photograph, I purposefully try not to look at work that has been done there before. Perhaps I should do that more frequently. In addition, I know that sometimes I get my best images by throwing away the “rules” and giving myself the freedom to experiment and fail…..or succeed.

At any rate, The Candid Frame, check it out. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. There are already 24 archived episodes that you need to catch up on!

Tomorrow, back to discussing some images…….