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Improving your artistic practice


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Improving your artistic practice

27 Jun 2020 12:43PM   Views : 598 Unique : 333


Yes, please feel free to twitch at the title, and the use of ‘practice’ as a noun.

I’m softening you up for a book that is worth the reading, and may help you think and imagine. I’m grateful to Tracy Calder for her article recommending it in Black and White Photography – a magazine worth seeking out and subscribing to.

One of Tracy’s suggestions (and there are 49 others in the current edition of Black and White) is to try ‘flat lay’ photography – still life images of objects laid on a flat surface. As it happens, I’ve been planning a shot like this for a couple of days.

But in passing, Tracy mentioned Philippa Stanton’s book Conscious Creativity, so I downloaded a copy. It is about creative journeys, so it’s not the book for you if you want to hone technical skills. But it’s applicable to all sorts of creativity, not just photography. Gardening, music, painting – the same ideas apply.


Like all the best books and courses, there’s work to do, and you will benefit from dedicating a small notebook or a few sheets of a writing pad to your answers. Philippa will lead you through things to make your ‘practice’ more wide-ranging, and find ways to spark new directions and ideas.

In the Critique Gallery, we (the team) often comment that it’s important to marry up creative ideas and solid technical skill. Creative ideas without craftsmanship are (at best) messy: perfect technique alone produces arid images. But the two need different sorts of effort in the development. Logic, facts, deduction and planning improve the ability to use a camera and get the result you wanted, while creativity is about freeing the imagination and changing your perception of the world around you.

Stanton suggests an approach she terms ‘lateral looking’ as an extension of Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking – so that you see what is actually in front of you, rather than what your brain tells you is there. A simple photographic example is looking at the shadows in a sunny snowscape: you ‘know’ that snow is white, and so you try to get it that way. And everything else goes wrong…

So a couple of suggestions, in Stanton fashion (exercises at the end of every chapter):

Take out a subscription to Black and White
Get Philippa Stanton’s book (very cheap on Kindle!)
But most of all, go and look at something very carefully. You may find there’s a picture to be taken…


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
27 Jun 2020 12:44PM
Models, from the top: Mimi, Twiggi50 and Vampire Princess (improving her pole dancing).

A thought: the Institute of Internal Auditors has (or had) a term - 'the reflective auditor' - all about introspection and thinking round the job. Maybe that's appropriate for photographers, as well...
chase Avatar
chase Plus
18 2.6k 684 England
27 Jun 2020 2:55PM
Stantons' book looks interesting John.
I had a go at 'laying flat' for still life stuff, didn't quite work for me but I might just have another try at it.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
27 Jun 2020 3:04PM
I think it works for a rather different sort of still life: your images are generally very much a combination of disparate elements that tell a tale; and a flat layout tends to suit a more forensic kind of image, where the objects are unified by an idea rather than an emotion or an atmosphere.

Also, most of the time, a flat layout doesn't work with objects that have a significant third dimension.

I think...
Alfie_P Avatar
Alfie_P 16 927 2 United Kingdom
27 Jun 2020 4:47PM
Very interesting blog John and one that has got me thinking, so as a result I have downloaded the book.
My father always said when you buy a book you always learn something, but always remember, the more you know, the more you realize that you don't know much, and that you can never know everything but It won't hurt you to try 😎

Chinese proverb : 'Experience is a comb that nature gives to the bald'

I'll keep you posted👍
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
27 Jun 2020 5:44PM
But without a comb, how can you achieve a combover?

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