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Why did I do that ? what is creative?


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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Why did I do that Ė what is creative?

19 Dec 2020 8:39AM   Views : 437 Unique : 291


One of my EPZ friends asked me about the way that I decided on a particular framing, lighting and look of my recent nude picture of Nee Naaa. I had to think about it a good bit, and hereís what I replied.

Where to start... Neen and I have worked together a lot over seven or eight years. We've tried most approaches, and we feel free to be quite experimental. So 'something different' which confounds expectations is one part of it.

There's a famous Bill Brandt portrait/nude, with a heavily shadowed face. That's definitely another part of it.

A third might be a fairly small room: hard to get back further and reluctant to let go of the 'flow' and change lens.

A fourth might be (but this was definitely subconscious, if it's not entirely post hoc), Neen earns her living with her body: the majority of people she poses for are more concerned with that than her eyes, so I could claim it's symbolic of the way that Nina the person is eclipsed by Nee Naaa the erotic model.

But the big thing is that it felt right when I was taking it. That's the really important part of it, and it comes from familiarity with the situation and the genre. It's not a shot that I'd have taken 30 years ago, but it came pretty naturally. I'll draw a car analogy: part of the skillset I needed to pass my driving test, and which is often useful, is turning a car round in the road, 'by the use of forward and reverse gears' as the manuals put it. I know that I should start steering the opposite way just before changing direction, to reduce tyre wear, instead of stopping and just turning from full lock one way to full lock the other, as people brought up on PAS are wont to do.


But an experienced police or close protection driver will know how to skid the car to turn 180 degrees, and be accelerating back the way she came well before my turn is complete. In between, on a wide road, there's the possibility of a U-turn.

Thereís a sort of implicit question about how to develop that sense of when something is right, and thereís a great deal written about it, and most of that isnít in the least helpful to most people. Ask a great photographer about their best pictures, and they may go into the post hoc justification, simply because they canít get their thinking brain locked onto the subconscious process that they actually use. Ďf/8 and be thereí is sometimes as helpful as it gets.

Iím aware that not all brains operate in the same way: Iím on the autistic spectrum, and things that are self-evident to me have to be explained to the neurotypical Ė and I miss cues and clues that my wife says are obvious. Therefore, I think I also have to contemplate the idea that the truly creative also have a difference in their neural wiring. And if thatís the case, the rest of us will never match their achievements, whatever we do. We can still get much better than when we started, though!

Practice definitely helps, and so does playing around. Acting like a logical and careful grownup isnít creative: channelling your inner adolescent probably is. The logical brain can get you ready, and put you in position to be successful Ė but itís the part of you that understands the sound of one hand clapping, that grasps the concept of a triune deity, that stands mute and tearful at AE Housemanís Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries, and can suspend disbelief for a production of The Tempest without props, sets or costume that will produce the goods. And the more you practice, the more possibilities you see...


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
19 Dec 2020 8:40AM
Pictures from a day shooting in Mid-Wales with Leaf. A marvellous outing: cold and rainy, which didn't deter Leaf from posing nude in the landscape as well as in derelict buildings.
GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
19 Dec 2020 1:49PM
"There's a famous Bill Brandt portrait/nude, with a heavily shadowed face. That's definitely another part of it".
Had you not seen the portrait/nude by Bill Brandt, "widely considered to be one of the most important British photographers of the 20th century", and accepted it's quality because of the famous photographer would you have taken that shot??
whatriveristhis Avatar
19 Dec 2020 3:40PM
Someone once asked a famous poet if he would like to give a talk on 'the creative process.' He replied that he would rather play tennis.
GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
19 Dec 2020 4:40PM
Creativity is easy as it is purely subjective.
Creativity that is accepted by the masses is more difficult.

Every Image I take is creative. It requires that I think outside of the box or my normal way of perceiving life , hence a definition of creativity.
Few however accept my images. Achieving mass acceptance of creative images, is the Gift.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
19 Dec 2020 6:27PM
That's incredibly hard to say, George.

I'd probably have taken something that was rather similar, if only that single shot was missing from my internal gallery. It would have been more different if I hadn't seen Brandt's extreme wideangle nudes, I reckon.

But the more direct answer is that I don't think the single Brandt shot influenced that particular shot of Nee Naaa much. But who knows? A butterfly beats its wings in the Amazon, and it rains in Manchester. (But then again, it rains in Manchester a lot.)

The thing that is certain is that if I hadn't looked at a lot of pictures and quite a few paintings, I might not have developed a taste for unconventional compositions.
GGAB Avatar
GGAB 7 31 1 United States
19 Dec 2020 6:32PM
"The thing that is certain is that if I hadn't looked at a lot of pictures and quite a few paintings, I might not have developed a taste for unconventional compositions". Perhaps that is what is missing with me!
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 36 8 England
19 Dec 2020 6:44PM
Trying to be deliberately creative very rarely works well for me. The shots that have been most successful are the ones that suggested themselves
during the shoot. Usually a few seconds before the shutter button was pressed. Inspiration, luck, the photography gods? who knows where that
spark comes from. Sometimes its triggered by a subtle change in the light, sometimes an expression or an unconscious movement. A brief moment when it's just
right. I'm happy with that, it makes those images special.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
20 Dec 2020 7:20AM
George - would an engineer dream of not keeping up with current developments in the field, reviewing specifications and ideas?

Alan - that's how it works, in practice, isn't it? Not about analysing the creative process to death. But I think it's possible to create circumstances where good things are likely to happen. I seem to remember that there were stories of commercial companies funding blue sky laboratories on the grounds that useful ideas would emerge, but couldn't be chased in the sort of purposeful way that most modern companies demand.

And poets don't sit at a desk and think about what to write - they wander, lonely as a cloud, and the poems find them...
whatriveristhis Avatar
20 Dec 2020 12:18PM

Quote:And poets don't sit at a desk and think about what to write

Unusual though it may be, George Mackay Brown is one major poet who did precisely that, on a regular basis!
whatriveristhis Avatar
20 Dec 2020 12:47PM
One of the best comments on the creative process that I know of comes from Ted Hughes ( who also sat at a desk thinking )...

The Thought Fox (1957)

I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
20 Dec 2020 2:09PM
I am reproved... And sometimes he may have looked out of the window, at least in his imagination, as Hughes obviously did.

Irrelevantly and irreverently, it reminds me of the accountants' joke about internal auditors: 'why don't internal auditors look out of the window during the morning?' (Answer: 'because they wouldn't have anything to do in the afternoon.')

As an internal auditor myself, I posed another question, about why accountants never look out of the window. (Answer: because they can't stand the contact with reality.) I have good friends who are accountants, but humour at the expense of internal auditors? Perish the thought. But do either have poetry in their souls?

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