On Creativity

I don't follow the belief that creativity is something magical endowed to a select group of special individuals. After reading Edward de Bono's Serious Creativity I view it as a skill which anyone can learn. Just like with the piano, the more we practice the better we become, even if perhaps not all of us can become a Glenn Gould. Whatever skill we wish to acquire, we can all attain a reasonable and adequate level of competency, given that we invest time and energy into it.

Creativity is no different, and for me, the most important aspects in photography are time invested in trying to be creative, a desire to look at things from a literal and imaginative different point of view, and to ask myself the oh-so important question "What if...?" followed by envisioning the final result (composition starts in my mind, followed by the naked eye, and the viewfinder is last).

To illustrate this, here are some pictures I took last night for the Kameraoke photo contest. I decided to go to Tempozan to shoot the large Ferris wheel, as one of the 32 themes on the photo hunt is 'wheels'. Fifteen minutes after sunset would have been better, as the sky would have been a beautiful dark blue, but my current schedule didn't allow me. This first shot is pretty satisfactory. The image is sharp, the composition is tight, perhaps a little too much so actually, and many people by then would have been happy and left to warm up in an izakaya with some hot sake, not that there's anything wrong with that!

But to me, this image is pretty boring. I have seen lots of pictures like this, and nothing makes this one more special than others, even if I shot it. An aforementioned dark blue sky would have improved it somewhat, but even then. And the above shot was actually not what I had in mind when I decided to go there. Instead, what I wanted is the shot below, using the longest shutter speed my camera allowed, 30 seconds, and using the aperture and neutral density filter to adjust the exposure (the filter also eliminated some ghastly noise in the sky).

This shot is more dynamic than the previous one, but again not so original. I could have been content with this result, but my mind doesn't work this way. The theme is wheels, not wheel, and so I had the idea to zoom in a few times within that 30 seconds time frame to create more than one wheel. Combined with the timely colored lights (usually the only color is red), here is one of the shots that I would definitely consider more creative than the average.

I mean, wow! How colorful! Ok, so the Ferris wheel is a little unrecognizable, but who cares, that's not the point. I wanted something eye-catching and this certainly qualifies. Actually, I might end up entering this one in the flashy category.

One thing you might have notice is that so far all the shots are vertical and shot with the same basic composition. I did take some horizontals and worked with different focal distances, and the results, predictably, look pretty similar. But as I still had some time, I started walking around, actually looking for shots in other category. And as I passed next to the wheel, I looked up and saw this.

This is what I meant by looking at things from a different perspective, both literally and figuratively. Will I use this picture in the contest? I'm not sure. It could fit in the wheel category, although I could also enter it in the lines class. It is a little irrelevant to the subject matter, though

But the bottom line is that like every composition book and class will tell you, it always important to try different perspectives. And this applies to other domains, not just photography. I really recommend de Bono's book to everyone. It is not about creativity in the artistic sense, even if many things can be applied. It is aimed at people who need solutions to any kind of issue, and recognize that creativity, in the sense of finding original and effective solutions, is key to solving their situation. I can't recommend it enough.

1 comment:

  1. Jean I recommend a book called "Whacked on the Side of the Head" by Roger Von Oech I had a copy may still do but need to dig for it... It goes into much more specific detail on how to unlock creativity.

    While I do believe that people can be train to be more creative... I disagree that it isn't a skill that some people are endowed with it. For me being creative is quite easy, I have always done well in visual arts without even trying. Often in conversations people will comment where in the hell did you come up with that idea, truth is I didn't it was the first thing that popped in my head... didn't have to even work at it. In fact, I used to piss off my art professor in college who'd watch me goof off all semester and turn in what was supposed to be a selection of our best works from a whole semester's worth of studies that I had completed in less than 2 weeks...I didn't have anything to select from; what I had created was just enough to make the portfolio minimum. He wanted to so mark me down, even told me as much in one of my many private lectures I got in his office. But for whatever his reasoning couldn't because he had to admit that despite my lack of exploratory study to achieve my results what I handed in as my 5 final works were done well and were without a doubt creative. Ironically enough I never pursued a career in Art even though he tried hard to convince me to... Even dropped my art major.

    I believe being creative is much like certain people can be excellent at a sport. Art requires an eye... of course that can be learned through diligence but it does not come easy and there is no guarantee that one will ever obtain a level of skill to that of someone who had been so luckily endowed with it from birth. Just like being able to spot hash...some people seem to have a natural affinity for it others couldn't find it if their lives depended on it. It is not a nature versus nurture thing ... it requires both. Much like sports one can always train to get better and improve but there are some individuals who can perform with little effort and when these gifted people train with the diligence of a person without any natural ability, they are unsurmountable... marvels in their field of expertise.

    You have an eye for composition sure working at it obviously makes your images even more exciting. Maybe you really think hard at every photo you take. But I imagine a lot of the times you snap look at what you got and then start think how can you improve them. The fact that you have interesting photos without all the effort to make them better in the first place shows that me that you must have an eye for it in the first place.