5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust
If Iâ€™m not a prodigy, itâ€™s too late.
Interests form very early in our lives. Sometimes they form from our preferences, like what happened to Gillian Lynne, one of the legendary choreographers in the dance world. Gillian was a kinesthetic learner, meaning she loved to express herself through movement. Her mother recognized this, and enrolled her in a dance school. Gillian said of this moment in Sir Ken Robinsonâ€™s book The Element, â€œI walked into this room, and it was full of people like me. People who couldnâ€™t sit still. People who had to move to think.â€ Â We canâ€™t all be lucky like Gillian, whose parents helped her make a commitment to her creativity early in life.
But the wonderful thing is, it isnâ€™t until we commit to this interest that we find our means to be creative.
Commitment is something that we can make toward our interest at any point in our lives. So if you picked up a camera at an age beyond childhood, it doesnâ€™t mean you canâ€™t develop creatively in your photography. Itâ€™s never too late to learn!
1. Creativity is something that happens in isolation.
Some people think that creativity is something that happens by itself, like to a writer who lives alone in the woods beside a pond. We think that person is creative because of the isolation, without distraction. Maybe the silence of living in the woods beside a still pond is great for processing thoughts, but silence and isolation in itself is not the basis for a creative response.
Many creative triggers people have responded to are made of social situations and connections. I read in this great book about director Enid Zentelis who made a film about people waiting in line because she was waiting in a food line one time, and it triggered a creative response in her. Watson and Crick collaborated on the model for DNAâ€”their different insights connected into a product that was creative because they thought together. Ansel Adams was good friends with Georgia Oâ€™Keefe. Although they worked in different media, they shared a common conceptâ€”the idea of starkness and simplicity giving a sensuality to a composition.
Isolating ourselves thinking it will only increase our chances of creativity is a myth. Making connections between ideas we see other people having and our own ideas is a source of creativity. Paying attention to connections we could make between our concepts and whatâ€™s around us can trigger a pretty creative response.
2. Pressure kills creativity.
By pressure we mean things that might limit what we can use to create. These could be things like having just one lens or going on a photowalk when the light is â€œbad.â€
But contrary to all the excuses, having a limiting factor in a situation where you have to create actually helps you be more creative. Sometimes having very little choice in your focal length is good for you. It forces you to move more; it distills your choices into how to compose rather than how to use equipment that you might have in abundance. This shift in decision making from what to use to how to use what you have is a situation that can trigger your creativity.
If you can respond with a solution to the situation, you have already begun to be creative.
3. Equipment makes you a better photographer.
This is one of those if onlys that photographers torture themselves. If only you had a better lens, if only you had a better camera like that guy with the 6800-dollar body, your photo would be sexier.
If onlys are a waste of time, and they actually kill creativity.
What promotes creativity is using what tools you have to think and see differently.
4. You need to go somewhere exotic to be creative.
Exotic places are great because they are full of new sights. These new sights might trigger a creative response.
But from a creative standpoint, sometimes you can see new sights with old eyes. That means you might be tempted to take the â€˜safe shot,â€™ the one that has always worked for you in the past. If that happens, the creativity isnâ€™t there because you havenâ€™t invented a new way to express that new thing you saw.
On the other hand, you could be walking at a familiar place, seeing things youâ€™ve seen before, but you put a twist into interpreting those familiar things with an unfamiliar composition.
5. You need to have bursts of creativity when everything comes to you effortlessly.
Picassoâ€™s Les Demoiselles dâ€™Avignon was not a painting he created in a single moment of creativity. The MusÃ©e Picasso has the artist’s notes on the creative process for this painting. It shows how he struggled to create the painting plane by plane, sketching and then eliminating one element, re-adding it, then changing again. In the revisions that he made, it is clear that even though Picasso had an idea of what he wanted to say in his painting, he had to go through a revision process to arrive at a final result.
Meaning comes to the artist in layers. Staying committed to an idea while the layers sort themselves out in a problem solving process is part of our growth as creative people.
Be open to the burst of inspiration. But donâ€™t forget that the rest of it is hard work, and patience.
Can you think of other myths about creativity that need busting?