Curiosity fuels creativity

No matter what form of creative pursuit you choose, the tools that you utilize are those which best allow you to express yourself.

While the tools are an important part of the process, they require the efforts of the artist to become meaningful.

Inspiration and creativity arise from the human imagination. The act of creating often comes from a place below the surface of rational thought.

Abstract Street Photography
An Eye, New York City, May 2019

But how do you find inspiration and get the creative juices moving? This is a topic that will be discussed in a number of posts as there isn’t one definitive answer.

But for now, I believe that one of the biggest assets in the creative process is curiosity. Curiosity asks questions about everything.

Curiosity leads you down many paths and is capable of opening new doors. I credit whatever creativity that I have to my innate impulse to question everything.

Do you have a method of finding your creative inspiration? I would love to hear about it.

Photography reveals

It is impossible to stand outside of yourself and create an image. Photography always reveals something about the photographer.

An image is a reflection of the person making it. It is personal. The more that you work on your image making, the more your style becomes apparent.

Photography is like a language. It is capable of layers of meaning in a single image. It’s like poetry. Rich with possibilities.

The Exploding Art Show
The Exploding Art Show, New York City, May 2008

When an image is successful, it can have multiple meanings. Each viewer brings to a photo their own story. Their interpretation.

The beauty of any artistic pursuit is that it is never-ending. One image by itself is like a page in a book. An artist strives for a body of work that represents their vision.

A Photograph is a Photograph

For some, photography is about truth. Perhaps I should say Truth with a capital T. They insist that their photos represent reality.

As if there’s only one truth for all. And their reality must be shared by all.

With that they will state that they don’t process their photos and they rant on about the state of photography. As if some pure state exists.

For others it is only real photography if shot with film cameras. As if digital photography is cheating or of lesser value.

Abstract Street Photography
Look Right, New York City, October 2019

While I’m hopeless taking photos with my phone, I don’t deny that it is a valid tool for shooting. It’s just not as substantial in my hands.

I think that it’s rather unfortunate how elitist some people who call themselves photographers can be about which tool you choose to use.

A photo is a photo is a photo. No matter how you make it. Can we just get over the divisiveness? The important thing is the end result. Period. And of course, art is in the eye of the beholder.

City as Subject

New York City is always inserting itself into photos. It stands there are says “look at me. Take my picture.”

When I’m out shooting street photography, I automatically shoot the city without having to think about it.

I wonder if I would find photography half as interesting without the city as a subject?

Lower East Side Street Photography
Little Bryan Grocery Store, New York City, May 2012

Whether it plays the lead role or a supporting role, it is always there.

Whether you are shooting in the typical tourist attractions or off the beaten path, it’s not difficult to connect images to New York City. Its personality is evident.

Looking Deeper

“The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” Marcel Proust

For many years now, the above quote from Marcel Proust has been my raison d’être. Seeing with new eyes is a cherished tool of any artist.

I often shoot in the same 5 or 6 neighborhoods in New York City. I never tire of them. I recently had a look at some photos that I took when traveling and was a bit disappointed with them. They appear to be the kind of things that you might notice the first time you visit a new place.

I’m not talking about the touristy places either. But the fact is that the more time I spend in one place, the more I see it. The more time there is to discover.

To see with new eyes is to always observe. To go below the surface. Sometimes the best shot is staring at you like for Sherlock Holmes the clues to solving a mystery were right there in front of his nose.

When I am providing workshops and tours, I show people the things that I see. They often marvel at what I see. But I think it’s just a matter of slowing down and taking the time to really see what is there.

Of course, you can never take the same photo twice. The beauty of returning is that the weather and the light are always different. And the people too. I don’t travel much and I don’t really think about it much as I am so happy with the city that I live in. 

Reflection on the High Line
On the High Line, New York City, April 2019

I’ve taken more than 30,000 photos this year. I’m not telling you that a large majority are great. No no. But the activity keeps me happy. I don’t really bother with metrics. So I have no idea what percentage are fabulous.

Maybe it’s better to think of photography like a sport. You go out and hope that you’ll be on top of your game on a given day. It’s always a combination of the physical and mental attitude that you bring to the game.

If you ask me, seeing with new eyes is better than discovering new lands. And it’s a moving target. You can always find new creative inspiration by shifting your focus from the tool to observing those things that leave an impression on the eyes.

Perhaps one of the important things that I bring to my tours and workshops is pointing out those things that are there waiting for you to notice them. Looking deeper. Photography is about recording that which you visualize.

It’s a disappearing act

Does a photo exist if you don’t share it on social media? What is the worth of a photo if you are the only one to see it? If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

In the days before digital photography, a photo only existed if you printed it. It becomes tangible when you can hold it and see it. Touching is believing.

But when you share a photo on social media it has a very limited life span and you don’t know if the intended audience will even see it.

In the past, printing a photo in a darkroom was time consuming. Or having it printed at a lab took time and money. There was always an anticipation waiting for the results.

Soho, NYC Circa 1980
West Broadway, New York City, circa 1980

Now we are instantly gratified or disappointed. The lifetime of a digital photo is measured in seconds. It’s a disappearing act. Anticlimactic.

Don’t get me wrong. I do love photography, digital and analog. The problem is how little time and effort goes into the vast majority of making and viewing photos. What if we had to pay to play? Would that change the game?

If a photo really means something to you, it is perhaps better to print it and hang it on a wall than to throw it out there into deep space. Just a thought.

I Tried to Imagine

I tried to imagine what life would be like without photography. To live in a world before photography existed is the first scenario.

Photography has an influence that comes before the intellect, words and language. For better or for worse, photography influences how we think and how we see the world we live in.

There is of course the danger that we are made to believe things that are not true. But we can also be influenced in positive ways by photography. And we learn through images.

Shadows in Times Square
Wheels, New York City, January 2010

To imagine a world without photography could also be possible if you are born without sightedness. If you have never seen anything would be the closest approximation of imagining a world without photography for me.

Another scenario would be if I never experienced the world of being a photographer. I am not certain that I could imagine my life without photography!

That will be the topic of an upcoming post. What would you imagine your world to be without photography? Your comments are welcome.