Sunday, January 17, 2010

Inspiration, Instruction, Influence & Interpretation vs Imitation...

140110_ Contemplative self portrait

I was recently awarded the honour of being included in JD Blundell's 11 kingdom bloggers to watch in 2010. I think he intended it to be ten but when he included Stewart... he felt he didn't want to leave me out.

I am deeply honoured to to be included on this list but... more importantly... I am honoured to consider JD a friend.

Anyway... if you are reading this because of the list then welcome. If you are reading this because you've been walking with me on this journey then... hey... thanks for coming back!

The point of this post is to talk about about creativity... with inspiration rather than imitation.

You may have gathered by now that I am obsessed with photography. Its my golf. Its my WoW. Its the thing I am most passionate about after God, Olly & my we'ans.

It presents me with a challenge. With each picture I want to get better... improve... evolve. I want to learn to use my cameras... and eagerly seek out both advice and inspiration whenever I can. I carry at least two cameras with me wherever I go... and try to shoot... shoot... shoot... at ever given opportunity.

I seek inspiration from other photographers... and have some dear friends whose pictures I love - Laura... Stewart... etc. They inspire me but I do not intend to imitate them. Yes... I would love to take a pic of the moon like Stewart or an off-the-wall self-portrait like Laura... but I'm more interested in doing "my thing".

I recently read this post on the "flickr-ization of photography" and got the sentiment the author, Kirk Tuck, seeks to convey :: copying the original without adaptation or interpretation is killing photography...
"Something evil is happening to Photography (with a big "P"...). It's becoming homogenized by high priests of specific styles. And while homogenization is arguably good for milk and some cheeses it really sucks when it comes to arts and crafts. The problem is that when a style is promoted by one of the "strong influencers" on Flickr people ask for the technical information behind it. In the interests of keeping information free (and driving more and more traffic to their site to get some "click thru's" for advertising revenue as well as justifying display space on their the influencers eagerly divulge lighting diagrams and step by step instructions. No problem with that but what happens next is the "relentless repetition tsunami". Many people who crowd around cult-like figures tend to be very literal so they end up copying the original image without adaptation or interpretation."
Kurt goes on to state that "Technical Mastery is Not Art" and I would wholeheartedly agree with him.

I want to learn and develop in this obsession... I want to get better and better and better... kind of like Verucca Salt wanting a squirrel.

120110_ Marc

To this end... I have sought out and developed a friendship with an awesome photographer - Marc de Ridder (above) - who teaches me about my camera (and cleans it occasionally) ... albeit... he calls it a "Noink" because he's a Canon man. He is mentoring me on craft of photography... and instructing me on how to use the tools - the camera... Lightroom etc. He is an inspirational figure and a dear friend.

That said... whilst I love his work (I have one of his pics in my downstairs loo) and am inspired by our conversations over coffee... I don't want to imitate his style - I want to develop my own style underpinned by his instructions.

I recently read this article in "Fast Company" that speaks of imitation being the hidden key with creativity...
"Their key insight is that creative ideas can only spread if they're actually adopted by others. Too much creativity, and there's not enough imitation--ideas die on the vine, because there are so many of them and few ever catch fire. For good ideas to spread, there's an optimal balance to be reached between creating and imitating."
Personally I think this is too naive a point... because adopting an idea through inspiration and interpreting that idea for yourself... is NOT imitation.

We are all inspired by others... ideas are like Lego blocks... we build on the ideas of others to make what we want to make. That's not say there isn't original thought... there is... all the time... but that originality is more often than not looking at something differently through the lenses of inspiration that comes from education and experience. The originality of the thought comes more from the unique application and expression of the key factors that have brought the thinker to that point.

It is the application of how we interpret what has inspired us that is crucial here... and this is where the context becomes extremely important.

Above is a screenshot from an iPhone photography app called fotobrisko that I ... *shock* ... *horror* ... don't own. Whilst I commend their ingenuity for creating it... I don't want it. Why? Here's the blurb:
"The Foto Brisko application helps photographers to find photos that they want to try and reproduce themselves. The application will find interesting photos allow you to browse them, choose the ones you are interested in shooting yourself by adding them to the shot list. When you get near the location of the shot click a button and see your location and the spot the photo was taken."
Its all about reproduction rather than creation... and that doesn't interest me. I want to take my photos in these places... not seek to copy the photos of others. Don't get me wrong... it looks fab as a tool to find awesome locations... but... we should be encouraging folk to do "their thing" not copying the work of others.

We should also be encouraging folks to do "their thing" in "their spaces". What is the point in me jonesing about taking photos in Brooklyn when I live in Motherwell. I should be jonesing about taking pictures in my environment... in my context... in my space!

So yeah... bringing this back to JD's post... please be inspired by what I and the others on the list say... do... go... take any instruction that may be forthcoming... and interpret it in your own way... do your "own thing" in the context in which you belong.

Please dont imitate what is done... but, influenced by the actions & intentions of others, do your own thing. Be you. Be the you God created you to be... in the place He has placed you.

Be prepared to try... be prepared to give it your best... be prepared to fail... but, most of all, be prepared to do it your way... in your original manner & approach... because afterall... as Hermann Melville put it...
"It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation."


Johnny said...


It's wonderful posts like this that get you on to JD's list.

Keep going bro'.


Angus Mathie said...

Well said indeed, Thomas, particularly the last sentence!

Jonathan Blundell said...

Agree with Johnny for sure.

Great post!


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