My Hungry Heart

Archive for February, 2008

Thoughts on creativity

Posted by shermancharles on February 24, 2008

“Ignore everybody”

“A fancy tool just gives the second-rater one more pillar to hide behind. Which is why there are so many hack writers with state-of-the-art laptops”

“Don’t worry about finding inspiration it comes eventually”

The quotes above are all from Hugh MacLeod and included in his brilliant How To Be Creative manifesto. Excellent read for anyone in the creative arts.

We all have to find for ourselves where we are to be. The internet can’t tell us. Flickr comments can’t tell us. It is our own path that we must seek out and walk. Sounds like a fortune cookie but I really believe it to be true. My own photography got better when I stopped trying to be like everyone else and I started seeing for myself. I started focusing on what I felt came naturally to me. It’s ok to like what you like. It may not be the trend right now, but if it feels real to you, good to you, then it will be worth your exploration. One of the negatives of all this inter-connectedness (newly minted term) is that we have so much access to so much creativity. Generally this is good. We get to appreciate and learn from others. We get to share our own work. The negative comes in when all that creativity becomes noise that deafens our senses and hinders our own development. Noise that blocks the path from mind to soul with doubt, envy, worry and confusion. On flickr I see so many photographers trying to emulate some other photographer’s style. Especially through photoshop. True it can be a learning experience to do this – but for the most part they are focusing on the “what” or the “how” as opposed to the “why”. Creativity is more about the why. Any creative has to define the why of what they do. Walking through a museum, I often ask myself, why did the painter paint this way? Why did he choose this palette? Why this subject? Maybe even why did he paint at all? The Masters – they all had vision that was guided by specific intent. They wanted to paint a specific way, they wanted to use certain colors and paint certain subjects. They manifested their own intent. Their own why. If you don’t pursue your own, all you’re doing is copying the work of someone else. Mastering the how of their work. That may make you a better craftsman, but not a better artist. My father being a musician told me this – in music, being able to play a song that has already been written and played by others is craft, being able to write and play your own that others will want to play, is art.

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Posted in Art, Creativity, Inspiration | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

People on Portraiture

Posted by shermancharles on February 6, 2008

© Sherman Charles

A great post on the Conscientious blog asking the question – “What makes a great portrait?” The question was sent out to some in the photography community.

In every portrait session I do I learn something new about portraiture. I am not sure if I am “making” a portrait. Sure I am determining lighting, camera angle, camera settings and lens, all things that determine the resulting image and how that image will be interpreted. A portrait with a shallow depth of field will have a different feel that one that is sharp to infinity. So my choice in these factors is a direct statement on my intent. Now the much more difficult and unpredictable variable is the portrait sitter. The person who is having her portrait taken is really the wildcard in the whole equation. Is she in a good mood, a soulful mood, playful, angry, depressed, overjoyed – and if she is anyone of those things is she going to portray the exact opposite when siting before the camera. Is she honest in what she is portraying? Do I, the photographer, care?

If she is happy can/will she portray someone who is sad? If she is sad, can she portray someone who is happy? Of course this happens all the time. Shuffle through the months entertainment magazines and you will see any number of made-up, stylized portraits of celebrities and socialites that may have very little of that celebrity’s true personality. The photographer and team are hired to photograph with a specific look being the result. Selling more magazines, promoting movie/tv show/record/product. This takes us back to the subject of intent. In my eyes, a portrait is a battle of intents, the photographer vs. the sitter. In those magazines I see more the intent of the art director/creative director/publicist/photographer than anything else. So are those really portraits if they are more sales pitches than anything else? It is confusing. I find myself confused even as I write.

Of course we have the cases where the intent of the sitter wins and the photographer does not think it is a good photograph. Perhaps the person being photographed is not conveying any real emotion, feeling, personality – anything that will make a photograph interesting. However it is a portrait. It is capturing an individual in the way they are. But why isn’t it good? Is that what a portrait is supposed to do? Capture someone in the way they are?
I am not quite sure. But I have seen plenty of good portraits. And they all have that “thing”. I think it’s that intangible thing that escapes definition or description. Like some others said in the Conscientious posting, it’s that thing you see when you see it. You don’t quite know why but it touches you somewhere and you say – “that’s fantastic”.

For myself I think a portrait that I like is more a portrait of me than that of the one who was photographed. I think it speaks more to who I am, my likes and dislikes, my mood and personality, my sense of who I am and what is good. It’s like listening to a song when you’re in a certain mood. Or hearing an old song from years past when you were a much different person than you are now. You remember who you were when that song came out. So you liking that song then speaks of who you were then. Conversely how you feel about it now speaks of who you are today.

Posted in B&W, People, photograph, Portrait, Portraiture | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »