Saturday, August 21, 2010

From inspiration to innovation

The Light Business
Image copyright Ian Ho 2010 | Having fun with light painting

"The reality is that it's easier to be inspired than it is to create an original idea and we are hardwired to take the path of least resistance. It's easier to jump onto a design inspiration gallery site than it is to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. It's easier to follow a pattern than it is to test-drive new options. It's easier to copy a style or idea that works than try something that might miss the mark or outright fail. Above all, it's cheaper mentally for us to rally around what's already been done and emulate it." - Owen Shifflett

I came across this blog post by Owen Shifflett titled "How Inspiration Killed, Then Ate, Creativity." David duChemin penned down his reactions to Owen's opinions on his blog over at pixelated image (which btw is a superb photography site), and world renowned commercial photographer Chase Jarvis had something to say too.  Essentially, Owen argued that the current culture of inspiration amongst creatives today has deviated so much from its true meaning.  Our definition of inspiration today is more like imitation, and Owen claims that this ultimately kills our creativity.  Really thought provoking article and it got me thinking... so go read Owen's post first, then carry on reading my rant :)

The genesis of creativity, I believe, starts with inspiration.  Inspiration is what gets me in the right frame of mind; it is where ideas and concepts from all over the place start flooding in.  Inspiration gets me excited, it motivates me to create something new and fresh.  Mostly, my inspiration originates from the work of other photographers.  But every time it is so tempting to be inspired, and then shamelessly use other people's ideas without modification and call it my own.  I must admit, I've done it many times.  I've seen a photo I love on flickr, copied the concept, re-dressed it a little only to be pleased with myself when other people fav it.  Now that's the kind of inspiration that kills creativity.  It's the lazy way to doing things - not forcing yourself to think critically, evaluate or be original.  It's taking the success of others and calling it yours.  Being original is hard, trying to put yourself into your work - your style and personality, doesn't come easily.

I think that the toughest bit in the creative process is to transform that inspiration into innovation.  It's when someone says 'ah! I've never thought of that before' that your work is truly creative.  And so I asked myself - how oh how in the world does one go beyond inspiration to innovation? How can you create photos that show something new that no one has thought of before? I don't think I have an answer... it'll probably take some time as the question lingers in my mind, but I want to throw out a thought and play devil's advocate.  Is it ever possible to be truly truly creative? David duChemin wrote in response to Owen saying that all our work is derivative; all our ideas are developed in the context of other ideas by other people, so nothing is really ours.  After all, something genius cannot surface from pure vacuum.

I think the key to being innovative in photography, is ultimately being yourself.  I believe every photographer has something unique, something special that no one else has.  Maybe a certain kind of style, or a way of interpreting things, or seeing things from different perspectives - whatever.  Like how no two snowflakes are similar, we are all you-nique, because God created us that way! So as a photographer, knowing yourself inside-out is of utmost importance.  Then bring yourself into your work.  The simple argument I'm making is that if there's only one of you, then when you bring yourself into your photography, it becomes uniquely yours! No one else has it! I know it's easier said than done, and it's all airy fairy talk right now, but I guess being creative starts with knowing yourself, who you truly are as a creative.  Then it just takes a lot of determination to resist adopting ideas from others but adapting them to become yours.

To any photogs reading this.. let me know what you think :)

1 comment:

scott said...

What gear are you using?