Thursday, August 30, 2012

Creativity: Can Less Be More?

Once you have an idea, should you just tap that well until it runs dry? Will it increase the amount of ideas you have on a regular basis...what if you tried a very different approach? You might be surprised  that the idea of limiting creative output interests me. 

Years ago, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the perfect (for me) photo project. It was Val Verde, a faded Montecito estate that was just starting a renewal process after years of slumber. I was given full run...completely unshackled by any restrictions - actually that's not totally true - they had a signature view of the stairs I was not to take...very "Garden of Eden."

The project was the culmination of all my interests at the time: beauty, architecture, how people live, old California. It became a very conscious choice on my part that I would limit how much I shot on each visit. A big part of this was a desire to work in a different method. I had just come out of a commercial career (foodie photog) and when I added my schooling on top of that - it felt like I'd spend two decades working as a hitman. Show up - get total coverage, and then get out... So I consciously chose to take a different approach with VV. Instead of coming in day one and covering the joint, I would limit my output to one box of Polaroid film (I was shooting 4x5 Polaroid negatives, which is 20 sheets). This would force me to slow down, take the place in, get to understand it, and myself, as we both evolved over time. I think it was a successful process - and it gave me a chance to grow in a different way as an artist. 

My lovely Val Verde project became a the time I felt I should honor their single restriction as part of the trust I'd been given. However, a few years ago the estate fell into bankruptcy and was sold multiple times. For all I know, that signature view is gone...and I wish I'd at least gotten it on film. Here are more of the images from the project. 

Creative Challenge: find a place, object person...a subject matter that you're drawn to, and then choose a time span. Maybe for 90 days you're going to take a single shot of it a day - this could be changed in so many ways, but the basic groupings are Time, Subject, Method of Capture or Output - this practice could be interesting in other genres as well - a writing assignment, drawing, poetry...anything, but the main idea is to allow yourself and the subject time to grow together. 

This post was inspired by an experience I had while reading Patti Smith's book Just Kids. I was struck by an idea (on a totally unrelated subject) and immediately afterwards I got this feeling "I should stop reading once I get my idea." Maybe I just like to savor great moments...

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