Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

When I was in my mid-twenties I worked on an ill-fated film project where a young man died. One of the things that I remember most about the experience was the shock I had as I watched the sun come up the next morning and the birds start singing...and realized that the world just keeps going. No matter what happens, the next morning the sun comes up and "the play" goes on.

Each year, in December, I do a year-end inventory - a review of what happened that year and ask myself - "did I get my money's worth" and "what would I like to accomplish in the next year?" The truth is, that second part is done on faith, because you never know how long you my question to you is "what are you going to do with the time you have?"

My New Year's resolutions for 2013 include: 

Meditation as a daily practice. This year I started meditating and it's been a profound experience. The first thing people ask me about meditation is "what do you do?" I want to reassure you, coming from someone who is very bad at quieting their mind, that it's not necessary to be perfect at meditation to still get a lot of value from it. I find it helps give me a little perspective on life. I start with counting my in and out breaths ("1, 2") and have worked up to 20 minutes with a faint bell each 5 minutes. Of course there's an app for it...I use the Insight Timer, which has a nice feature that lets you see others meditating around the world. 

Commit to engaging in your creative process on a daily basis. This is a hard one for many of us...but even if it's just spending a few minutes in a space you consider to be your "studio" you'll find that it connects you to your greater purpose...another method of having some perspective on life...noticing a trend?

Embrace change and instability as the essential element of life. It's taken me so long to even understand this one...but, in the past year, I've really grown to appreciate that much of our discomfort with change is our fear of it. Change is what you make of it and yes, having the attitude that change is not to be feared gives you a better perspective on life.

Finally, it's all about thankful that you woke up this is short...enjoy it! 

Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ritual and Art-Making

Every year I make an image on Christmas Day. For many of those years we've been at the beach - there's a wonderful set of campgrounds running up the California Coast, we pick one and stay for a week. That's not to say that I abandon my family - I stay for the important stuff like opening presents and having breakfast - but then afterwards I find that I really love the experience of wandering around an empty town.

That's also why I love shooting LA on Sunday mornings - because the city is usually swept clean and sleeping. You can shoot while standing in the middle of Wilshire Blvd (usually jammed) and it almost feels like the buildings are breathing a sigh of relief. When you add the occasion of a holiday like Christmas, it makes it even better.

The beauty of a ritual is that it gives you a sense of continuity. You can make the work without having to worry about where it fits in your career as an artist - the ritual becomes the reason. Another part I like about this ritual is that it comes at the end of the year and reinforces my commitment to finding new ways to make images for another year.

Christmas is around the corner...start a new ritual. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Road Less Traveled

One of the things I love is shooting in the rain. Part of what appeals to me, and why I realize my images look different when I do, is that usually people don't shoot in the rain. They don't want to get their cameras wet - they don't want to get wet themselves - so the majority of the images we see don't come from that experience. It's part an approach I think of as finding the "road less traveled" as a visual artist. 

There have been some very interesting approaches to this concept. The most obvious photographic one is choosing to shoot at night. One of my favorite images is a Michael Kenna shot of a Paris bridge at night. We're so used to seeing these things during the day, that just changing that single element creates a new visual palette. One of the things that really made Michael Kenna's work interesting is not only did he shoot at night - he made it look as if it were daytime. By using very long exposures he was able to flip our sense of where the light came from because, in actuality, during his exposures the light would be coming from multiple locations over time. His process compressed time into a single frame and he created a new visual aesthetic as we were able to see time, such as the ocean's movement over eight hours, compressed into a single image. 

Another example is Susan Barnett whose project Not In Your Face photographs the backs of people. We're so used to thinking that what's important about people photography is the face - right?  Instead, she chose to use the backs and in the process came up with a very interesting way to talk about people and their identities by removing our typical viewpoints. 

My challenge for you today is to take the path less traveled, in terms of how you approach image-making. If you feel like you're at a stumbling block trying to come up with something - consider writing it out. Literally write down the elements that you've been choosing and flip that script. Do you like shooting the zoo when it's full of people? Change one element and try shooting it completely empty. If you're still really new as an artist - then pick someone whose work you admire and do the same exercise with their work. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Social Media and Creativity

This weekend I decided to take a digital holiday - actually it was more of a social media holiday. I'd been consumed with, or perhaps by, my electronics and had a feeling it might not be the best thing for me. 

Checking my blog stats, email, FB, Instagram - constantly checking to see what connections the world was sending me - it seemed like an increasing tug at the corners of my brain. It was a good thing to go cold turkey - although in full disclosure I did use my cell phone camera. But other than that - no Internet use at all.  

What did I learn? Well...that I'd developed a nervous twitch - remember the Sirens call to Ulysses? My devices were calling to me during that day, however since nature abhors a vacuum I found myself turning to other activities instead. 

Studies are showing that social media can negatively impact your feelings of well being - but how does it impact your levels of creativity? BTW... I fully realize the irony of this post and just to go entirely "old school" I decided to write this one by hand (in it's original form) - apparently different parts of the brain are activated by the physical movement/use of the body and I wanted to see if there would be a difference. 

For whatever reason, that night I fell asleep early and the next morning I woke with my brain percolating ideas again...coincidence...not sure. During that "free" day, it was disconcerting to see how many times my restless brain tried to reach for my phone or how often I wanted to interrupt what I was doing to post a cool new image. Does this mean that social media is bad or harms creativity by breaking into your consciousness? I don't know, and strangely enough, I don't know if it's important. What is important, is an awareness of its impact and a willingness to experiment in going without. 

I don't believe in crying over change, that's not a good goal - change is inevitable and should be a fundamental part of life and our deepest nature. It's an odd quirk that we seem to both need and fear change at the same time. Anyway, it's a futile game to fight change - but that doesn't mean we can't evaluate how we work/use it in our lives. 

So, in an experiment with creativity I ask that you try a social media free day. Disconnect from the virtual world for a day and see what might find yourself, like me, the next morning - writing down ideas and seeing life from a little bit of a different perspective. Or, if social media isn't your gig, it may be something else. Find another habit or rut you've fallen it is, try stepping back a day and evaluating life on the other side.