A photographer recently e-mailed me to send me her regards for the Holidays. In the e-mail she also mentioned that her portrait business is doing well and then stated “I’m slowly building my confidence and learning to let go a little.By relaxing and trusting my instincts I’m making better pictures”. She also stated “I was reading your bio -you mentioned Nan Goldin. I love her work. It hit a nerve”.
This e-mail started me thinking about creativity and communicating with others through our photographs. I was happy to hear that she was “letting go”. “Letting go” and “relaxing”, are two of a number of phrases that I think are related to creative process.
I imagine when we “let go” what we are letting go of are the restrictions and control of our own conscious mind which is usually filled with preconceptions and ideas of what a good photograph should be.
Usually these ideas come from outside of ourselves; teacher’s opinions, books or other photographs that we thought were good. In my opinion photographs produced during this state of mind are photographs that show the viewer an obvious/common/shared point of view. In my opinion, these images are not really OUR OWN photographs that communicate OUR perception because we are working from a conscious level that is filled with influences that come from outside of ourselves.
I think pictures produced with a conscious mind result in unoriginal/uninspired photographs that fail to show the photographer’s personal(unique) point of view and they fail to “hit a nerve”/communicate with the viewer.
It seems that one of the ways to produce communicative and thought provoking photographs that show our unique point of view is to have our unconscious mind, which is far more creative than our conscious mind, influence our imagery.
Our unconscious mind is full of everything we know and since it speaks to us beyond words, we can tap into all the deep feelings and rich imagery that reside there.
We are far more open to our unconscious when we are not thinking of anything in particular, like pictures we’ve seen before, others opinions or our own self-censorship.
I have made what I think are truly unique pictures and I’ve made pictures that are mundane and common.
When I examine the experience of making photographs that I consider unique,the best way I can describe that experience is in the following manner: I seem to lose track of time, my mind is calm/there is no distracting self-questioning of my decisions and I seem to have a heightened/precise awareness. Some refer to this state as working in a “flow” or with “no-mind”.
“No-mind” is the Zen idea of merging with the activity at hand. It’s a state of complete absorption,you lose all self-consciousness and you lose yourself in what you are doing.
Like the Nike slogan says, you are “Just Doing It”.
To put things simply, it seems that if you want to make pictures that truly show your point of view and that communicate with the viewer one of the ways to do that is to feel more and think less.
Think A LOT less.
Here’s an article about creativity that mentions what I’ve touched on and much more.