Photo Creativity 103 – Experiment & Play

The Chaos We are In, (#4058) copyright 2021 Douglas Stockdale

This is my third reflection on how I implement my Photo (Artistic) Creativity and probably the one that I have mentioned most often in my past articles; allowing myself to ‘Experiment/Play’. Aka, it’s okay to mess around and have some fun. Others may not have some of the same creativity issues that I have, as being trained as a design engineer, I am more of a problem solver that is heavily ‘left brain’ (logic) oriented versus ‘right brain’ that is thought to be more intuitive and prevalent for the arts. Now as a scientist evaluating issues, I have a tendency to consider the well defined elements of engineering, physics and science, which is really heavy left brain thinking. Betty Owens’s book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain was truly revolutionary when I first studied it in the 1980’s. I have actually incorporated aspects of her ideas on creativity into my scientific practice, so how cool is that?

Btw, there has been a lot of debate about the right brain and left brain thinking process as to it being ‘real’ or scientifically sound, nevertheless, I know that for me, to get ‘creative’ does seem to require a cognitive shift. So I accept this as an unscientific generality that seems to help me release my inner creative child. LoL

Thus, I perhaps more than many others, need to find ways to shift from my analytical and logical left brain (which includes such basic acts as ‘talking’) into the creative right brain process. Such as my Creativity 101 – The 10 Minute Rule; within 10 minutes after arriving at a photo destination, take a picture, any picture, but make the effort to compose it and consider what is in (as well as what is out) of the frame. It will really help to make that cognitive shift to right brain thinking.

I also give myself permission to fool around and not try to create a master-piece each time I hold a camera. Thus it is okay to experiment and play with different possibilities that I might not consider otherwise. I also find it is easier to experiment and play when using a cell-phone camera, such as my current Samsung, as I frequently don’t think what I am photographing with it is as serious with it as when I am toting my Hasselblad loaded with film, or even my full-frame DSLR. Those are the ‘serious’ cameras! LoL.

It’s about shifting my frame of mind. It can really be amusing sometimes about what I think is ‘correct’ versus not correct, and how that establishes (mental) blinders on what I think I can/should do. Back in the day when film was expensive (to me anyway), how I would almost ration out how many photographs I would make sure that each exposure, which seemed to have a dollar amount associated to it, was a master-piece and even more so when I started using medium and large format film. Today with digital it’s another world; a short day walk down into the adjacent arroyo I might take over 200 photographs in the span of a couple of hours, which leaves me much more open to experimenting and trying some different things as it is not longer has a ‘cost’.

Some other things I consider; when I am shooting digital, especially the full-frame DSLR, I don’t analyze every photo after I take it. First, stopping to look at the back of the camera back to evaluate the image just taken is disruptive of the creative process, in essence momentarily shifting from a right brain to a left brain thinking process. A quick glance can inform you if something was taken, but spending time to ensure that it was 100% correct may not be the best thing for creativity. I understand that some folks really, really like that feedback to ensure that the colors were correct, the framing was exact, that the image was not unintentionally blurred because the shutter speed was too slow, yada, yada, yada. Just try it. Maybe check one after 20 exposures, but not after each one. I think back to the film days, I might not know if I had messed up until a day or even weeks later when the film came back, thus I was ‘free’ to just focus on my subject and the concept I was exploring.

The corollary to this idea; I don’t delete images from my DSLR while out taking photographs, just because it may appear like it is a ‘failure’. Trying to make any decisions in the field based on what shows up in the back of a camera might not be the best for me and this is how I started working on my series Quantum Elements. This act might also eliminate some opportunities for serendipity and chance (okay, this might also become a Photo Creativity essay) to occur. So I download everything after when I get back to the studio and I have a large color calibrated monitor to make more informed decisions. Even then, I don’t usually delete what I think are ‘failures’ anymore, especially when external hard drives are so inexpensive these days. I think back to earlier days about what I deleted in an attempt to free up space on a small external hard drive that now make me cringe.

Three of my projects resulted from my experiment/play process with my mobile phone; Middle Ground, which I subsequently self-published as an artist book, Memory Pods, which is a series that is still on-going, and Quantum Elements, also an on-going series that the photograph feature above results from. And as a result, I think that I am able to move more easily between a left brain into a right brain mind set when I allow my self to experiment and play.




Book workshops:

I will be leading a Creative Photo Book workshop with the Southeast Center of Photography (SEC4P), a virtual event on Zoom; November 6 & 7th and 13 & 14th, 2021, 10 AM – 1 PM, EST (3 hour session each day, with a week between the weekend sessions to work your book-dummy). Registration is now open, and there is a SEC4P membership discount. It is SOLD OUT & wait-list has been started.

New dates for another SEC4P Creative PhotoBook workshop just announced (and already almost sold out), a virtual event on Zoom; January 22 & 23 and 29 & 30, 2022, 10 AM – 1 PM, EST (3 hour session each day, with a week between the weekend sessions to work your book-dummy). The SEC4P membership discount is also available.

Developing a Creative Photo Book, a virtual (Zoom) workshop I will be leading again in conjunction with Medium Photo with New dates: March 5 – 6, 12 – 13, 2022 More details and sign-up available now at Medium Photo.


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