Thursday, May 29, 2008

a wake up call

wake up call
A couple of things to read or listen to. Craig Tanner has updated his Myth of Talent talk and now much more strongly emphasises the need for a strong belief as motivation to developing talent. A lot of this seems to come down to visualising an expected outcome, then moving towards it. Listening to Craig's podcast brought me back to my own experience and how transforming the Next Step workshop proved to be, personally. Emotionally difficult, painful at times but it made a dramatic change to my approach to photography and life in general. Not as life-threatening or dramatic as Craig's own example but I can relate to the shift in belief and world view that he talks about and how it can change your outlook. The discussion on experts at the start of the podcast seems to lean heavily towards the concepts of thin slicing that are discussed in Malcolm Galdwell's book, Blink (The Power of Thinking Without Thinking). The idea that after much training, our unconscious mind can start making the decisions behind the scenes, enabling creativity and intuition, all via the mechanism of learned response and experience. As a result, you have whatever artistic gift or photographic experience that you have as a starting point, but conscious practice, hard work and repeated exposure to ideas and imagery will inform your future work, to a point where it becomes automatic and innate. It just takes hard work and lots of it. You need the passion to drive the hard work and the belief to keep going, but you can get there. The second, related piece is by Neil Gaiman on the ways to find a personal style. Neil is talking about writing style but I think it applies generally. The interesting question is about half way through this blog post, when someone asks how to stop copying other authors when they write; to avoid those influences and develop their own style. The simple answer is You write more or for us, you take more photographs. Eventually, style becomes what you can't help doing. It arrives after long enough practice - I think in part because of the ideas I mentioned earlier - thin slicing and intuition inform your style. It becomes how you see, or how you write or how you take pictures. The bottom line to Neil's post is something I've found myself and mentioned before. Honesty is what style is all about. Being true to your own interests or vision. Taking and sharing the pictures you want to take, not the things you think other people would be interested in. Make the pictures for yourself in a way that you like. Then you'll find your own style. Look inwards for the validation and enjoyment. Maybe other people will like the images, maybe they wont, but you'll have a lot more fun and satisfaction if you honestly follow your own creativity.


Anita Jesse said...

Great stuff, Gordon. I had been meaning to listen to that podcast. Thanks for the reminder.

These last couple of posts of yours remind me why I am always a little disappointed on the days you don't post. It's easy, isn't it, to forget that there is no substitute for just doing the work. All too often, I forget that I may have to dig through a pile of garbage to find the treasure I didn't know I was looking for.

Steve said...

this is a real nice addition to craig's podcast. i always enjoy hearing your perspective. thanks.

Paul said...

Great post, Gordon. I really like the part about honesty. I like to ride and also to read. One of the best books on writing that I can remember reading was a very short, succinct book by Stephen King. On Writing: Memoirs of a Craft. I believe that is the title, but in it he talks of being honest in your writing and writing only, at least in the first draft, for yourself. Above all, he says, you have to tell the story your way and to be honest to yourself.

Photography, as you agree, is exactly the same way. I found my style last year, quite by accident, by attempting to organize my pictures. After looking at thousands of pictures, I noticed a pattern. I'd never looked before, but it doesn't matter because that style is constantly evolving and it's exciting!

Paul said...

Umm, that should have been "I like to write and also to read". It's late! :-)