Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The "C" Word

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There are more than 8,000 words in the English language that begin with the letter "C." Not too many more than 8K, but more... and they're all "C" words. All 8,000+ of them.

The specific "C" word I'm writing about today probably isn't the first "C" word that came to your mind when you read my title -- if it were, I'd probably be guilty of shock-blogging -- but it's still one with special significance to photographers even if it's not the most expected word when someone refers to the infamous "C" word.

The "C" word I'm writing about is creativity.

Creativity and other words which are derivative of the word, "create," is a word that is often bandied about amongst photographers, indeed amongst artists of all kinds. Creativity is a noun. It means, "The use of the imagination or of original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work."

Most photographers regularly employ that first part of creativity's definition. You know, the using their imagination part. Very few, however, manage to create something which represents that second part. The "original idea" part. It's not that there aren't lots of photographers capable of having original ideas of some sort. I'm sure there are. The problem is, there aren't many original ideas left, if any, to imagine.

Have you ever done something that you thought was original only to have someone say it's been done? Who hasn't?  (If you haven't, you probably haven't had too many ideas you thought were original.) It seems everything has already been done. Leastwise, when it comes to original ideas and photography. (A quantum physicist might still have an original idea regarding quantum physics stuff, but that's science, not art.)

Saying, "It's been done," is a polite way of telling someone their creative and original idea isn't as original as they thought it was. It might be creative but original? Nope.  You can't blame people for having (what they think are) original ideas that aren't original. No single individual knows (or is cognizant of) everything that's been done, creatively. But if enough people look at something that someone claims as being "original," someone along the way is going to say, "It's been done."  And they'll  most likely be correct. In fact, they're almost assuredly correct. Plus, they'll often point to the proof that it's been done. Hey! It sucks, I know. But that's how this creative stuff rolls.

Are there any original ideas left in the world of photography? I doubt it. There are probably original twists and spins on ideas but twists and spins, while seemingly original, doesn't make the finished work original. Not completely. It's still derivative, albeit with a slightly different twist or spin.

Are there two classes of people when it comes to this creativity stuff?  You know, creative types and non-creative types? Again, I don't think so. At least not in the sense of being born with creativity and born without it. I think everyone is born with the ability to be creative. It's true that some people seem to have easier access to their creative selves. It comes more natural to them if you will. Some even make creativity look uber-easy... while others can't seem to access their creative selves no matter how hard they try. Why that is I don't have a clue. Part of the reason, I suppose, is that some people don't put much value on creativity, leastwise in themselves and, occasionally, regarding others as well. Go figure.

The majority of my work isn't creative to any great degree. It's mostly all derivative with an occasional twist or spin to the derivation. Somewhere along the way, some photographers came up with original and creative ways to shoot glam and tease photos. But since then, everything I see in the pretty girl shooting world has been done. Most of it done to death, including my work. And let me add that saying everything, pretty girl shooting wise, has been done isn't the same as saying it's all done with equal skill. Creative skills and creativity aren't the same two things. One refers to the process while the latter mostly refers to results, i.e., what those results represent. (In this case, creativity.)

I'm not being humble, by the way, when I say my work isn't, for the most part, creative or lacks a great deal of creativity.  The people who pay me to shoot pretty girl pics aren't interested in me being creative or having original ideas when I shoot for them. They want more of the same-- more of the same sort of derivative work that others shoot. They want that work well executed, of course. And they'd like it being better than the work others produce in the genre. They definitely want to see me utilizing plenty of good craft skills in the work I perform for them. But true creativity? Original ideas? Nope. That's why, whenever I shoot pics that, in my opinion, actually are creative (if not original), it's always stuff I shoot on my own dime and my own time. In other words, personal project pics.

The image at the top is, IMO, fairly creative. It's certainly not original -- I'm confident it's been done before -- but creative? I think so. Obviously, it isn't a snap from the thousands of sets of pretty girl pics I've shot for clients. I shot it for me. I shot it for my own creative fulfillment. My reward for shooting it wasn't in the form of a pay check. Instead, I paid myself with a creative reward. What's a creative reward? Well, it's not a tangible thing like, say, cash. It's an emotional thing which, sometimes, makes me feel better than stuffing a few extra bucks in my wallet. That feeling isn't always better than cash, but sometimes it is.

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