As a photographer, I struggle with being creative. All my life I’ve been good at the technical side of the transaction, but never felt like I was truly creative. I realized that most creative people fall into one of two camps.
1. Those who are natively, organically wired as creatives. I’m not in that bunch but I do envy them.
2. Those who are good at “connecting” ideas in order to become creative. That’s me. I connect things well.
Here are some examples. I started studying Ansel Adams’ work in the mid 90s. I mean really study it as in I wrote a masters-level thesis about him. During that process I started connecting why his photos worked. There were many reasons but a couple that popped out quickly were his willingness to isolate the background from the rest of the scene and/or his willingness to add depth to a scene by including a strong, close, foreground object – relative to the background.
I then started looking at paintings, movies, television shows, etc. I started connecting the fact that the background played as important a role as the foreground or the subject. Hence, years later I began to get more creative in my use of backgrounds to isolate subjects.
This is a very hard topic to explain, and I don’t know if this makes any sense to anyone but me, but I wanted to share it just in case. Creativity can be nothing more than a series of connections and the application of those connections to a photograph.
These days, when teaching a field workshop you might hear me say 100 times “background, background, background.” That’s me trying to get you to think differently about the background because for me, that started a whole new phase in my career. Something as simple as connecting the importance of the background to the rest of the shot eventually helped me develop the simple wildlife portrait style that has served me well.
I hope this helps. I thought trying to break down the thought process I used to get there might make it easier to understand.
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