Originality seems to be a fleeting concept these days. With everyone having a camera on them at all times these days, do you feel there has been a lack of creativity in the images you see flooding your social media streams?

So much of what we see on a daily basis appears to be quite similar. Surely you’ve seen the Instarepeat articles out there. Locations that are overshot/over posted and all look pretty much the same.

Are we doing what’s easy?

Even in the movie and television industry, it seems that whatever path is easiest is taken for the most part. Sequels and remakes have been the norm for several years now. Are we not capable of coming up with original ideas anymore? Do original ideas still exist?

This quote from Jim Jarmusch says things quite well:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery — celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.”

The critical points to take away from this are to only steal from things that speak to your soul, it is how you and your work remain authentic. Perhaps we should start using authenticity to describe work instead of original, maybe that’s more appropriate.

The other point made by Jean-Luc Godard is to focus on where you take these ideas and things that speak to you. Can you take what you’ve ‘stolen’ and apply it to your own work? Does it enhance what you already do? If we can learn from others and create our own work, with our own take and including our own selves into that work, then it’s much more authentic. It becomes less of a copy, less unoriginal, less noncreative and boring.


Where and what do you focus on

If there is a group of photographers out photographing sunrise or sunset, they tend to all be facing the same direction.

Of course, toward the event which makes sense. But, how do each of those individuals create an image of the same scene that is uniquely theirs? Are they even thinking about that or are they just caught up in capturing the sun doing its thing because everyone loves a sunrise or sunset shot? Are they even aware of the feelings they have, of watching (with the camera down) the amazing world we live in?

Do they feel the sense of awe that comes with being present during the beginning or end of the day? How can they put that into the images they are creating if they are just concerned about the settings and technicalities needed to ‘get the shot?’

Being in a group of photographers is a great way to learn, just by watching what everyone does. Be aware of what it is they are focused on, where they are looking. You’ll start realizing we all see a scene just a bit differently. Yet, there still seems to be a lack of originality. Maybe that’s all we see in our social media streams, the usual, the ‘pretty shot,’ the image that will get the most oohs and aahs. Are we afraid of posting something that might be different?


In a world where so much is the same — be original

Here’s a challenge for you. Next time you feel compelled to photograph sunrise or sunset, or a major tourist attraction, or a place that has been photographed to death, turn around. Face the opposite direction.

What do you see? What other stories are there to tell about a place where so many stories have already been told? What is YOUR story of this place?

Put your camera down and actually be there, feel the wonder of a sunrise. Feel the peacefulness that can be found by watching the sunset as the world heads to sleep. Then and only then create your image. YOUR image.


Think about this when trying to be original

“When you’re a kid, you color with reckless abandon. You color outside the lines. You color however you feel. Blue elephants, purple trees, red bears, green oceans – it’s all good. As you get older, though, everyone tells you to stay inside the lines, to color everything just like you see it. You end up painting by numbers – whether you actually paint or whether you write or sing or act or direct. I think you should create what you feel. Create outside the lines. I want to watch green oceans and red bears. I’d love to listen to purple trees. And I long to read blue elephants.” – Unknown