Creativity and Inspiration


Today has been a kind of creative and inspiration kick in the ass for me. It started at work with a guest speaker in our Innovators series: Artie Issac. He got on my good side right from the start when he said essentially “please use your phones. Tweet this. Share this. Facebook it. Here’s a hashtag you can use, and here’s my twitter handle”. That’s someone who understands the power of social media, and understands that his life depends on it. And understands that what he brings to audiences cannot be replaced by a photo, short video, or summaries of his content. I liked him right away.

Artie spoke at length about creativity, some of which I had heard before, some of which I saw and heard with new eyes and ears. I normally shun these kinds of talks, but I’m thankful for the gentle (indirect) nudge from my boss that had me sitting in the audience smiling and thinking. And enjoying.

One of the outcomes from the talk was my own adaptation of the “Flow” channel graph which pits Challenge versus Skill. My graph sets Pressure against Preparedness.

pressure vs preparation

I love my days at work when I’m well prepared for high-pressure situations. And notice for my graph–preparedness and pressure are “measures” inside my head–as are the outcomes. When I’m not prepared for something that’s low pressure, I’m feeling bored. If I’m well prepared for something that I perceive as having low impact or pressure, bah, its trivial, and I almost don’t want to do it. My most frustrating days are when I’m feeling under-prepared for a high-pressure situation. Frustrating because I know that in most circumstances, it just takes a few more hours of work to lift the preparedness factor. One of the things I like about photography (and portraiture in particular) is that I can be adequately prepared to enjoy the pressure to do well.

When I checked my personal e-mail at home, I had a note from a photography friend that I should check out a recent blog from Zack Arias.  (Go read it, even if you aren’t a photo-nerd. I’ll wait.) Holy crap. I’m not the guy who posed that question, but I see some of my negative thoughts and sub-alter-ego in his comments. Zack lays him out.

Oh yeah, burn your xBox. Or Playstation. Or whatever it is. You have a hella ton of work to do and that shit is eating your time and keeping you from your goal.

Over the last 6 weeks, I’ve watched 5 seasons of Mad Med on Netflix. Before that, it was How I Met Your Mother. That’s three 40-hour work-weeks, blown, sitting on my ass. How much could I have learned about Photoshop in 120 hours? How many bands could I have marketed myself to? Could I have actually read the book I checked out of the library, but only glanced at for 30 minutes? Artie made a similar point specifically about TV. Oh the things we let suck our lives away. “I’ve just sucked one year of your life away. … What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity so be honest. How do you feel?”

I also read (at Zack’s suggestion) Find what you love and let it kill you. If you didn’t read it at Zack’s suggestion, go do it. NOW! And I promise, this one really isn’t about photography. Its about art. Its about life. (I’m reminded of another movie quote here…”Guys, what would you wish you’d done before you died?”)

So how does the image up top tie into all of this? Its a weak link, at best, but making the bird-on-a-ring balloon animal has got to be balloon-animal 101. The person handing that balloon over has probably made 1,000 just like it. But they probably made them all just for the looks on the kids faces. Sometimes, that’s enough. Sometimes its a smile like that which can make your whole day worthwhile. When I’m doing portraits, at least 80% of my creativity is going into interacting with the subject–learning about them, what makes them tick, making them comfortable–so that I can get a great picture. If I were a balloon artist, the balloon would be simply a vehicle to interact with the kids who can show such awe and wonder at such a simple creation.

One thought on “Creativity and Inspiration”

  1. I just found your website and really enjoy it. I am a student photographer and I use a D5100. I really like you article on shooting bands but, could only find pt.2. I would really like to read the rest, as I am having a hard time. I have my ISO at 6400 and shutter at 1/240. The images are still a bit dark.

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