Posts Tagged ‘vision’

Creativity Matters

This is a post which appeared a couple years ago in another version of this blog. I’m bringing it back because it best communicates why I started this blog, and what the real focus here is. Shift and change are the results, no matter what.

Most things that are interesting, important, human are the result of Creativity on some level. When we are involved in it it makes us feel good, it keeps us young and ideally there is an outcome that enhances the quality of our existence….whether a freshly baked cake or the Mona Lisa. There are a lot misconceptions of what Creativity is. One is that some people are and some people are not Creative. This is a myth. We are all Creative. To my mind Creativity is as much, if not more, a necessary human attribute than intelligence, especially these days. It’s a survival skill. It means having imagination, being resourceful, self-directed. It means being open, looking at things in new ways, taking chances, and taking advantage of the unexpected—being able to tolerate uncertainty and chaos.  And most importantly it is a pathway to the mysterious, miraculous, unpredictable, undefinable, uncontrollable—things we live for like bliss, love, beauty, joy, inspiration, dreams, vision, awe, wonder, significance and transformation. What if we could learn how to have more of these things in our lives? What if there was a course in Creativity? What would the syllabus look like?

—I’ve since come up with some answers to those questions…so please stay tuned!

Just Because…

Saccowatt Valentine….a week late.

The Wisdom of Subtraction

I don’t know about many of you, but lately I feel like a slave to my to-do list…..like I’m getting nowhere even though I’m doing so much….. particularly this past year because I’ve been trying to do way too many ‘big’ things at once.  I came across an article the other day, The Art of Adding by Taking Away written by Matthew May. It speaks to the value of looking at what not to do, of having the discipline to discard what does not fit or serve our purpose.  “To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day”   from the 2500 year old teachings of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. Wow.

I’ve often applied this ‘less is more’ concept in my photography, embracing the Zen aesthetics of  minimalism and empty space in the visual sense. In conversation as well there is richness in silence—it is in the ‘gaps’ where insights occur. How might you apply these principles in your own life?

Busyness does not equal productivity or growth. It often gets in the way in fact, creating the illusion that we’re getting things done. How about creating a not-to-do list to accompany your to-do list? Try it. Think about what you really want to be accomplishing and conserve your resources. It’s about removing just the right things in the right way; this shift in perspective will allow the universe to step in…I call it Grace. Good things are bound to follow.

 

Seeing Clearly

Vipassana–a Pali word meaning ‘to see clearly’…. Seeing speaks to understanding, illumination, discernment, and wisdom—seeing past stereotypes, cliches and preconceptions. Do you see?  To ’see’ is to look past the obvious, the expected; to take the time, to pay attention. Seeing is more of a right brained (non-verbal, intuitive) activity. Betty Edwards developed a hugely successful approach to teaching ANYONE how to draw based on the premise of drawing what you actually see rather what you think you see. Her book Drawing From the Right Side of the Brain has sold millions of copies worldwide since its’ publication in 1979. I took the class from her son, Brian Bomeisler, who teaches her approach out of his Soho Loft, and I can attest to its merits. Another benefit of ’seeing’ rather than merely looking is an enhanced quality of existence. Our ability to experience our surroundings, no matter how seemingly mundane, keeps us in the present moment.  It takes us out of our turbulent minds. Seeing can be a form of meditation. This has always been a gift photography has given me—the gift of awareness.

To better deal with change we need to see clearly as each moment unfolds, to allow things to be as they are and adjust, to find the joy, to be creative in connecting the dots, seeing patterns, recognizing opportunities. With so much uncertainty and paradigm shift we need new ways of seeing and new ways of thinking. We literally need to change our  minds. To do this it helps to understand how our minds work so we can control what’s in our heads, so we can calm ourselves down, so we can live from what’s really happening, not our judgement-infused perceptions and habitual mindsets. So how do we remain connected to the moment? How do we stop the chatter—internal and external—from taking over? We need to get better at paying attention. Seeing clearly–without the labeling/dismissing. Seeing with fresh eyes. Shifting perception. It’s a muscle we can build.

Are You a (Serious) Collector?

Photography is a form of collecting. Photographs are souvenirs. We take pictures to collect memories, experiences, capture a moment in time, or fix an ephemeral moment of beauty. Some of us are creating our ‘museum of happiest moments’ whereas others are working at reinterpreting the world around them, using a camera as a way to get at some deeper truth….collecting insights, informed by our unique and particular sensibility as photographers….and people.

At the end of the day, no matter where we fit in to the above, our collections can represent our journey, or at least the parts we want to hold on to.

 

How Steve Jobs did his Job

‘When you ask a creative person how they did something, they may feel guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.’  —Steve Jobs

How many of us can relate to this? This speaks to the way our minds work with regard to creativity–how we get our best ideas and how we evolve. In part it’s the ‘mindpop’ thing—the seemingly unbidden insight that pops into your head when not focusing on the subject. It’s not linear and in fact it often seems disconnected from effortful work. That’s why creative professionals often don’t look like we’re working—we get this. I once had a very nervous, very tight corporate client in my studio actually ask me when we were going to start working—she was so unused to that model of creative productivity. Creative thinking actually requires, after filling your head with as much information as you can, to step back, take a break, go do something unrelated to the work at hand. That’s where the true seeing comes in— the right brained, non linear, pattern seeing, fresh and spontaneous insights that really make a difference, that make things better.  The work is everything that has led up to that moment….and the boldness to act on the insight….even though it didn’t feel like work.

The Texture of Memory

I love NPR radio. There was recently an interview with Joshua Foer talking about his fantastic new book Moonwalking With Einstein: the Art and Science of Remembering Everything. The ‘art’ he refers to is based on a set of techniques invented in ancient Greece. The ‘art’ is in creating imagery in your mind that is so dense, so colorful, so unlike anything you’ve seen before that it’s unlikely to be forgotten. Seems it’s as much about creativity as it is about memory. In relation to the passing of time, he states as we get older our experiences become less unique, therefore more forgettable, increasing the sense of one year blending in to the next. He says that’s why it’s important to pack your life with interesting experiences that make life memorable and provide texture to the passing of time. A guy called in during the interview, a photographer, saying he can remember every picture he’s ever taken. I can as well. I can also remember what I was thinking and feeling at the time. Foer’s explanation was that we remember more in our area of expertise. I think he missed part of the truth: the act of seeing the image and clicking the shutter literally fixes the memory, and everything about the moment, in the mind’s eye. This is why photography can be a wonderful tool for enhancing experience, and memory— accessible to anyone. It helps us pay attention, helps us switch from automatic to conscious mode—enlivening the mundane, enriching the everyday.

Life works…

This is in the ‘as good as it gets’ category in the life of a freelance photographer. The very personal image on the right is, simply, my back porch shot on a rainy morning. Rain and mist offer wonderful visual opportunities for capturing evocative images. This one found it’s way to a much bigger audience, ending up as the cover to bestselling author Nicholas Sparks’ latest novel, shown on the right.

Feel With Your Eyes

Lesson #1:  When on the streets of New York, always have your camera at the ready. Think The Sartorialist, a guy who built a huge career around this. I  missed a great opportunity when a perfectly groomed fellow in summer white denim shorts, sunglasses, gelled coif sporting a loud pink t-shirt with lettering spanning the length and breadth of his body that read “TOUCH IS OVERRATED. FEEL WITH YOUR EYES” approached. Try to conjure him. He was a poster boy for this blog and I missed him!  Synesthesia is the neurological condition of cross sensory perception. Among those that have it, when one sense is triggered it creates impulses in others (see ‘loud pink’ above). This leads to an intensifying of experience and therefore memory and perception. Kind of trippy…. and yet when it comes to seeing, I would imagine for most of us, our eyes are an instrument of feeling….certainly something to aspire to.

The Camera

I apologize for the lapse in my posting. I’ll spare you the reasons; hopefully some of them will become evident as I pick up this thread again. And thank you to all who have been so encouraging for me to continue (you know who you are!). Most recently I’ve been collaborating on a series of botanical images for a new website. Our challenge has been to bring a fresh set of eyes to these oft photographed elements. What is the essence of the thing? How do we reveal it? It’s a practice.

Dorothea Lange put it best: “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

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