There was an interesting discussion with Dan Rubin on Clubhouse last week, about invention and innovation and creativity. (If you’re interested, Dan hosts a regular open discussion each Wednesday on Clubhouse at 1pm EST).
Very few of us really invent. We don’t make something entirely new. We adapt, we follow, we learn and copy. To borrow the title from Austin Kleon‘s book, we ‘Steal Like an Artist’. We take ideas from what others have already made. And that’s not a bad thing. We (hopefully) learn from what’s been done already, inside and outside of our genre. Ideally we build on what’s gone before, although even that is hard to do. Maybe we connect or combine ideas that haven’t been brought together before.
It’s often said that our contribution is valuable because our experience is uniquely ours. Nobody has exactly the same vision, because nobody has exactly the same experience. I agree with that, but I think it comes down to an essential problem, in how we let our own ‘voice’ come through in our work. How do we know what to say? How many of us know who we really are, or who we’re meant to be, and how to express that? And even when we start to figure that out (and of course it may change over time), how do we show that in visual creativity?
Sean Tucker produced an excellent interview with Rachael Talibart about how she found her vision. Rachael seems to be a good example of a photographer finding their niche or their passion, and then developing the ideas into something uniquely hers.
It makes me wonder, what would Carrier-Bresson or Ansel Adams be creating today? I’m sure they would follow their passions and maybe their vision would be similar, but I think they would also adapt and connect to this generation. It can’t (or at least shouldn’t be), all about us I think. We don’t create in isolation from our generation and from the world around us and from the ongoing conversation about what images mean and how they can best communicate.
I don’t have all the answers other than we keep trying. And that doesn’t mean we just keep making images or creating. But that we keep considering who we’re meant to be, what we’re here for, what our images represent, what we are trying to say. And experimenting and trying out new ideas, combining images or putting little books together or giving away a few prints or whatever it might be. The more we explore the possibilities, the more likely I think we are to stumble on the elements that work best for us, that sit naturally within the work we want most to create.