Next week we’re releasing my next eBook – The Visual Imagination, a book about creative techniques and ideas that focuses mostly on impressionism and abstraction. Yesterday I was doing a pre-release podcast interviews, talking to Ibarionex Perello, the amazing voice and mind of The Candid Frame, and he asked me the one question I’m so fond of asking others. Why?
Not everyone does photographic work that willingly abandons the literal, so why play with ideas of abstraction and impressionism at all?
1. Focus on Experience
This new book, The Visual Imagination came out of an experience I’ll tell you about on Monday. The short version: I had an experience with a painting – to say I merely looked at it wouldn’t do the moment justice – that made me wonder whether my own work created a similar experience in others, and if not – which is what I suspected – why not, and was there a way I could do that? Whether we create literal photographs or something more abstract, I think many of us are more hung up on creating something that can be understood. Understanding is good, but it’s not everything. There is a lot of music and visual art that moves me, creates in me an experience that’s more than just rational – and sometimes not rational at all – that I don’t understand. There’s poetry I don’t understand but it speaks to me. I want my photographs to do that. Learning to photograph in a way that’s not what I normally do has taught me to focus more on the experience, on things like mood and colour, than I once did.
2. Learning to See
When we zoom in so close on a flower that we reduce it to form and colour and nothing recognizable, we learn to see that scene for the form and colour, not the flower. The more we experiment with alternate ways of seeing, the more able we become to see the building blocks of great photographs – line, shape, balance, tension, colour, visual mass. The job of the photographer is not merely to use the camera in her hands but to perceive, to truly see what’s there.
3. Play is not practice
Remember how we used to spend hours as kids playing in the back fields and back alleys? That play taught us better and deeper than most classroom lessons. Practice is good, but it often focuses on the right way to do things, and avoiding the wrong way, and too much focus on avoiding the wrong way to do something stifles creativity in a field where there really is no absolute wrong. There are principles in photography but no rules and the more we engage in play, the more creativity we’ll discover and – this is for those of us who lean towards the geeky stuff – the better we become with our technical tools. You may never put a photograph with intentional motion blur into your portfolio, but playing with the techniques will make you more creative and technically proficient.
I can’t wait to introduce this book to you, but with or without it, I encourage you to jump the creative ruts, find something that gives you that sense of play back, and helps you focus on creating unforgettable visual experiences for you and the ones who view your work.
The Visual Imagination has now been released and is available on Craft & Vision as a downloadable PDF for only $10