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Photographer Eric Meola and I share our insights on the creative process in this three-part conversation. In the third installment we discuss the role of chance and surprise in creativity.

EM: In describing how he wrote “Like a Rolling Stone,” Bob Dylan said that he found himself writing what he called “this long piece of vomit, 20 pages long.”

“And out of it,” he recalled, “I took ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ and made it as a single. And I’d never written anything like that before and it suddenly came to me.”

If nothing else, Dylan has always been incredibly prolific. “Practice, practice, practice,” says Bruce Springsteen. And then one day there’s your father’s image “Galaxy Apple.” Is that part of what process is about … the yin and yang between chaos and discipline?

JP: Process is how you get there. It doesn’t just happen. And it unfolds through time. The final results may have come quickly, but it took a long time for Dylan to get into the specific state of flow that would produce his song. The same is true for everyone, including photographers.

This reminds me of a time when I introduced a friend of mine to my father. He said, “Oh, you’re that photographer. Gosh I’d like to have your career. All those 1/125ths of a second. What’s that add up to? A 20-minute career?”

Dylan’s statement, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now,” seems related to Picasso’s “It takes a long time to grow young.”

EM: And Dylan as a teenager in Hibbing, Minnesota, used to listen all night to Hank Williams and Little Richard on the radio—it was all part of the “process” of gearing up for “Bringin’ It All Back Home.”

You mention using a Spirograph as a child to make circles, ellipses and various radiating designs. And some of these patterns continue to show up in your latest imagery. How important is a sense of wonder to photography, or any art form?

JP: How important is a sense of wonder to a life well lived? I think it’s essential. Keeping our sense of wonder alive and well increases our openness, curiosity, sensitivity, perception, playfulness, passion, pleasure, and many other positive benefits. This is related to keeping our inner child or the childlike (not childish) aspects of ourselves active and vibrant.

EM: We’ve discussed chaos versus discipline in art. What about a happy accident—serendipity? What role does “chance” play in process? In the film Pollock, Ed Harris shows Jackson Pollock stumbling onto the process for his drip paintings. Do you ever look at something you’ve done or have been thinking about and suddenly make a leap to a concept that had not occurred to you before? I’m also thinking of Kubrick’s famous visual metaphor early in 2001: A Space Odyssey, where the ape throws a bone that morphs into a rotating space station.

JP: There are two questions here. My answer to both is yes …

Read the rest of Part 3 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Read Part 1 here.

Read my conversation with Eric Meola about Eric Meola here.

Preview my ebook Process here.

Find out about my exhibit Process here.

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Photographer Eric Meola and I share our insights on the creative process in this three-part conversation. In the second installment, we share our influences from photography to poetry. I also discuss my fascination with and the influence of quotes.

EM: How long have you collected quotes? You seem to have hundreds if not thousands at your site.

JP: At an early age, I started noticing that most of us use quotes in our daily conversation and even in our internal dialogs. I really want to know what’s influencing my thinking and why. Sometimes we know who to attribute them to, sometimes we don’t, and sometimes they really are unattributable or anonymous. Often we paraphrase them, less frequently we use them precisely. I still marvel at people who can quote paragraphs and even pages, word for word. I haven’t learned that skill. Currently, I’m limited to a few phrases. But that’s OK. I prefer quotes that are short and sweet. Like haiku poetry, short quotes can almost instantaneously create a powerful impression with just a few words. These highly distilled packets are both impactful and memorable.

Often the idea behind the quote is linked with its author. Proper attribution is important. It’s good form to give credit where credit is due. It helps you understand what, when, and why something has been said. It helps you clarify sources, including yourself.

Sometimes these ideas become so common that sources are forgotten and we hear them paraphrased. Have ideas like this been repeated so frequently that they’ve become a part of the fabric of our minds? More recently, I’ve also become interested in how these ideas echo through the ages. Here’s one example. “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” Is this Confucius, The Talmud, or Anais Nin? Do we default to the earliest source? Or are there some ideas that are pan-cultural or even inevitable?

There are so many great books to read that I figure no book is worth reading if I’m not interested in making marks in the margins; one mark indicates a quote I want to be able to retrieve.

I used to collect my favorite quotes in folders filled with photocopies. Now I collect them digitally. Sharing quotes in social networks has further stimulated my activity—it’s interesting to see who reacts to what and how, and even what people don’t react to. You can find more quotes, almost daily, in my Twitter and Facebook feeds.

I wish I had a photographic memory. I’d love to remember them all—precisely.

EM: What are some of your favorite quotes?

JP: “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” That’s from Marcel Proust.

“Let the beauty we love be what we do.” — Rumi

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Here’s a link to a fuller set of my favorite quotes.

And here’s a link to a set of your favorite quotes.

Also, here’s a link to sets of other photographer’s favorite quotes.

A Japanese proverb says, “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” I think of the quotes we remember as the mental company we keep.

Read more of Part 2 here.

Read Part 1 here.

Read my interview of Eric here.

DPEPodcast

I had a great conversation with my friend Rick Sammon. Our wide-ranging discussion (travel, composition, and more0 ultimately focused on how to find your own voice. It was soulful.

Listen to it here.

Find more interviews here.

Incubation II

Photographer Eric Meola and I share our insights on the creative process in this three-part conversation. In the first installment, I share the influences of my parents and meetings with many remarkable men and women including Eliot Porter, Ansel Adams, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Then we discuss the power of words.

“Words can be powerful tools. Think of all the things you can do with words. Generate ideas. Clarify a response. Determine a goal. Frame a question. Evaluate strengths and weaknesses. Make comparisons and contrasts. Identify an influence. Select an approach. Test a theory. Explore alternatives. Identify what’s missing. Solve a problem. Advocate. Motivate. Evaluate. Find a new direction.

No matter what discipline you’re in, why wouldn’t you use these powerful tools we call words? Try not using them! Can you? So why not use them well and unlock as much of their power as you can?

Many linguists have explored how language influences thought, going almost as far as saying language is thought. Benjamin Whorf said, “Language is not simply a reporting device for experience but a framework for it.” If a culture has a lot of words for something, it indicates those people have a highly developed relationship with it. If a culture doesn’t have a word for something, it indicates either a very different relationship to a subject or a blind spot. Certain tribes in the Amazon jungle have many words for green, but none for blue. The Inuit have dozens of words for snow. We currently have too few words for photography. (At best, we amend the word photography with other words—photojournalism and photo illustration.) Look at all the words we have for various kinds of writing: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, journalism, journaling, interview, biography, autobiography, screenplay, short story, novel, trilogy, epic, lyric, etc, etc, etc. The photographic community and culture at large would do well to repurpose many words drawn from our literary traditions and use them in our visual traditions.

The question is not, “Should I manipulate a photograph?” Since the invention of photography, all kinds of things have been done to photographs. The question is, “What happens when I do or don’t manipulate a photograph?”

Limited language wastes time and results in less productive debates and diverts attention away from more productive discussions. One of the fundamental things I’m trying to address through my work is complicated by limited language. Our culture often talks about people versus nature; we use words like “us” and “it.” We draw lines and take sides. Our current use of language psychologically distances us. This makes it harder to describe people as parts of nature. If we enter that mindset, we think about ourselves and act in our world differently.”

Read the rest of Part I here.

Read Part II here.

Read my interview of Eric here.

In this video, I share my thoughts and feelings on photography and printing.

Find out more about printing here.

Read other interviews here.

Read my artists statements here.

In this video, I share my thoughts and feelings on photography and color.

Find out more about color management here.

Read other interviews here.

Read my artists statements here.

John Paul Caponigro Interview – The Coast Of Maine

December 27, 2011 | Comments Off |

Years ago, I had a wide ranging conversation with Rob Draper on the thinking and process behind my art.

Read other interviews here.

Read my artists statements here.

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Find printing tips is my latest interview with Ron Martinsen.

Find more tips in my Lessons.

Find out about my fine art digital printing workshops here.

Dave McDonell on Noise

September 30, 2009 | Leave a Comment |

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Dave McDonell, cofounder of Imagenomic, the company that makes Noiseware, my favorite noise reduction software weighs in on noise.

JPC    Where does noise come from?

DM    There are several factors in a digital camera capture process that contribute to noise. The most prevelant are temperature, the actual capture circuitry, sensor size, and the process of sub-sampling which induces errors between adjacent pixels.

JPC    Why is chrominance noise so much easier to reduce than luminance noise?

DM    It’s really not in application. It’s just that you perceive changes in luminosity or brightness much easier than you do in color.

JPC    Fine color noise is easier to reduce than coarse color noise, like the color patterns created by demosaicing bayer patterns. When are you most likely to encounter this type of noise? How should you treat it differently? How far can you go?

DM    There are no hard and fast rules for any of the above questions as all are dependent on the capture situation and subsequent output medium.

JPC    What’s the biggest challenge when reducing luminance noise?

DM    Achieving a balance between perceived reduction and image detail.

JPC    At what point would you stop using the sharpening controls in Noiseware Pro and start using the sharpening controls in Photoshop?

DM    Again, another matter of workflow organics. Each person has a specified workflow as to input, editing and output.

JPC    Do you recommend reducing noise before or after sharpening? Why?

DM    In the vast majority of cases, use noise reduction before sharpening as sharpening will almost always magnify existing noise patterns.

JPC    Do you recommend reducing noise before or after upsampling? Why?

DM    Along the same lines as sharpening, any noise patterns will be magnified. Sometimes it is necessary when resizing to use noise reduction in 2 steps – one on the unsized image and another finishing reduction on the upsampled image.

JPC    Tell me about one or more features of Noiseware Pro that typically get overlooked and under used.

DM    Probably the most under used but most powerful feature is the bracketing function. One can quickly establish usable ranges from which presets can be generated. Presets is another overlooked feature whereby one can establish customized slider settings for a wide range of images.

JPC    Is all noise bad?

DM    All images have noise to a degree, regardless of capture method.  When the amount and/or type of noise becomes such that it is viewed as degrading to the image, then we definitely toss it in the bad category.

Find out more about Noiseware here.
Find out more about noise in my DPP articles and stay tuned for more.

JPC on thirdeyephotozine.com

September 21, 2008 | 2 Comments |

Recently Rayhaan Traboulay interviewed me for his online magazine thirdeyephotozine. Here’s an excerpt.

RH I recently had a discussion with a friend about creativity within people. I
find that people either generally “have it” or don’t. I believe that you
can’t really teach it too much. Theres room for improvement and critiques
and so on, but I find it is either innate in someone or it’s not. Would you
agree or no?

JPC I disagree – strongly. To be a successful creative person in any field, it
takes perseverance, intelligence, hard work, skill, talent, and luck – in
that order. Everyone is creative. Different people have different creative
strengths. It helps to find the areas each of us are strongest in and to
develop skills within other areas to become more versatile. Creativity is
not contained to the arts. Some of the most creative people in history and
with us on the planet today work in the fields of science and business. We
all have something to offer. And something to learn from each other.

Do you think you can learn to be more creative? Comment here!

Read the rest of the interview here.

Read more interviews here.

Read and hear my comments on my images here.

Find free PDFs on making artist’s statements here.

Hear my free tips on becoming more creative here.

See my images and get free portable galleries here.


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