Looking into the Light_Cover_smaller

An exercise too late for the book Looking Into The Light.

“I write to find out what I have to say.” Charles Wright

That’s how creativity works. You can try to conceptualize it all you want, but when you begin, it starts to come out completely different … if your lucky. Even if you do it all wrong, you learn more than you ever would by thinking.

That’s why exercises function as the heart of my workshops, and new ones occur to me all the time, so many that I never get to a fraction of them in a class.

The best of them literally take you beyond yourself. When that happens, you suddenly wake up way past whatever it was you thought you were going to do.  You’re like a kid who is learning to ride a bicycle and looks back to see the parent you thought was running beside you and steadying you standing 50 yards back and grinning. And you realize that you’ve been riding your bike and balancing just fine on your own.

That’s what I want out of an exercise.

This summer an idea came to me in the middle of a workshop. I told people to go out, wander around, and make photographs of a place where something had happened. That was it.

My thought was that at least it might get people to really pay attention and just be where they were, see the light, the energy, see what the place felt like. Then they could make some pictures.

So off they went to spend a rainy afternoon working this out, and the next morning we gathered to screen the pictures. When the first ones came up I got a surprise. People had actually written down the thing that they felt might have happened. And the things they had written down completely charged the pictures, and ignited the classes imaginations. They were like short clips from films, and they made you want to see the rest of it.

Here’s one. You’ll see what I mean.

Picture 1_Michelle Elloway

 

Michelle Elloway

I think this one with the swings was the first up, and the menace and sadness that grew out of the picture of these children’s playthings was palpable. Everyone felt the dark possibilities in it.

Here are a few more …

Picture 2_Antelo Devereux

Antelo Devereux

Picture 3_Kemal Berk Kocabagli

Kemal Berk Kocabagli

What I loved about what people did was that they took ordinary situations into their imaginations and made the pictures suggest stories without telling them. They left plenty of space for viewers to complete them in their own minds.  We all became participants.

So there it is, the perfect kind of exercise. It was kind of like finding a mushroom with a note that said Eat me. Whenever that happens … eat the mushroom!

Find out more about Sean Kernan’s ebook Looking Into The Light here.

Find out more about Sean Kernan here.

“A fantastic documentary on one of the key people in the history of cinema. A portrait of the pioneering photographer, forefather of cinema, showman and murderer Eadweard Muybridge. Born in Kingston upon Thames, Muybridge did his most famous work in California, where his experiments in early cinema and the public projection of his images using a machine he invented astounded audiences worldwide.”

View The Essential Collection of Documentaries On Photographers.

Read The Essential Collection of Photographer’s Quotes here.

Read conversations with photographers here.

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“Years ago I stumbled on what felt like a secret door into creativity in photography. The secret is that photographers don’t need to hope that creativity will turn up. It’s there in us. Creativity is not something we do, it’s something we are…all the time.” says Kernan.

Sean Kernan has spent more than 30 years investigating ways that photographers find and use creativity. And all that insight now fills a workshop-in-a-book, Looking into the Light: Creativity and Photography, now available as an iBook.

Kernan’s book offers ways to get to that creativity for photographers at every level, bright beginner to jaded professional. It looks past cameras and technique to focus on our awareness. “We work on our awareness of all the things that happen before the click, which I’m convinced is where the wonder of our best seeing comes from.”

The book gives a series of concrete assignments that stimulate the visual imagination and change our pictures. The sign that they’re working is when we get a hit of the excitement we felt the first time we took a photograph that was way beyond anything we thought we could do.

The exercises are gathered from many areas—music, theater, writing—and they all involve simple things we already know how to do. We can use them to make better photos, or just to see more deeply into what is around us. The goal is to make pictures that talk to the world, not just to other photographers. As Jay Maisel put it, “You want to take more interesting pictures? Be a more interesting person!”

Looking into the Light illustrates the exercises with work from a distinguished group that includes John Paul Caponigro, Greg Heisler, Cig Harvey, Jay Gould, Dennis Darling, Adam Arkin, poet Gregory Orr, Ed Young, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Sol LeWitt, William Kentridge, and Sir Joshua Reynolds. There’s an iconoclastic essay on portraits by Duane Michals and links to interviews with Duane and Robert Frank.

To support reader’s efforts, the author has created a companion website at www.lookingintothelight.com, where readers can find further articles, watch instructive videos, and upload and share their own work on the assignments.”

Read 20 Questions with Sean Kernan here.

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Here’s a collection of my favorite quotes on making connections.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” – Steve Jobs

“Any fact becomes important when it’s connected to another.” ― Umberto Eco

“Facts are stupid until brought into connection with some general law.” – Louis Agassiz

“Any method by which you get to see things that you haven’t seen before hones your practiced ability to make connections.” — Stephen Metcalf

“Drawing is a way of coming upon the connection between things, just like metaphor in poetry reconnects what has become separated.” – John Berger

“A book is like a piece of rope; it takes on meaning only in connection with the things it holds together.” – Norman Cousins

“The future of publishing is about having connections to readers and the knowledge of what those readers want.” – Seth Godin

“Green business is not about tie-dyed T-shirts. It’s about transforming the industrial system itself into one that looks at all the connections.” – Paul Hawken

“Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.” – Charles Eames

“Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action. They must be woven together.” – Anais Nin

“One must always maintain one’s connection to the past and yet ceaselessly pull away from it.” – Gaston Bachelard

“That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” ― Charles Dickens

“A hidden connection is stronger than an obvious one.” – Heraclitus of Ephesus

“Invisible threads are the strongest ties.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. -John Muir

“A typical neuron makes about ten thousand connections to neighboring neurons. Given the billions of neurons, this means there are as many connections in a single cubic centimeter of brain tissue as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy.” – David Eagleman

“In the human mind, the number of possible connections that can be made between neurons greatly exceeds the number of atoms in the universe.” – Alan Moore

View The Essential Collection of Creativity Quotes here.

Discover more quotes daily in my Twitter and Facebook streams.

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Here’s a collection of my favorite quotes by photographer Bernice Abbott.

“Imagine a world without photography, one could only imagine.” – Berenice Abbott

“Photography helps people to see.” – Berenice Abbott

“What the human eye observes causally and incuriously, the eye of the camera notes with relentless fidelity.” – Berenice Abbott

“Some people are still unaware that reality contains unparalleled beauties. The fantastic and unexpected, the ever-changing and renewing is nowhere so exemplified as in real life itself.” – Berenice Abbott

“The challenge for me has first been to see things as they are, whether a portrait, a city street, or a bouncing ball. In a word, I have tried to be objective. What I mean by objectivity is not the objectivity of a machine, but of a sensible human being with the mystery of personal selection at the heart of it. The second challenge has been to impose order onto the things seen and to supply the visual context and the intellectual framework – that to me is the art of photography.” – Berenice Abbott

“…people say they need to express their emotions I’m sick of that. Photography doesn`t teach you to express your emotions it teachs you to see.” – Berenice Abbott

“They should just go out and photograph and stop talking about it. That’s the only way they are going to find themselves. They can’t do it in their heads – they have to go out and do it in the camera and get it on film.” – Berenice Abbott

“Let us first say what photography is not. A photograph is not a painting, a poem, a symphony, a dance. It is not just a pretty picture, not an exercise in contortionist techniques and sheer print quality. It is or should be a significant document, a penetrating statement, which can be described in a very simple term – selectivity. To define selection, one may say that it should be focussed on the kind of subject matter which hits you hard with its impact and excites your imagination to the extent that you are forced to take it. Pictures are wasted unless the motive power which impelled you to action is strong and stirring.” – Berenice Abbott

“Just living in a place is not enough. You can live in a community and not understand it. Just looking at it wont do. I almost believe we don’t see anything until we understand it. Look into the history of the area – why it started, how it developed. The more research you can do the place, the more you may realize that you don’t know it as well as you thought you did. Let the subject speak for itself. Be true to the subject. Pretty pictures are only an escape from the subject. Don’t photograph a good-looking branch just because it looks nice; the branch should mean something about the community. Photography is statement; it has to tell us things about a place.” – Berenice Abbott

“Actually, documentary pictures include every subject in the world – good, bad, indifferent. I have yet to see a fine photograph which is not a good document.” – Berenice Abbott

“If a medium is representational by nature of the realistic image formed by a lens, I see no reason why we should stand on our heads to distort that function. On the contrary, we should take hold of that very quality, make use of it, and explore it to the fullest.” – Berenice Abbott

“I didn’t decide to be a photographer; I just happened to fall into it.” – Berenice Abbott

“I took to photography like a duck to water. I never wanted to do anything else. Excitement about the subject is the voltage which pushes me over the mountain of drudgery necessary to produce the final photograph.” – Berenice Abbott

“Photography was the medium preeminently qualified to unite art with science. Photography was born in the years which ushered in the scientific age, an offspring of both science and art.” – Berenice Abbott

“You scientists are the worst photographers in the world and you need the best photographers in the world and I’m the one to do it.” – Berenice Abbott

“I wanted to combine science and photography in a sensible, unemotional way. Some people’s ideas of scientific photography is just arty design, something pretty. That was not the idea. The idea was to interpret science sensibly, with good proportion, good balance and good lighting, so we could understand it.” – Berenice Abbott

“I agree that all good photographs are documents, but I also know that all documents are certainly not good photographs. Furthermore, a good photographer does not merely document, he probes the subject, he “uncovers” it…” – Berenice Abbott

“A photograph is or should be significant document, a penetrating statement, which can be described in a very simple term – selectivity. To define selection, one may say that it should be focused on the kind of subject matter which hits you hard with its impact and excites your imagination to the extent that you are forced to take it. Pictures are wasted unless the motive power which impelled you to action is strong and stirring. The motives or points of view are bound to differ with each photographer, and herein lies the important difference which separates one approach from another. Selection of proper picture content comes from a fine union of trained eye and imaginative mind.” – Berenice Abbott

“…the art is in selecting what is worthwhile to take the trouble about…” – Berenice Abbott

“To chart a course, one must have a direction. In reality, the eye is no better than the philosophy behind it. The photographer creates, evolves a better, more selective, more acute eye by looking ever more sharply at what is going on in the world. Like every other means of expression, photography, if it is to be utterly honest and direct, should be related to the life of the times–the pulse of today. The photograph may be presented as finely and artistically as you will, but to merit serious consideration, must be directly connected with the world we live in.” – Berenice Abbott

“Abstraction in photography is ridiculous, and is only an imitation of painting. We stopped imitating painters a hundred years ago, so to imitate them in this day and age is laughable.” – Berenice Abbott

“Photography can never grow up if it imitates some other medium. It has to walk alone; it has to be itself.” – Berenice Abbott

“There are many teachers who could ruin you. Before you know it you could be a pale copy of this teacher or that teacher. You have to evolve on your own.” – Berenice Abbott

“The camera is no more an instrument of preservation, the image is.” – Berenice Abbott

“I haven’t seen too many images that have impressed me!” – Berenice Abbott

“Self-conscious artiness is fatal, but it certainly would not hurt to study composition in general. Having a basic understanding of composition would help construct a better organized image.” – Berenice Abbott

“The photograph may be presented as finely and artistically as you will; but to merit serious consideration, must be directly connected with the world we live in.” – Berenice Abbott

“I believe there is no more creative medium than photography to recreate the living world of our time…Photography gladly accepts the challenge because it is at home in its element: namely, realism—real life—the now.” – Berenice Abbott

“Like every other means of expression, photography, if it is to be utterly honest and direct, should be related to the life of the times – the pulse of today….The photograph…to merit serious consideration, must be directly connected with the world we live in.” – Berenice Abbott

“The photographer is the contemporary being par excellence; through his eyes the now becomes the past.” – Berenice Abbott

“Photography can only represent the present. Once photographed, the subject becomes part of the past.” – Berenice Abbott

“Does not the very word ‘creative’ mean to build, to initiate, to give out, to act – rather than to be acted upon, to be subjective? Living photography is positive in its approach, it sings a song of life – not death.” – Berenice Abbott

“Today we are confronted with reality on the vastest scale mankind has known and this puts a greater responsibility on the photographer.” – Berenice Abbott

“I am so fascinated with this century it will help keep me alive. I’ll be there until the last minute, fighting.” – Berenice Abbott

“Suppose we took a thousand negatives and made a gigantic montage: a myriad-faceted picture containing the elegances, the squalor, the curiosities, the monuments, the sad faces, the triumphant faces, the power, the irony, the strength, the decay, the past, the present, the future of a city – that would be my favorite picture.” – Berenice Abbott

Explore The Essential Collection of Quotes By Photographers here.

View The Essential Collection Of Photographers Documentaries here.

On Fertile Ground Postcard-1

Exhibit through December 4, 2014

“On Fertile Ground: The Wing Lee Yuen Truck Farm”

Lufrano Intercultural Gallery for Peace

University of North Florida

Jacksonville, FL

The Importance of Personal Projects – By Doug Eng

“We de-prioritize personal projects due to lack of time, commitment, or guilt about working on something that doesn’t generate income or Facebook “likes.” It’s easy to make a great snapshot or prioritize paying work, and hard to find personal projects with depth and meaning. In 2007 my family’s farm of 70 years was being sold and I struggled to find the motivation to photograph the vacated buildings and family houses. Fortunately curiosity overruled and I reconnected with a lifetime of memories of monthly trips to the farm. As I walked through the property with my camera, vague memories were brought into clear focus through the act of photography. Each space, object, and smell, triggered a recollection of my past and realignment with my own origins. The images sat on my computer for several years. In 2010 I received a grant to create an exhibit for the public. I used a framework provided by JP to bring the body of work to a completed state for exhibition with great success. In late 2013, the Lufrano Intercultural Gallery for Peace at the University of North Florida provided another opportunity to exhibit the project. I decided to re-visit all of the images, both content and process. I was surprised to find the difference 4 years made in my own interpretation of the images. Photography is a wonderful medium that allows us to continuously evolve our message. Only after I began to write about the project several years after the images were made and the land sold and cleared, did I realize the importance of creating the only visual record of this American story. I am reminded of a quote by Emmet Gowin: “There are things in your life that only you will see, stories that only you will hear. If you don’t tell them or write them down, if you don’t make the picture, these things will not be seen, these things will not be heard.” It may not be obvious to you why your personal project is important, but it is. Work on it now, before your “farm” is gone. “

Lean more about the On Fertile Ground project here.

Lean more about Doug Eng’s photography and projects here.

View more Alumni Success Stories here.


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