November 23, 2013 | Leave a Comment
Chris Orwig delivers an inspring Google Talk about how photography fuels innovation.
I’d been scanning the iceberg struck horizon for hours when suddenly the clouds grew thin enough to let the sun through for a brief moment. The sun and the light it cast on the surface of the water completed the picture. It was there only for a moment. And then it was gone.
There are so many moments like this in life. In these times, there’s a narrow window of opportunity and only those who stay alert recognize them and are able to take full advantage of them. Of course it helps to have the right tools for the job and solid training, good instincts, and fast reflexes. But none of these will do you any good if you aren’t aware enough to recognize the many opportunities before you.
Photography (and its extension in motion pictures), relies on the power of the moment more than any other medium. Sure music, dance, and theater also require precise timing, but the moments they present can be created and recreated. You can practice until you get the moment right. But with the historical photographic moment, you get one chance and then it’s gone.
To be sure, not all moments are equally fleeting. Some moments last longer than others. And certain events do reoccur more than once and even recur repeatedly. Sometimes you do get more than one chance. Sometimes you don’t. It helps to know how long a window of opportunity you have and if you’ll get another chance. When you do have more than one chance, depending on how much time you have between each recurring event, you may find it time well spent to observe carefully on your first opportunity before acting on your next opportunity. This is perhaps the best preparation of all. When you won’t have another opportunity, you need to think fast and when you don’t have time for that you need to trust your instincts. No matter how many opportunities you have, to succeed you need to stay alert.
Maintenance is key. It’s harder to stay alert if you don’t take care of yourself. Sleep, diet, and exercise all contribute to your being. (And never underestimate the power of motivation.) Start with the basics, but don’t stop there.
Just as you can practice to hone your reflexes, there are things you can do to develop your awareness, such as studies and meditations – and there are many ways to do both (too many to mention here). You can learn to bring yourself into heightened states awareness more consistently, quickly and intensely. This too requires practice. It’s time well spent. Like anything, the more you do it, the better you get at it – especially if you stay alert while you do it.
What can you do to increase your sensitivity?
What can you do to increase your understanding?
What can you do to increase your emotional responses?
What can you do to increase your ability to sustain your awareness for longer periods of time?
Topics include …
How to discover your passion and pursue it
What Einstein, Da Vinci, Goethe, Napoleon and other “masters” have in common with each other and with you
How each of us have a unique composition that is our greatest asset
Why choosing a career path that leverages your individuality and sparks curiosity is essential
How an apprenticeship is a necessary step toward achieving mastery and fulfillment
I had no intention of making this image; I had left my ‘real’ medium format film camera home and brought a then new digital DSLR, a technology in its infancy at the time, to photograph a new puppy I was bringing home with my family. The drive through the foggy February forests of Maine was beautiful and late in the day as we neared a series of orchards the light turned golden. I stopped with no thought other than to enjoy the moment, making a series of exposures, before continuing on.
While I liked the images I produced that evening, I had no intention of displaying them, until everyone in my studio strongly urged me to do so. Response to these images has continued to be very positive. This one has become one of my top sellers.
This work didn’t fit neatly into the ideas I’ve been developing in my work for decades. It doesn’t present a view of nature seemingly untouched by man. It’s not a wasteland, either devoid of or filled with water. It’s conventionally clear where the life is, in living organisms, drawing attention away from the idea that there might be a spirit in other kinds of things. It didn’t fit for this and other reasons. Yet it was somehow connected. These images lay down a challenge.
As I was describing this process to my workshop participants one day remarking, “I don’t do trees.” one woman remarked, “I don’t think you can say that any more.” Touche. The next morning on my way to class as I considered this further, acknowledging that I had always loved orchards, tending them as a boy and now living in another one, and that I deeply appreciated gardens and agricultural areas and sacred sites where man worked in concert with nature, the phrase came to mind, “Perhaps Eden can be restored, if we give it half a chance.” It’s a thought that runs deep inside all of my work. It’s my hope that what I share will kindle a greater sense of wonder for the natural world and inspire people to participant in it creatively and conscientiously.
That was one of a handful of days where the mission behind my life’s work became clearer and this image played a central part in that process. It’s become an important outlier in my body of work, which I’ve learned a great deal from.
In response, I didn’t decide to go in a new direction. I held to my original course, bringing the work I had already begun to completion – now with a renewed sense of purpose.
What you do with feedback is up to you. I recommend that you seek a lot of feedback from a variety of sources. Know the source of the feedback you receive. Don’t forget to give yourself feedback, the most important source of all. Weigh it all carefully, but make the final choice your own. In the end, it’s your choice. It’s your life’s work. It’s your life. Make it count.
What is good enough? How do you know?
What isn’t good enough? How do you know?
What is too much?
What is perfectly imperfect?
July 7, 2013 | 1 Comment
My TED and Google talks have a lot in common. Both discuss creativity as a dynamic process that we all engage in with our own unique orientations to. While there are classic operations we all perform, how we combine them and the uses we put them to. Experimentation and becoming more versatile is the key to turbo-charging your creative life. You’ll find dozens of tips and lots of inspiration in both of these talks.
I spoke about the creative process at Google headquarters a few weeks ago.
I began with the stories behind a few of the photographs I’ve made that have changed the way I think and see.
Then I talked about game changing advances in technology that have expanded the ways I see and changed the way I make photographs.
And I spoke about how using other media (like drawing and writing) can enhance perception and the photographs we make.
Distilled into one line … How an artist gets there influences where they arrive.
Bring On The Learning Revolution ! – Sir Ken Robinson on TED
Schools Kill Creativity – Sir Ken Robinson on TED
“Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. He challenges the way we’re educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.”
Here’s a collection of my favorite quotes on creativity.
“Creativity is contagious, pass it on” – Albert Einstein
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou
” Creativity is the quality that you bring to the activity that you are doing. It is an attitude, an inner approach – how you look at things . . . Whatsoever you do, if you do it joyfully, if you do it lovingly, if your act of doing is not purely economical, then it is creative.” – Osho
” Creativity is the quality that you bring to the activity that you are doing. It is an attitude, an inner approach – how you look at things …” – Osho
”Conditions for creativity are to be puzzled; to concentrate; to accept conflict and tension; to be born everyday; to feel a sense of self.” — Erich Fromm
“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook
“Creativity is just connecting things.” — Steve Jobs
“Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas” – Donatella Versace
“If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.” — John Cleese
“Creativity is a drug I cannot live without.” – Cecil B. DeMille
“Clean out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.” — Dee Hock
“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things” – Ray Bradbury
“Perspiration is the best form of differentiation, especially in the creative world.” — Scott Belsky
“Creativity isn’t about wild talent as much as it’s about productivity. To find new ideas that work, you need to try a lot that don’t. It’s a pure numbers game.” — Robert Sutton
“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” — Joseph Chilton Pierce
“The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” — Edwin H. Land
“The creative person is willing to live with ambiguity. He doesn’t need problems solved immediately and can afford to wait for the right ideas.” — Abe Tannenbaum
“The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a creative mind to spot wrong questions.” — Antony Jay
“The chief enemy of creativity is ‘good’ sense.” — Pablo Picasso
“Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity.” — Edwin H. Land
“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” — Edward de Bono
“A truly creative person rids him or herself of all self-imposed limitations.” — Gerald G. Jampolsky
“Thereʼs no correlation between creativity and equipment ownership.” — Hugh MacLeod
“As competition intensifies, the need for creative thinking increases. It is no longer enough to do the same thing better . . . no longer enough to be efficient and solve problems” — Edward de Bono
“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” — Edward de Bono
“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” — Theodore Levitt
Sometimes ideas just seem to come out of nowhere. But do they?
We have so many experiences everyday, whether commonplace and routine or extraordinary and novel, it’s hard to say what registers as significant or even important. We’re influenced by so many things – our history, environment, community, actions, etc – that it’s hard to know when one thing leads to another. Often we refashion these materials, sometimes combining them, into something new, so when the resurface it’s not easy to recognize where they came from. What do we connect with? When do we connect with it? Do we know when it happens? Only if we’re mindful.
Awareness of what influences us is something that we can develop. To do this we need to develop a greater sensitivity to our environment and history in it (both personal and cultural) as well as to our actions and attitudes in relation to the activities and tone of our communities. Inquisitiveness is all you need. Ask a lot of questions. Don’t assume you know the answers. Don’t judge yourself or the answers you find along the way. Just collect information. By becoming aware of your influences you’ll be less controlled by them, see more options, and so have more and make clearer choices. Journalling can be an excellent way to develop this discipline and to reflect further on your influences while you’re making new or reviewing old entries. Once you experience the many benefits awareness of your influences brings, you’ll want to cultivate this habit. It can be a source of clarity, of personal insight, and even of purpose. Time and time again, this has been true for me.
Sometimes the insights awareness brings are surprising. One day, after Suffusion I had been hanging on my studio wall for months, I moved a snapshot of my grandmother’s ashes in the ocean (I had been unable to attend her funeral so I kept the photograph my father brought me close for a time.) across my studio. As soon as I saw the two images simultaneously in my field of vision the similarities and connections between them became clear. Since I made it, I had been trying to understand Suffusion I better. I knew some of the undercurrents at work in it; growing concerns about climate change and global warming; the ever-changing nature of existence and perception; watching smoke as a form of meditation; using smoke as a form of prayer. But I hadn’t guessed that it had anything to do with death and cremation. It would be a mistake to say this image – and the other images like it in this series – was about death. It/they are about much, much more. That’s part of what makes them so good. They’re complex.
You might be tempted to say that the influences were simple. The environmental and temporal factors were obvious. A good friend (Timothy Morrissey) had shown me how he photographed smoke and mist in his studio and I made exposures with him. The next day we went fishing and I made more exposures. Much later, I combined images from the two days. But that wouldn’t have explained why I chose to do this; I could have chosen one of thousands of other exposures from other years. Nor would that explain that I liked the results enough to print, frame, and exhibit the results. There was more going on in this image than first met the eye. I knew this, which is why I was still curious about it – and it probably has something to do with why others are curious about it too. I’m still curious. Our best work gets ahead of us and it takes time to catch up to it. Sometimes it continues to reward us for years to come – or even a lifetime.
How many things influence you?
How many things can you do to increase your awareness of what influences you?
What are the best ways to track your influences?
What benefits do you find from looking back on how your influences develop, flow, and grow?
Can you use the insights about your past reactions to inspire new actions?
How many ways can you proactively influence your influences?
How artists get there is just as important as where they arrive. My new ebook Process examines many aspects of my creative process – writing, drawing, painting, photography, Photoshop, iphoneography and more. Thirty-three chapters are organized into five sections – Color, Composition, Draw, iPhone, Write – showing how each discipline contributes to the completion of finished works of art.
This ebook reveals that an artist’s creations are produced by not one but many activities in many media and that the creative process is a never-ending journey of discovery that offers surprising insights along the way.
192 pages fully illustrated
$9.99 for Insights enews members.
(Email firstname.lastname@example.org for discount code.)keep looking »
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