Hosted first on Instagram, Ali Rajabi and I sat down and talked about my favorite subject … creativity.

I hope it inspires you to create!

Find out more about Hasselblad Master Ali Rajabi here.

 

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Join me Wednesday, April 1st at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco at  … pm.

I’ll present a Canon sponsored lecture on the creative process.

It’s free and open to the public.

Find directions 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.

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.


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