Kids


Kids do the most creative things. My seven year old son asked for the big box my new Epson 9900 printer arrived in. He spent the next half hour quietly working in the gallery. Then he invited my wife to come have her picture made. He’d cut a small flap in one side of the box and put a seat on the inside, got a stack of blank cards, and a box of crayons. Led by the hand, she sat inside. He looked through the flap – and drew her portrait. On the outside of the box he wrote “photo booth”. We just don’t have the heart to take it down. We smile every time we look at it. Want to be more creative? Spend more time with kids. And spend more time being childlike.
Check out my Creativity and Field workshops here.
Check out my Digital Printing workshops here.
Check out the Epson Print Academy here.

Drake Passage

More Drake. It’s gone from calm to rough. I’m sure it will change again. It’s a long stretch home filled with seminars and reviews.

Today I talked about the importance of defining a project that makes the work we do tangible and shareable. My project will be to update my Antarctica Blurb book with new images and updated text. I then handed the session off to Olaf Willoughby who talked about his Antarctica book (PDF for World Wildlife Federation and on demand print through Lulu), which he did after our first 2005 voyage, and it’s effectiveness for environmental advocacy. It’s inspiring to hear what one man can do.
See my previous post on Olaf from early this month.
See my Defining a Project PDF here.
Enjoy my Antarctica galleries, book, and statements.
Learn more about my workshops here.
Early registrants get discounts at home.
Members get discounts abroad.

Creativity – Commenting On Images


How many times have you been frustrated by the feedback you get and give?
Often it’s too simple.
“I like it.”
“I don’t like it.”
But you want more.
If you knew more you could improve more.
So, go further!
Whenever you’re looking at images ask yourself for more with one simple word. “Why?”
You many be surprised how hard it is to put your thoughts and feelings into words.
Don’t quit.
Try anyway.
You’ll find out some really interesting things.
Later, start asking others, “Why?”
You’ll get some really interesting answers.
Check out 12 books I recommend on critical thinking in photography here.
Get feedback in my workshops.

JPC on thirdeyephotozine.com


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.

The Art of Arranging


Proximity and sequencing matter. The first sequence suggests an approaching storm, while the second suggests clearing skies.
How you present your work may be almost as important as what work you present. It’s the art of arranging. And it is an art, which involves specific techniques that can be learned. What are some of the guiding principles involved? Here are a few.
Sequence matters. Start strong. Finish strong. Make getting there interesting. Whether it’s a symphony, a novel, or an exhibit. It’s good advice for arranging any creative product.
To sequence a project, you can use the metaphor of building a fence. The strongest pieces can be thought of as posts. The less strong pieces can be thought of as rails. You want to start and end with very strongest pieces to create a strong structure. You want to periodically reinforce runs of less strong units with one or more stronger units. You don’t want long runs of rails without posts or the structure may fail. A fence made only of posts becomes something else entirely, a wall with no variation or grace. The number of strong pieces you include determines how long a fence will be, though the number of other images you include may modify length somewhat …
What tips do you have for sequencing? How have you used this potential for your work? Comment here!
Check out the rest of this article in my column Illuminating Creativity in this month’s AfterCapture magazine.
Check out AfterCapture.com here.
Find 6 related PDFs here.
Learn these and other techniques in my Fine Digital Print Expert workshop here.

Pilobolus Dance Theatre



I just saw Pilobolus Dance Theatre’s Lanterna Magica this weekend. It was an inspiring performance! Two hours evaporated!
Honestly, as interesting as the video clips here are, they don’t do a full performance justice. (In two hours you get to know each dancer. Each experience builds on the previous one generating a big final effect.) But don’t let this stop you from watching more. They’re great!
You can see more Pilobolus on YouTube.
Find out more about Pilobolus here.
I’ve been intrigued with dance since I was very young. The Nutcracker and Firebird ballets captivated me at the age of 4. Mumenshantz modern dance / mime at 5. The Whirling Dervishes at 6. At 7, I moved to New Mexico and began attending native american ceremonial dances. Martha Graham’s Rites of Spring at 19. Cirque du Soleil at 40. And recently Alison Chase (former creative director of Pilobolus) was a guest instructor during a weeklong workshop on creativity led by Sean Kernan. (See my posts between June 9-13, 2008.)
I enjoy seeing anyone do anything really well. But watching other creative people engaged in different disciplines is particularly interesting to me. I learn about creativity. I learn about communication. I learn about myself. Often, I’m asked what does work in other fields offer me directly for my own work. Ideas. Ideas that I can apply to my own work? Yes. I find that if you don’t get stuck on specifics but make more generalized or abstracted statements about quality and perception that these become vital wellsprings for new ways of thinking. Here’s an example. Dance and sculpture have been increasingly influential to me with respect to representations, expressions, and experiences of two essential elements in my work – time and space. The stimulus in these two other disciplines has led me to develop many new images (For just one example, see my series Allies here.)
The other question that often arises is once you’re inspired by another discipline, should you engage it professionally. Yes. No. Maybe. You have to weigh many things before making this leap – talent, passion, means, etc. My recommendation is to sleep on it long and hard. Personally, take a little time to be stimulated and energized by a wide range of experiences, free of professional pressures. Professionally, stay focused on your core passions. I don’t plan to do dance or yoga professionally. Sculpture on the other hand … well stay tuned. It’s a long standing desire of mine to work with sculpture that goes way back to early childhood and simply won’t go away. That impulse is about to bear fruit this summer. It may well become a very strong current in my work for the foreseeable future.
Stay tuned here this summer.
Sign up for my enews Insights for alerts here.
My wife made the comment that we should all make it a habit to spend a little time each year getting out and experiencing new things that will inspire and motivate us. I agree!
What was the last or most inspiring creative event you’ve attended? Comment here!

Kernan Creativity Workshop – Day 5


Today we experienced the class participants assignments. The assignment was “extend the photograph”. “What?” we all asked on Monday? Sean cited past examples. Polaroids were positioned throughout a space (the space we were holding class in – one of the Polaroids was still in position next to the Exit sign years later) inviting viewers to search the area carefully. A viewing device was directed toward a scene and when used a composition of an orange in the tree was revealed out of the chaos of the total background. A flashlight illuminated a patch of gravel while audio played of footsteps running for minutes and then abruptly stopping, referencing a rape in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was so open ended, we struggled with the assignment all week. That means we all came up with more ideas than we actually executed. It was a great assignment.
What happened this year? Here are a few highlights.
Jeanne Reilly constructed an accordion display of the Center for Maine Contemporary Artists exhibition space.
Elizabeth Opalenik constructed a book shelf, part photograph and part found objects, inviting the viewer to interact with the piece.
Alison Shaw created two pieces – a dyptich of prints of water submerged in water and rephotographed and a group of 9 atmospheric nautical images presented in a grid.
Sean Harrison filled an old doctor’s bag with eggs and photographs, collecting ideas.
Tara Law performed a candlelight reading of her writing sitting on lace beside one of her photographs.
Virginia Hastings created a trail of clothes leading to her performance piece, silently reading a magazine in her slip and curlers in the bathroom below a postcard of Marilynn Monroe.
Maria asked us to partner up, one person the photographer and the other the camera leading them blind to a composition of our choosing before asking them to “make the exposure” with our eyes. Along the way we searched for her installations.
Jay Maisel presented a stream of consciousness slideshow.
Greg Heisler made two 20×24 prints with guides to view them at a specific distance to intensify the impression of space within them.
Arduina Caponigro constructed a manageable landscape of white sands made of salt in a pinhole camera with varying tops to control the light and tiny rakes to change the dunes.
Dee Pepe created an altar installation in a dark room with smoke and candles referencing the burning of her mother’s home.
Russell Kaye did a performance piece around the theme of moving, with boxes of photographs and film, destroying some of them in the process.
Sandra Lee Phipps first displayed environmental self-portraits dressed in orange and then left the building to release orange balloons in an orange cloak symbolically releasing a self-image.
People let go in many ways.
What did I do?
The idea struck me immediately on Monday when we got the assignment. It was a breakthrough moment. I got confirmation that the idea was good when I tested it at home on Thursday night in the open air. The response of the other participants further confirmed my impressions. What I did for the assignment wasn’t just an experiment. It’s a new mode for my work that I’ll start presenting this summer.
I projected one of my images of a sunbow in a dark room so that you couldn’t see the image. Then I invited viewers to find and help create the image by scattering flour in the air, which created a moving 3 dimensional screen. The still two dimensional image became a moving three dimensional image. A point became a line. A circle became a cylinder. Pieces were always missing but the mind completes the unfinished. The angle of view changes the appearance dramatically.
How did I come up with this? Mix part Milton, part Speed Racer, part scientific diagrams, part Richard Serra, part James Turrell, and a lot of the work that I’m doing now. The experiment really worked for me. I’ve been wanting to do environmental sculpture for over a decade. This is practical and timely. I’ll post video of one or more on site installations on YouTube during my summer exhibition open studio event (August 2 – 3).
The big message I got? Just get started!
Stay tuned!
Check out Sean’s blog entries on the class here.
Check out fellow participant Russell Kaye’s blog here
Who’s Sean Kernan? Find out here.
Read my in depth conversation with Sean here.
Read Sean interviewing me here
Check out my creativity workshop here.
Check out Sean’s creativity workshops here.
You can take Sean’s workshop at MMW this summer!

Kernan Creativity Workshop – Day 4


Flow was easier today.
It could have been we had time to sleep on what we experienced yesterday. Often, I find that in a research and discovery phase you get fatigued from becoming supersaturated with new information. Then you have to put the problem down for a while. Gestate. When you return you don’t just pick back up where you left off. Essential things, sometimes conceptual, sometimes emotional, sometimes visceral, have been processed. I think of it as adding energy into an atomic structure. Add enough and electrons jump to a new level.
Alison Chase (veteran modern dancer, former artistic director of Pilobolus, generally delightful woman) worked with us today. We worked in teams. Mimicking. Passing movements down chains of people. Working in pairs to find a common center of gravity while transferring weight back and forth. All the exercises built upon one another, culminating in free form improvisational movement piece. She had all kinds of wisdom to share. “Play with ease before you go for virtuosity.””In improvisation there’s always a gray zone. Don’t stop and think. Just work your way through it.””Don’t think. Just respond.”
Greg Heisler and I spent most of the morning rolling around on the floor together. It took a while to work it out. But when we did, we did good. It felt good – physically, mentally, emotionally. Then we noticed the smudge of gum that had been under us the whole time. Neither one of us wants to know where it had been before we came in contact with it or where it’s gone since.
At the end of the day there was a palpable sense that something had been accomplished. What’s more it was accomplished in a medium most of us have essentially no skill in. It was confirmation of the suspicion that even out of our fields something resonant can happen. Alison encouraged us to continue, “Get our of your idea and respond. Stay in and things come out.”
Oh! Also. Did I mention we’ve been laughing the whole way through? Play leads to joy. Joy leads to inspiration. (There are other roads to breakthroughs besides “No pain, no gain.”)
We have a big assignment for tomorrow. “Extend a photograph.” Find out what that means tomorrow!
I tested my project tonight. It worked out great. I finally jumped into installation/sculpture work.
I’m sure that the other participant’s projects will be really interesting.
Check out Sean’s blog entries on the class here.
Check out fellow participant Russell Kaye’s blog here
Who’s Sean Kernan? Find out here.
Read my in depth conversation with Sean here.
Read Sean interviewing me here
Check out Sean’s creativity workshops here.
Check out my creativity workshop here.