“Eric Meola talks about his photography, his passion for color, and how he approaches the challenge of making authentic photographs when working in indigenous cultures.”

View 12 Great Photographs By Eric Meola here.

Find out more about Eric Meola here.

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Read our conversation here.

View 12 Great Photographs Collections here.

Read more in The Essential Collection Of Photographers’ Quotes.

View more in The Essential Collection Of Photographers Videos.

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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.

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.

After a whirlwind tour of Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina and Torres Del Paine, Chile, Seth Resnick, Eric Meola, Arthur Meyerson and I are finally on our way home from our recent Antarctica voyage. (Check my Google+ , Twitter, or Facebook streams for a collection of quotes on travel and home.)

We’re all still dreaming of Antarctica. Whether for the first time (Arthur and Eric) or for the fourth time (Seth and I) Antarctica touched us all very deeply. We all had unique experiences. We all made compelling images in our own unique ways. And we were able to share the experience together. And yet, no matter how hard we try to put those experiences into words, something about the place defies description. Antarctica is a profoundly mysterious place. Antarctica is so exotic that when you’re there you often feels like you’ve visited another planet.

Here are a few quick thoughts from each of us.

“I saw deeper shades of blue than I’ve ever seen before. And I was able to get closer to it and find more dramatic angles than ever before. Every time we go back there are new surprises to discover.”  – Seth Resnick

“Antarctica was the fulfillment of a life time dream … the magical mystery tour. The light, the landscape, the color blue – otherworldly. I have never experienced anything like this before. I felt as though I was on another planet.” – Arthur Meyerson

“What impressed me most about Antarctica was the silence. I’ve never been anywhere as spiritual. Most places are spiritual because of their religion. This was a place that is spiritual because of its natural beauty. I sensed that everyone around me felt the same way. Although photographers become mesmerized by their subjects, for the first time I sensed that the spirituality of the place affected them very deeply. All of us were absorbing the beauty around us.” – Eric Meola

“Antarctica is never the same twice. It’s like a mirage that never fades. It seems simultaneously eternal and ephemeral. It’s as if spirit took shape – and when you got there you get to touch it, immerse yourself in it, and take it into you. You cannot go to Antarctica and return unchanged.” – John Paul Caponigro

Digital Photo Destinations is planning a new Antarctica workshop voyage for 2013.

Sign up for our pre announce list to be among the first to hear about it.

Email jpc@digitalphotodestinations.

Find out more about Antarctica here.


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