Sean (Kernan) used a great metaphor today. “For me, discovering photography was like finding a white horse in the woods. You get on and it runs away with you. I spent a long time learning to control it. Now I spend a lot of time trying to get it to run away again.”

I knew the week would be different. I knew I would be kinetically and theatrically challenged. I know Sean. I didn’t know how I would find a personal connection to the exercises. I did today. I’ve always been fascinated by birds flying in flocks and fish swimming in schools in unison. We participated in a bit of that ourselves today. This connected with my interest in sensed but unseen patterns.

Today involved more motion. Sean patterned a lot of today’s activities on an acting method called Viewpoints (Anne Bogart and Tina Landau). We moved to varied music. We gestured in response to architecture. We walked patterns in unison. We made shapes with each others bodies. We followed and reacted to each other’s rhythms and gestures. None of us are trained actors/dancers, most are complete novices, and yet the results today were surprisingly expressive.

The picture for this blog entry is an improvisational exercise in motion Sean Harris and I did together. It was surprising. It felt good. Onlookers enjoyed it.

I use other art forms (forms I intentionally remain an amateur at) improvisationally (being spontaneous and suspending judgement), looking for reminders of what it takes to enter, sustain, and direct flow states. Doing this helps my professional work. You can develop an instinct for flow. You can prepare for it. You can learn to enter it faster and go deeper with it. But you can’t will it to happen in any traditional sense of the word.

Letting go was a big theme today. When we tried too hard it didn’t happen. When we cast aside ego and intellect another part of ourselves kicked in – and things worked. It seemed to me that true mastery comes when this happens. Technique is learned and facilitates expression and reception but is aimless until it’s put in the service of something. Curiously, that something always seems to involve surprise for the creator. Discovery. Break through. So what does it take to get into that state with photography? How do you know when you’re there? How do you sustain it? How do you direct it?

I’ve got a few clues but no definitive answers. Sure I want more and I’ll keep searching for them. But I’ve come to understand that the questions themselves are more useful than the answers. They keep you on your toes. They keep you awake. Trust the process. Out of engaging the process unexpected answers come.

Who’s Sean Kernan? Find out here.
Read my in depth conversation with Sean here.
Read Sean interviewing me here.
Check out Sean’s blog entries on the class here.
Check out Sean’s creativity workshops here.
Check out my creativity workshop here.

(Kernan, Heisler, Maisel)

Last week, I taught my workshop Illuminating Creativity. Now I’m taking a workshop on creativity!

This week, my friend Sean Kernan is teaching a special workshop for instructors only at the Maine Media Workshops this week. Sean has a very different approach to teaching creativity than I do. He too loves to collaborate. In the past, he’s brought in people like Alan Arkin and the dance company Pilobolus.

Who will be taking the workshop with me this week? My wife Ardie. Oh and some guy named Jay Maisel. And another great photographer named Greg Heisler. And another great photographer named Elizabeth Opalenik. And another great photographer named Allison Shaw. And many more! I have no idea what will happen. I just know it will be a great week. Stay tuned! Every day, I’ll try to share at least one highlight here.

Today started with meditation. Nice move. It increases awareness. It focusses attention. It reduces judgement. It encourages receptivity. I often think we don’t focus on or speak about enough the states we’re in when we produce work, particularly the states we’re in when we produce our best work and how to get there. Meditation is one key among many. Play is another.

On the first day we played a number of theater games. Walk an imaginary line. Throw an imaginary ball. Play an imaginary game of tug of war. It worked when the participant focussed. It worked better when another participant cooperated with them. The event was changed by the group observing and focussing at the same time. Group dynamics (and how each of us responds to them) are fascinating. Collaboration can be extremely stimulating.

We walked and watched ourselves looking while focussing specifically at things and monitoring peripheral vision simultaneously. Taking notes in class made me even more aware of the elements in play while doing this. A significant new object or space demands attention. Moving objects demand attention. Motion produced by moving your body is less demanding. Focus of attention moves when a stronger pattern is observed. All patterns are contextual (patterns within patterns).

We watched Charlie Rose’s interview with sculptor Richard Serra. Serra speaks very visually about his primary passion – space. Its clear sight is one of the primary senses he experiences space with. At one point in the film he walks through his sculptures and the camera follows while he describes the experience of space produced by his sculpture. His physical gestures as he navigates his labyrinths make a statement like “This is the inside of the outside. This is the outside of the inside.” understandable. His sculptures give us a heightened experience of space. His work offers experiences of archetypes of space.

Moving in space seems to be the theme of the day.

What’s this have to do with making images? Nothing. Everything. None of us expect to make finished work this week. All of us expect to have a better understanding of what it takes to make better work at the end of the week. Sometimes not focussing on a final product, but focussing on the process instead reveals more and in the end, if that understanding is applied later, more work and higher quality work may ultimately be produced.

Who’s Sean Kernan? Find out here.

Read my in depth conversation with Sean here.

Read Sean interviewing me here.

Check out Sean’s blog entries on the class here.

Check out Sean’s creativity workshops here.
Check out my creativity workshop here.


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