Ideas. Words. Images. Connections. Interweaving in a complex dance, words and images help us interpret the world in ways that are both individual and universal. We each find a meaning for our selves.
Artists in any medium – visual, aural, performing or a combination – act as guides. But I think a falsely romanticized notion exists about artists, the one about struggling with their art in a garret or ivory tower, removed from society. Alone.
The edges of the artistic life range from being struck by a flash of inspiration to depression, addiction, suicide. While those extremes can, and certainly do, happen, they’re not generally the day-to-day life of an artist.
We’re inspired by any number of sensory or intellectual experiences on a regular basis so long as we are open to listening and seeing and feeling. These can be the spark that ignites a suggestion or question that, in turn, leads to a creative project. Nearly all of my work starts with asking – something I want to learn more about or find an answer to, if there is one.
There are times when we create in a white-hot blaze, focused only on the work itself. Time seems to be suspended when we’re in “the zone” and I’m always surprised to find two or three hours have gone by in what seems like a moment.
The zone is a great place to work, but you can’t always get there. Sometimes I just have to slog through boring or unsexy parts of the project, knowing that I don’t advance if I don’t keep working. Put your butt in the chair and do the work. Show up to the studio or the location and start. Push the doubt aside, don’t judge or self-edit, just keep going.
Projects can be all text or all imagery. For me, I’m most satisfied with the work, and often with the result, when I combine them. This is my curiosity portfolio, in words and images. Stay tuned, because I’m always adding to it.
When you pick up a camera, you put a frame around a scene. When you impose restrictions, you see differently. Clarity is often the result of this shift in perspective, leading me to something new.
When I’m shooting, I always take time to look up, look to the side beyond what the lens can see, often look at what’s behind me.
Present-day photography benefits from an elegant and eloquent history, filled with changes and adaptations. With the advent of digital imaging and a camera in your mobile phone, does that change what a photograph is? What distinguishes a photographer from a person taking selfies? Is there, in fact, a difference and if so, does it matter?
The same kind of seismic shift happens if I write with a pen on paper instead of using the keyboard. I often write to sort out my thinking on a topic, identify how I feel, clarify what I see. But I’ll use color and shape, too, arranging words all over the page rather than in lines, combining the visual with the written ideas.
Seeing what I write helps me understand. If writing in my journal, I observe and eavesdrop more than I write. Writing helps me think out what I already know, what’s missing, what I want to say. It helps me see.
“I like to watch” was the catchy phrase from a Jerzy Kosinski screenplay, Being There. In the film, it referred to something other than travel, but being there is what I do – who I am – in a new place, emphasis on being.
But that being and observation sometimes needs stillness. It’s all about choosing. Working hard at seeing can mean I miss something else because I’m concentrating in another direction. Even if I opt for working behind the camera, I don’t want to miss the entire experience because I’m recording it – not looking at life through a screen instead of in the real.
Whether through words or images, my personalized experience is not one decided by someone else or by a sign telling me where to stand: “Photo Op!” Not neatly packaged up.
Where does the creative urge come from? What keeps my interest going, moving against the current? Can creativity be learned? Honed with practice? Or is it only a native gift, randomly bestowed by the universe?
Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.
— SUSAN SONTAG, writer
I’m looking forward to exploring with cameras, for no practical purpose beyond discovery. It’s been a while. If I could, I would still opt for film over digital, choosing the nuances and inherent poetry of the traditional methods.
And I’m eagerly anticipating wrestling with the stage plays that live in my head, occasionally spilling over to paper in the form of a sketch or a scene. First, though, there’s a book to finish.
This section is a starting point. Further explorations lie ahead. The connection between artist and audience, making art and experiencing art, is a journey on a two-way street. You’re invited to share your reactions, concerns, questions about what you find here, not only on these specific pages, but throughout the site. I look forward to the dialogue.