Some time ago I watched an interview with Quentin Tarantino about his upcoming film “Once upon a time in Hollywood”. In that interview he talks about being proud that he writes his scripts by himself. That it all starts with just a blank piece of paper and a pen. None of the final creation existed before he sat down and started writing.
For a long time I’ve been jealous of something when looking at artists such as certain musicians, painters or writers. I never exactly knew what it was but Tarantino accurately described what I’m envious of: Creating from point zero.
Are we even creative?
Before I developed a passion for photography I tried various other ways to express myself creatively. Drawing, but I quickly gave up due to my lack of patience. Playing the piano, the guitar and producing music digitally, but I quickly gave up because of the frustration about never living up to my expectations. Then I found photography and loved it for being so immediate and yet incredibly complex. But the requirement for this immediacy, especially with candid photography (here meaning everything unposed), is that you never start from nothing. You start with a messy canvas and rearrange objects to create order.
Sometimes when I listen to a creative song, especially when the artist is younger than me, I’m in awe of what they were able to create out of nothing. Maybe also a little jealous. Most probably because I’ve never been able to do that myself and it feels like I’ve missed my chance. I then inevitably compare their creativity (level 100) to mine which feels like on level 10 (maybe 11). If there’s so much space left towards the top, when does being creative even start? Are we as street photographers even creative by rearranging and framing existing things? Maybe we’re just meticulous observers.
Sampling as an example
Regarding creativity, one could compare street photography to sampling in music. You take bits and pieces from a greater whole and combine them to something new. There are many discussions on when sampling becomes stealing and whether the art of sampling is creative at all. Similarly as I’d say sampling starts being creative when you change the context the samples are put into, street photography starts being creative when you add something which didn’t exist to your image. That could be a story, an emotion or a relationship between unrelated objects. But just as taking an entire song as a samlple and calling it your own isn’t creative, just snapping what the street offers isn’t creative either.
I often catch myself falling into the habit of simply observing and documenting rather than creating. Maybe the only reason I have that admiration for creatives who create from scratch is because I’m not using the full creative potential in street photography. I think it’s easy be become lazy and let the street do the work for you. If you’re doing that then you’re not creative, you’re an observer. But once you start seeing the streets as an empty canvas which you can place bits and pieces onto, then you’re creating.
Of course a not-creative street photograph can still be a good photograph. But when I asked about people’s purpose for their photography in Instagram last week, many gave creative expression as their main reason. So do I, and yet when I compare myself to other artists I find myself incredibly uncreative.
This post turned out completely different than I planned (lol) and I’m not even sure what I want to get at. Maybe it’s just some thoughts about the purpose of being creative which I had to put down somewhere. If there’s some value in this post though, then it’s me encouraging you to look critically at your own work. Maybe this can spark up a conversation about whether you think you’re creative with what you do or not. Do you just capture what the street offers you or do you use all the elements as tools to create something new? Let me know down below or on Instagram 🙂