Monday, 27 October 2008

Creative Photography

What is ‘Creative Photography’? Seems obvious. Its when you hold a camera a certain way, maybe diagonal, to make things seem a bit ‘kooky’ or ‘strange’, innit? Or when you fiddle with shutter speeds to creative a blurring effect on a passing car, perhaps?

Nope. That’s not quite right, in my book. In fact, its deadly wrong. I consider myself a fairly useless 'photographer'; one that isn’t bound by, or even particularly knowledgeable of, technique and process such as the above.

But I DO consider myself, by way of conceptual art, at least an effective and competent ‘Creative Photographer’.

Okay, so we’ll ask again, “what is Creative Photography?” Let’s look on the web to find the answer… nope… not much info there… not even a bloody wikipedia entry. And its taken long enough to find absolutely nothing that my faithful glass of Pinot Grigio, my favourite googling companion, has depleted to a pitiful amount.

So, as you are already here, let me refill my glass and give you my definition of ‘Creative Photography’. Don’t worry, I’ll be brief;

In my mind, C.P. is all about two words, and two words only;

I. Control.
II. Imagination.

That’s it. There you go. But before you shrug in disinterest, get startled by a passing squirrel, or haplessly click away onto your favourite porn sites, let me just expand a little on the definition of the above two words for a moment…

I. Control.

If you are a C.P.-er, you are in almost total control of your environment. If you are a C.P.-er, you do not wait hour upon hour in sub-zero temperatures to capture a Hawk Moth on a brick, you do not sleep in your car beside a field to capture a pheasant in flight at dawn, nor are you even a humble pap who preys upon Jade Goody as she drunkenly staggers out of her GP Surgery (inevitably with a monstrous kebab in one hand and her chemo prescription in the other).

Instead, YOU are the one who has responsibility over which environment or what fabricated incident you shoot, when, and how.

It is YOUR job to collect curio objects and suitable items of interest to place in shot, scout for interesting models and wardrobe garments. Indeed, it is your job to pull the whole shoot, with its many different elements, together. No one else is gonna do it for you, buster. Not even Mother Nature herself.

As a Creative Photographer, you are not controlled by your environment. You ARE your environment. You have the ultimate Control over space, time and subject. The importance of this fact far outweighs your technical competence with any camera. Control supersedes ‘correct’ Aperture settings any day of the bloody week.

II. Imagination.

All the above doesn’t really amount to a hill of beans without the conceptual imagination/creative savvy/natural artistic flair to pull it all off successfully. In fact, you obviously require the Imagination to create long before you need the Control to shoot.

It’s a simple thing, I know, but without a foundation of vivid and vibrant Imagination you do not have the right as a C.P.-er to exert your Control on the environment, its distinctive objects, nor your subjects.

You could always tell any bloke to stand around in public in a gas mask while you cheerily click away. But without the imagination to provide the whys & wherefores, without the conceptual forethought up to that point and beyond, without the benefit of hindsight or perfect choice of location, and the flair to not only link it in to the rest of your body of work, but to even chain it to contemporary issues, moods, or genuinely interesting cultural reference points, you have nothing BUT a man in a gas mask.

Again, it is essential to the C.P.-er to utilise the imagination to conceive of an idea or theme that speaks to you personally (and hopefully to attract a connection to other people in the process), together with the almost total control of your subject and environment. If you do not do this, and its always something I personally strive to do 150% of the time, you will never have a distinctive or lasting work of art.

You’ll just have a photo of a bloke in a mask.

Phil Barrington.

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