Patterns and the creative process.
This post will either be a useful insight into the creative process or an exercise in self indulgent twaddle. My hunch is that it will come across as something between the two.
My original intention was to write a normal prose and picture style post on the subject of the importance of repetition in the arts and especially photography. I was going to start out by giving a brief description of traditional composition. The importance of having a main subject and of showing depth, rules of thirds and all that other good stuff. Then I was going to basically trash the idea that this traditional approach was the only way to approach photography.
That was then going to lead into a segment about repetition and how the rules should be treated as optional. That some great photgraphs don’t have a focal point, that ambiguity is OK and that the rule of thirds can be a straightjacket.
That was what I was going to do.
It crossed my mind that a look at the process that goes into these posts might be interesting. All the stuff that I was originally going to write about repetition is still here but presented very differently. You are not here under false pretenses – honest!
I have a basic method for putting a post together:
An idea comes to mind that I think is interesting enough to expand on or one that I haven’t written about before. I do so and add some hopefully relevant images from my own archive. If I haven’t got any relevant images I get off my butt and go and shoot some – at least that’s the theory.
The thinking and writing part of the process seems to have three main stages:
The mulling stage – this lasts for anything from about 6 hours to about 6 months. This is the time when I’m doing unrelated stuff and various thoughts about a given subject flit in and out of consciousness.
The short note stage – this is where I sit at the computer and write out some short lines using the mulling stage as a jumping off point. What follows is an example of the end of that process. If you read it actually makes sense. Doesn’t mean that it is right but it does have an internal logic of sorts. Note that it is not a poem and is most definitely not stream of consciousness.
A pattern is repetition
Patterns are all around us
But we are not really trained to see them
There is evolutionary benefit in seeing breaks in patterns
but not in seeing the patterns themselves
Our brains are wired to see where there is no pattern
Where there should be one
But not the actual pattern.
Art is about learning to see
Not the way the brain wants us to see
But to see the stuff
That the brain is trying desperately to ignore
Because the brain doesn’t want to waste energy
Processing something it doesn’t need for survival
This is why seeing is an active process
Not a passive one.
The brain creates a model of the external world
The problem is that this model is very incomplete
A bit like an initial wireframe model
Compared to a finished Pixar movie
The artist’s job
Is to show scraps of the finished movie
Put the textures on the wireframe
This is why the world needs artists.
A painting does not have to be a window
Looking out on a perfect scene
Photography killed that
And painting thrived
Freed from the realistic
It never looked back
Decoration became philosophy
What will do for photography
What photography did for painting?
Photography doesn’t have to be a window
The third dimension is optional
It is OK to let the viewer decide where to go
Give them credit for having some intelligence.
The reason I do this is simple. I get bogged down by writing normal prose straight off the bat. I have to do this shorthand version first. This is where I do the hard thinking about the subject. I find that I get bogged down in a world of ands, buts, comma’s, colons, mixed tenses and the suchlike. By the time I’ve untangled my sentence structure I’ve lost my original train of thought. So I think in note form. Only afterwards do I usually convert to prose.
The break in the notes above is deliberate. I wrote it in one sitting but the thinking seemed to go off topic. The first part is very much about repetition,pattern and perception which was the intended subject but the second part rounded back to justifying the abstract but then went on to bring in the idea that just as photography freed up painting’s responsibility to the realistic something could come along to free up photography from the same responsibility. Normally I would have spun a longer version from the first part and used the second for a completely separate article.
The prose writing part of the process is fairly mechanical and new ideas or radical changes of direction rarely occur during this part of the process. In fact I tend to get very tetchy if it does as for me at any rate, all the excitement is in the short notes part of the process and everything after that is work – other than sorting out the photographs that is.
The Photographs: (from top to bottom)
Sunflower head. Interesting stuff about sunflower patterns and Fibonacci numbers
A parking lot on a rainy day. Both the repeating lines and puddles give a sense of pattern as opposed to an image.
Lights behind a glass brick. I just thought that this was cool.
Part of a mirror stand. each repeating element doesn’t have to be the same size
Stacked cooking pots (or something). Patterns are not always obvious
Sunlight through blinds on a kitchen draw. As you can see we live in a hard water area and don’t like housework much.
Belt. Not much explanation required here
Outside a big box store. I like this one because it is a normal type image but it is the pattern created by the lines on the road that really makes it work.