Creativity in Photography

The following is an excerpt from Klaus Bohn's book:
50 Principles of Composition in Photography

To produce a work which has the creative ability to reflect our understanding of photography,
and not merely its mechanics, involves an understandable statement for the viewer.

When examining this statement a little closer it can be overwhelming. An overview of photography from its historical beginning to the present reveals an ebb and flow in the genuine creativity in photography. The hit and miss snap shooting of today does nothing to promote photography as a distinctive art form. Education in photography’s philosophy and historical influence, not merely knowledge of equipment, is required. To this end we need to be disciplined and dedicated with a consuming passion.

Having said the above, we need to first consider the elements in a more simplistic manner. First of all, most photographers have good or at least adequate equipment. This is presumed especially when we read of great men like Edward Weston (1886-1958) who created the Pepper #40 of which I have a student print. Weston is most famous for his natural forms, close-ups, nudes and landscapes. His creativity is remarkable not only because his camera was old and taped up which is a story his son told during a lecture in Calgary a number of years ago, but he also lived without running water, I believe, and yet had the drive, dedication and perseverance to pursue his art. He had what it takes to become more than a camera operator, he was truly one of the greatest photographers.

Let us look beyond the equipment, the chemistry and tools of the trade for now. Today, as opposed to the earlier days, we have the luxury of labs at our disposal. Is it really a luxury? Yes, I can say labs have been a good thing for the most part if we learn how to deal with them personally. I have valued the relationship with a few labs over the years, and even today I value my privilege to have one person at the lab look after my needs because they understand how I view my work. It is not a matter of getting the exposure just right or the colour just like the lab would prefer to make the printing easier. In reality nothing is perfect and if it is, it is artificial and not real. I need my work to have the human element visible. The only thing that is perfect is the imperfection of humanity.

I have always loved film but we need to graduate, or change with the times simply to keep up with the changing world. This does not make our work better, but perhaps just somewhat different. The digital process is in some ways more controllable if we have expertise in the use of a computer. I began with Radio Shack’s model three, so you can see that I have been involved with computers for a very long time.

Control, control the negative, the chemistry, the enlarger. However now we must control the digital file on the computer and we, myself included, have in so many ways over done it that our work has become artificial. Arnold Newman, one of the world’s most renowned portrait photographers, lectured in Victoria, British Columbia, a number of years ago and started with this opening statement, “All those photographs awarded as winners are so artificial…” Some of my favourite images are not perfect. I was judging a National competition one year and fought for an image that didn’t follow the rules. I remember this well as Hugo Redivo, a well respected Master Photographer is his own right, and I were in complete agreement.

All portraits are accurate, but none are the truth.
~Richard Avedon

It is important to keep abreast with the changing times, but it is equally important to not forget that you can produce good images and may even stand out from the crowd when we apply our ability to our craft. In so doing, we become craftsmen and there is nothing wrong with being a craftsman. A craftsman has the ability to stick with a job and produce images that are refined and perfectly polished. Is it art? You be the judge.

There are always a few who have a special gift. It is born in them and cannot be taught. It just is and there is no way of explaining this talent. A person with the drive to succeed will find a way to overcome the everyday stresses of life. Just think of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). Here is a driven man. He took drugs to keep his sanity and yet his work was unappreciated for many years. While he was able to quit his life, he was unable to quit his art!

Please click here to learn more about Klaus Bohn's book entitled,
50 Principles of Composition in Photography.