Healing – Part Of The Creative Process?

It still surprises me that at one point in my creative process it always gets worse before it gets better. This has occurred for me in my whole creative life which has been active for 22 years now. In all of 22 years, it still surprises me.

By surprise, I mean I feel a real terror as soon as it starts to get worse. I start with an idea…I sketch it out…or lay down my first attempt, the gesture. This original initiation is great. It’s beautiful in it’s own right and it holds so.mush.promise….but it is clearly not finished.

So, then I work more…and in this middle place I need lots of TIME. My current working lifestyle means that I only get 3 hour blocks to work in. So, inevitably I must walk away in the middle of WORSE. Right in the middle of the creation being realized it looks really not so great.

Strangely, it doesn’t go from that original great first gesture or impression and keep getting better every moment. No, it actually gets worse and worse and looks like I’ve pretty much ruined it before it gets better. When I come back to it in this phase, I am gripped with the feeling that I’ve ruined it. Thoughts about ‘just starting over’ begin marching through the head, maybe I should scrap this idea etc. etc. I feel as if the last three hours were a waste of time because they appear to have changed too much the awesome thing I began with. What.have.I.done!?!

I realize that I hold a belief that says a “Master” is one who knows when to quit, when a piece should no longer be touched, when it has reached it’s best moment. Perhaps that belief is part of my struggle? Perhaps I think too much about a visual sense of completeness and I DO drive the piece of work away from the original fresh creation. FEAR NUMBER ONE.

….or perhaps my works are actually a healing process. Often in healing the dis-eased part of the body/mind must get worse before it gets better. The sickness is actually a symptom of the body being out of balance, not the problem itself. The sickness makes us rest and not move so our bodies can heal themselves, as they were made to do. The sickness also alerts us that we need to tend to it differently to aid in the healing, maybe through different intake of foods and fluids, etc. So, often we realize that a minor illness has grown into an infection of some sort and everything begins to look a lot worse before it gets better. We panic, we fret, we worry but this is called HEALING. 

Perhaps I’m ready to embrace the moment of healing or ‘making new’ within my creative process?

After 22 years, I think experience can turn into learning and I can trust that the process is moving toward resolution even when it looks soooo bad.

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This whole business around perception and filters is a funny thing. Currently, it’s trendy to view images that look supposedly “realistic” as boring and not creative…because, even the most inexpensive digital camera can produce a very sharp image and if any amateur takes enough shots they’re bound to get a correctly exposed one, right?

There is an ongoing rift in contemporary photography between those who believe that digital photography has brought a fall to the once elevated fine art of film photography. They are pissed at the digital photographers who supposedly “cheat” to get an analogue vibe to their images with the use of  filters and other software settings. There is a sort of rejection of the perfection that the new world of digital imaging brings to the end product. …but what about the master analogue photography who understood their precise tool so well that they produced images with as high quality as an unfiltered/unaltered digital image. Now everyone has a camera via their phone. What does this mean for the field of documentary photography? How to sort out the hobbyists from the professional artists? This is especially difficult with the creation of online photography worlds such as Tumblr, Flickr and blogging—in general.

In social media there is a battle being waged about who can style objects in a frame THE BEST. The same exercise is repeated ad-nauseum. It’s a sort of addiction to this perfected image of still life. I’m wondering what’s happened to the mundane, and why is it no longer considered beautiful? Why do we crave the pose, the tableau, the altered reality? I crave finding a beautiful shot as is exists in time, in nature. In my personal life, I strive NOT to control every little thing. It is difficult I assure you to live and let live…to enter into the mystery of life and see what it offers, instead of planning, solving, directing every person and environment and pursuit I come into contact with. Thus, I cannot reason taking this approach with my camera-when I’m making an image. It would be a huge contradiction for me to live one way and make art in a completely opposite way.

So, I try to not put too many filters between myself and what I’m recording on film. I don’t mind using a precise instrument such as a new digital camera or a basic lens. I do my best not to “set up”  a shot by constructing it, or directing people in front of my camera. I don’t choose professional models. I don’t purposely drive to majestic landscapes with lines, tones, light and color that are universally attractive. I use what I have nearby in my immediate environment and I hunt for the artistic elements that I find beautiful, within it. It forces me to look more than once, look again and again at something I’ve seen a million times. It forces me to see it differently, more closely…to alter my perception of it in order to see it as beautiful, instead of trying to change it to make it beautiful.

Apparently, this isn’t trendy in any schools-of-thought within the field of contemporary photography that I can find. In fact, I think most critics and academics would think this lazy and not artistic. So, just for fun I decided to shoot with some self-made hand colored filters.

I like the results, they’re romantic and dreamy. However, in the end, what I come back to is that I find it too hypocritical to perceive something more beautiful only when I’ve altered it, when in my living I work hard and daily to remove cultural and social filters/conditioning from my thinking so they don’t color my perceptions. What do you think?


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Foggy Roadsides

Oh how I wish for foggy days, me, my camera, and a four-wheeled vehicle. These were taken out of the passenger window while driving to crystal dig in Arkansas. The morning was perfect for a full four hours, I saw shot, after shot, after shot, after shot. I was dying to stop and shoot each one, but my peaceful kids were expecting to get to the crystal dig and when you have a six year old, plans aren’t easily changed. So, I bid each shot farewell, almost painfully. It inspired a new series, called “Edges” which documents the diversity of an ‘edge’ in nature. These are the few I could muster from my seat belted position through the car window. (I’m beginning to love shooting through big sheets of glass…)






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