The Freedom of Constraint
If you were to do an online images search for the word "creativity", what you would find is that all of the photographs would have wild colors. A huge spectrum of colors. Sometimes when we think of creativity, we think of unlimited colors, unlimited possibilities. But that isn't necessarily right. Sometimes creativity thrives the most when it's backed into the corner. When we have limited means. A photographer that I enjoy a lot is Anton Corbijn. And Anton Corbijn is an old-school photography. He's done all of this amazing work. He's primarily a film shooter. And when asked about his style, he said, "I approach things with the Brian Eno school of thought. I say limit your tools, focus on one thing, and make it work. One type of film, no lights. If you have limited means, you have to make it work. You become very inventive with the restrictions you give yourself." So how then do we do that, perhaps in our own creative ways? Well for this one, I'm going to give you an exercise that is ph...
otographic. Whether or not you're a photographer, it doesn't matter. But I want you to find a camera, whether it's one on the phone, or one perhaps that you have. And first do this one thing. Capture a portrait of someone. But do so without showing the face. So maybe you're going to photograph a fisherman. Perhaps that means you need to photograph his hands rather than showing his face. But just take that picture in a really untypical way. Second exercise for you. Is photograph emotion, but do so without being obvious or trite. So photograph happiness, but don't let the subject smile. Or maybe just photograph happiness by photographing a tree. Have you ever seen a tree that just looked so happy? As all of its arms and branches are reaching up to the sky. Look for that gesture, that shape that form or that emotion in the thing that you're photographing. So that's the second one. Or I should say the second idea. You don't necessarily need to do all of these, but I want you to pick at least one. The third one is, if you do use a camera one that you hold up to your face, try to shoot with your non-dominant eye. I always shoot with my right eye, but rather than that, shoot with your left. And then mix it up, so that you're forced to say, "Okay, how can I see in this way?" Or, you can also try turning the camera upside down. And when you all of a sudden add this constraint or limit, what it can do is, it can force you to see things in a way you just haven't done before. The last photographic one is if you have access to a camera where you have a lens which has a focus ring, is to get some tape and to tape that bad boy down. And just to lock it in. And then to go out and do a shoot. With your focus frame locked down, the only way you can change focus is let's say it's set to five feet, is to move five feet away from the subject. If the subject moves, then you have to move back. And that limitation is really difficult. But it gets you in tune with this idea of focus in a way that just wouldn't have happened any other way. I think that limit all of a sudden makes this creativity to thrive. If you want to dig deeper into this, I have two recommendations for you. Richard Avedon the great photographer has done a lot of work with photographing people. And in his project The American West, he used a camera, one type of film, and a simple white backdrop. And I want you to look into his work. There's a great book about it, just called The American West, where you can just do an online search for his name, and you can click through the photographs there. If you do a search for the movie about him, called Darkness and Light, you can also gain some insight into how he worked. If you aren't a photographer, don't worry, it doesn't matter at all, it's always interesting to learn for people in other spaces and then ask yourself, "Well how do I translate this to my own craft?" Alright, well there it is, a few ideas for you. Do some of those exercises today, or in the next few days, and experiment with how this can help you, how adding limits can actually help your creativity to thrive.