I have been thinking long and hard about the direction that this thread took and the ensuing discussion regarding the creativity or lack of it within landscape photography, and having now given it a lot more thought, I have to conclude that whether I like it or not, Rob does seem to have a point, but only up to a point I think.
Taking or should I say making a photograph, a landscape photograph in this particular instance, does not at first appear to include any creativity on behalf of the photographer, only good observation and the skill to replicate what happens to be there in front of you, no more and no less.
But can this really be true?
We discussed and identified creativity in terms of comparing the act of assembling a still life image and making a photograph of it as being creative, against the replication of a scene via a landscape photograph as not being creative. It was suggested that by the act of moving objects around into a satisfactory composition within a still life setting and then shooting the resulting scene, that creativity was being achieved simply through the act of moving the objects around. Creativity having now been added to the image, via the choices being applied to make something that had not existed before the photographer made it exist. I now accept and agree that creativity has indeed been applied to the still life image.
Non creativity can also be as easily described by sticking with the still life analogy, because if we shoot a still life that someone else had created but with no design choices or input from ourselves, then we could not claim to have added anything creatively to the shot, however we shoot it or the selection of view point we use (assuming the still life is kept central within the scene and is set against a negative space backdrop)
, because we had nothing to do with the creation of subject and so could only take shots of what we had been presented to us. We could skilfully use observation to find the best vantage point and take many different shots of the same still life, but all the images would be of someone elses creation, albeit from different angles and skilful observation is not the same as creativity. I also find no problem agreeing with that.
So what is photographic creativity? Creativity in this context it seems, is achieved through the input of the photographer in creating something new or by changing something within that thing that is to be photographed, in other words, to make what is being photographed physically different than what it would have remained, if the photographer had not been creatively involved with the subject. Again I have no problem agreeing with this.
So having agreed with the above, what would happen if we came across a still life scene prepared and left for us by another photographer, but we didn’t like the composition and so removed one of the objects. In doing so, haven’t we then created a different composition than the one that had previously existed? Haven’t we changed the scene by interacting with the elements within it and been creative by removing something, so that now any image we take of the still life setup is a creative image for us? We have been creatively involved with the image, not by altering the composition, or by the addition of objects or even by moving objects around, but by the act of removing an object? The still life is virtually the same as it was before I grant you, but now that an item has been removed from what we had originally found, the design of the scene has changed as a direct result of our creative choice and input to it.
And that is where the nub of the problem lays, or should I say the nub of the solution lays. In a landscape photograph such as you see below, this scene was not visible to me as it now is to you (not taking into account the fact that it is a black and white). Yes all of what you see in the image below was already there in front of me when I made the shot and I agree I couldn't creatively move any part of it around, nor did I wish to add anything to it, but crucially, the image you now see here was not visible to me (or anyone else for that matter). What you are looking at, was buried and hidden within plain view you might say. It was completely surrounded with the rest of everything else I could see in front of me and which I had no choice other than to see, sky, clouds, sand dunes and rolling waves etc. There was no delineation or separation between what I wanted within the image and what I did not want within the image. Yet by selectively removing what I did not want within the scene, I had to exclude what was already there by framing out the rest of the scene to get the shot I wanted. I was creatively removing what was already there but that I did not want to be there, to create something new and never seen before. Someone standing right beside me, with the same kit and the same setup and settings, would not and could not have made exactly the same image, yes it might have been very similar, but not exactly the same. In fact the shot you see below is totally unique as are all human made photographs and can never be repeated exactly ever again, it exists only in this one instance and was the result of my creatively removing what was already there to extract what could not be seen, into what can now be seen by anyone who wishes to look at it. I did not change anything within what was already there, yet I did decide what I wanted to photograph and how I wanted to photograph it, but more importantly, I also creatively selected out what was not to be in the photograph - and this is where the true creativity in landscape photography lays. Yes you need good observation skills to see an image hidden within the full complexity of everything you can see in front of you, but you also need to apply creativity to exclude and remove what you do not want within the image, in essence you are removing objects to the outside of the frame and away from the viewer for whom they will never exist, just as much as you are doing when you physically remove an object from a still life composition.
Creativity when making a photograph of a still life or a studio shot etc, can be said to be in front of the imaging process, it is what you do first. Whereas creativity within landscape work or architectural or street shooting etc, is at the back of the process, it is what you do last, it is ‘creative exclusion’ as opposed to ‘creative inclusion’, but none the less it is still photographic creativity.
I am not challenging anyone or asking anyone to reply to this post, nor am I trying to re-light this discussion or pronouncing what anyone has said is wrong and that I am right. This is simply me thinking aloud and trying to understand what creativity is within landscape photography and why it bugged me until I came up with an answer that fully satisfies me.
I can only thank Rob for having given me the chance to have a really good think about this.
Hasta la vista – and don’t anyone say to me after reading this that I really need to get out more, I am a landscape photographer remember, I am already out there in all weathers and at all times of day, day after day and I love it..