Monday, June 10, 2013

Been There, Done That

by Carol A.

Eugene Atget

and me

"Only those with no memory insist on their originality."
Coco Chanel

Inspiration is our business here at FOL. I am happy to be a part of it because I find inspiration so fascinating. The variety of things that catch people's attention is amazingly infinite.  What turns one person on, helps the other not at all. Just look within our own blog and it's followers. Kim is obviously inspired by her bugs and creatures  - Fish girl from fishing meditations - Terri by her flowers. One of my friends is inspired by works  of art from the Dutch masters, one is inspired by stark black and white form.  For me, it's always stories  - whether from a book, a radio show or someone's wayward comment. I never know when or where my blog post ideas are going to appear until they're there.

I found Austin Kleon through a book blog site, but apparently he has had his "fifteen minutes" by going viral on the internet, after posting some unusual poetry  on his own blog.  He blacks out part of the newsprint in a newspaper, to produce a poem of sorts. These "Newspaper Blackout Poems' were such a hit that he eventually collected them for a book. That led to an outcry accusing him of being unoriginal. He then began to research originality, and by extension inspiration. I've attached the link to his Ted Talk about the whole experience.

He explains that as he researched inspiration, he found that virtually all of the great artists "are thieves. " Writers, painters, photographers all learn through early imitation. In quote after quote, going  way back to the 1760's,  they all maintain that they are not original.  Kleon's point is that - NOTHING IS ORIGINAL. Every new idea is a "mashup" of previous ideas. I love his analogy that just as you yourself are a "mashup" of your mother and father, so your art is a "mashup" of all the art and experience you feed yourself. He even makes an art family tree! I also love it when he takes that old adage "imitation is flattery," and makes it "transformation is flattery." Because every inspiration that you use, becomes transformed by your input into something original.

Berenice Abbott                                          me

For my part, I started a project several months ago. I had come across a book by Matthew Bamberg called "101 Master Photographers of the Twentieth Century."  (You can find it here:  He writes a page or two about each photographer, and shows one or two signature images. I bought a little journal. When I have time I will  read his summary about a particular icon. Sometimes I look up more of their works on the internet. Then I go out with my camera and try to shoot a similar picture. It's really instructive - not just for getting ideas, but for the process of learning different outlooks, or shooting things you don't normally notice. It's fun too - sort of like my own private scavenger hunt! There's no deadline on my project. It's just one method I use to stimulate my own inspiration.

Arnold Newman

Without further ado, you can find Austin here: uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Doww7oB9rjgw

He explains it all much better than I, and I'm sure he wouldn't mind my citing him here - because he actually instructed me to go out and steal from everyone I was interested in today" - and I was very interested in him!

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again,
 There is nothing new under the sun."
                                      Ecclesiastes 1:9
                                              (The oldest source of all!)

*Iconic photographer images here were taken archive sites and cropped for my imitation and inspiration. They are not presented full. You can find them on various library site such as this: images


Deanna said...

Great post Carol. Thought provoking and so true. We do get our "inspiration" from somewhere that has made an impression on our mind's eye. Even combing flickr for inspiration is a favorite for me. Thanks for including the links to both the book as well as the Ted talk.

kelly said...

i love this carol! and quite honestly, this idea has been one of the most liberating things in my photographic journey. thanks for sharing your beautiful inspiration!

Kim Stevens said...

Oh I loved this post, and you touched on several things I've been taking notes on when it comes to inspiration. (see, and we can even add what has been thought has been thought before) Two of my jewelry artist friends have posed the question of what is inspiration, what does it mean to us. But shhh I can't tell you...because at some point I'll be following up that same question from my last post. I love Ted talks, so I can't wait to listen...Carol, such a great post, I love discussions and thoughts like this!! xo

terriporter said...

Such a thought-provoking post, Carol. Imagine if we had to learn things without any form of inspiration. Impossible! I know for me and my photography, the thing that helps me to improve more than all the book reading and class taking is the mere act of trying to recreate something someone else has done that I have admired. Mine doesn't turn out looking exactly like theirs (and sometimes, nothing like theirs!) but it is through the act of trying to recreate something you admire that you learn. It takes me back to Tracy Clark's Picture classes where she didn't actually "teach" us anything but we learned so much and usually it was from each other -- seeing what we admired and trying to see if we could do something similar. I know that improved my photography more than anything else I had ever done. Thanks for the link. Definitely going to check that Ted Talk out!

heyjudephotography said...

Great post Carol! I love this subject and so agree with you, and Austin Kleon - all of our creations come from our inspirations. I like your idea of searching for a similar photo op. I think that's a great way to train your eye and stay creative without your photos ending up exactly like someone else's. Sometimes I notice on all of the photography sites that it seems that everyone's photos end up looking exactly like everyone else's. I think that inspiration is not taking what someone else has done and recreating it exactly, but being inspired by someone's work, putting your own personality and "spin" on it, and making a new creation.

Cathy H. said...

Such a great post! I've always thought I wasn't very original, whether it's in photography or scrapbooking or what ever creative project I'm working on. I have a habit of saying I can't design it or think of it or create it, but I can copy it in my own way. This helps me tremendously! I know that Bible verse, why have I never applied to this situation.

AFishGirl said...

Nodding in agreement with all you say and the comments. Great post!

Claudia@DipityRoad said...

My darling wonderfully talented and inquisative friend!! What a great post. I am marking it and following you instructions (hopefully) your shots are GREAT!! This was such a fabulous suggestion.

HUGS my friend.

Dotti said...

I love this post! Of course, I've heard this idea {proclamation?} many times but I love the way you illustrated it and the references you provided. Well done ... and so helpful!

Sarah Huizenga said...

So true. You take a little of everybody that you love and mash it up into your own style. I love your takes on the masters' photos. A great inspirational project.

Susan Mills said...

Carol, I enjoyed your post yesterday but I think I'm coming at it from a different angle. Inspiration is wonderful...we each have our own inspirations, but after reading some of Art & Fear, I think our work is also tied to emotions (more than I ever realized from our Cape May workshop discussions) and although we're inspired, we'll never have the same "emotion" to a piece that someone else has had. It's the "magic" that one has that ties it to "their" image or artwork (pg. 34) and that it doesn't matter that you don't have "their magic" have YOURS! And yours alone. Yours meaning the one who was inspired by someone else.

There was a huge discussion about this type of thing at my Avon workshop after Cape May and it's then that I had my "ah-ha" moment and the flood gates opened (happy flood gates). But after reading your posting today, I now know that what the facilitator and one other person were discussing. I think it came down to the fact that she's inspired by the facilitator's photos but at the same time, he was saying that she'd never have the same feelings/emotion that he had taking his shot. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus!

I hope you understand what I'm trying to say.

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing part of your day with us. If for any reason you are unable to leave a comment here on this post, please leave your comment on our Facebook page or in our Flickr discussion group. We love hearing from you!

© Focusing On Life