“Art attracts us only by what it reveals of our most secret self.” -Jean-Luc Godard
Often I feel I go to some distant region of the world to be reminded of who I really am. There is no mystery about why this should be so. Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of your food, your closet full of your clothes-with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience. That's not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating.
I eventually realized that direct experience is the most valuable experience I can have. Western man is so surrounded by ideas, so bombarded with opinions, concepts, and information structures of all sorts, that it becomes difficult to experience anything without the intervening filter of these structures. And the natural world-our traditional source of direct insights-is rapidly disappearing. Modern city-dwellers cannot even see the stars at night. This humbling reminder of man's place in the greater scheme of things, which human beings formerly saw once every twenty- four hours, is denied them. It's no wonder that people lose their bearings, that they lose track of who they really are, and what their lives are really about.
So travel has helped me to have direct experiences. And to know more about myself.
“Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.” -Frank Zappa
I feel when one gets clarity on why they do something, they can do that task at a much higher level. While I think it would be hard to match the brevity and precision of Garry Winogrand's statement "I photograph to see what the world looks like in photographs", I also think in her book, On Photography, Susan Sontag has some illuminating things to say that are worth pondering. Following are some excerpts from that book...
In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge our notions of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe. They are a grammar and, even more importantly, an ethics of seeing. The most grandiose result of the photographic enterprise is to give us the sense that we can hold the whole world in our heads – as an anthology of images. To collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object; lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store.
To photograph is to confer importance. There is a probably no subject that cannot be beautified; moreover, there is no way to suppress the tendency inherent in all photographs to accord value to their subjects. But the meaning of value itself can be altered. Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood. To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge – and, therefore, like power.
At first, the photographer was thought to be an acute but non-interfering observer – a scribe, not a poet. But as people quickly discovered that nobody takes the same picture of the same thing, the supposition that cameras furnish an impersonal, objective image yielded to the fact that photographs are evidence not only of what’s there but of what an individual sees; not just a record but an evaluation of the world. It became clear that there was not just a simple, unitary activity called seeing (recorded by, aided by cameras) but “photographic seeing,” which was both a new way for people to see and a new activity for them to perform.
Most subjects photographed are, just by virtue of being photographed, touched with pathos. An ugly or grotesque subject may be moving because it has been dignified by the attention of a photographer. A beautiful subject can be the object of a rueful feelings, because it has aged or decayed or no longer exists. All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.
Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality, not just interpret it, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are.
“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” - Jonathan Swift
Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives for several reasons. First, most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the results of creativity. The second reason creativity is so fascinating is that when we are involved in it, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life. The excitement of the artist at the easel or the scientist in the lab comes close to the ideal fulfillment we all hope to get from life.
Creativity provides a profound sense of being part of an entity greater than ourselves. But creativity also leaves an outcome that adds to the richness and complexity of the future. Creativity results from the interaction of a system composed of three elements: a culture that contains symbolic rules, a person who brings novelty into the symbolic domain, and a field of experts who recognize and validate the innovation. All three are necessary for a creative idea, product, or discovery to take place. The results of creativity enrich the culture and so they indirectly improve the quality of all our lives. But we may also learn from this knowledge how to make our own lives directly more interesting and productive.
Creative persons differ from one another in a variety of ways, but in one respect they are unanimous: They all love what they do. It is not the hope of achieving fame or making money that drives them; rather, it is the opportunity to do the work that they enjoy doing. Jacob Rabinow explains: “You invent for the hell of it. I don’t start with the idea, ‘What will make money?’ This is a rough world; money’s important. But if I have to trade between what’s fun for me and what’s money-making, I’ll take what’s fun.” The novelist Naguib Mahfouz concurs in more genteel tones: “I love my work more than I love what it produces. I am dedicated to the work regardless of its consequences.”
Creativity consists of anticipation and commitment. Anticipation involves having a vision of something that will become important in the future before anybody else has it; commitment is the belief that keeps one working to realize the vision despite doubt and discouragement.
A genuinely creative accomplishment is almost never the result of a sudden insight, a lightbulb flashing on in the dark, but comes after years of hard work. Some people argue that studying creativity is an elite distraction from the more pressing problems confronting us. We should focus all our energies on combating overpopulation, poverty, or mental illness instead. A concern for creativity is an unnecessary luxury, according to this argument. But this position is somewhat shortsighted. First of all, workable new solutions to poverty and overpopulation will not appear magically by themselves. Problems are solved only when we devote a deal of attention to them and in a creative way. Second, to have a good life, it is not enough to remove what is wrong from it. We also need a positive goal, otherwise why keep going? Creativity is one answer to that question: It provides one of the most exciting models for living.
Creativity. Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention.
By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi