The Right Answers
“But fundamentally, vision is not about which camera or how many megapixels you have, it’s about what you find important. It’s all about ideas” - Keith Carter
Look for the second right answer. Often, it is the second right answer which, although off-beat or unusual, is exactly what you need to solve a problem in an innovative way. One technique for finding the second right answer is to change the questions you use to probe a problem. For example, how many times have you heard someone say, "What is the answer?" or "What is the meaning of this?" or "What is the result?" These people are looking for the answer, and the meaning, and the result. And that's all they'll find — just one. If you train yourself to ask questions that solicit plural answers like "What are the answers?" or "What are the meanings?" or "What are the results?" you will find that people will think a little more deeply and offer more than one idea. As the Nobel Prize winning chemist Linus Pauling put it: "The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas." You may not be able to use all of them, but out of the number you generate you may find a few that are worthwhile.
This is why professional photographers take so many pictures when shooting an important subject. They may take twenty, sixty or a hundred shots. They'll change the exposure, the lighting, the filters, and so on. That's because they know that out of all the pictures they take, there may be only a few that capture what they're looking for. It's the same thing with creative thinking: You need to generate a lot of ideas to get some good ones. One technique for finding more answers is to change the wording in your questions. If an architect looks at an opening between two rooms and thinks, "What type of door should I use to connect these rooms?" that's what she'll design — a door. But if she thinks "What sort of passageway should I put here?" she may design something different like a "hallway," an "air curtain," a "tunnel," or perhaps a "courtyard." Different words bring in different assumptions and lead your thinking in different directions.
Here's an example of how such a strategy can work. Several centuries ago, a curious but deadly plague appeared in a small village in Lithuania. What was curious about this disease was its grip on its victim; as soon as a person contracted it, he'd go into a deep almost deathlike coma. Most died within a day, but occasionally a hardy soul would make it back to the full bloom of health. The problem was that since eighteenth century medical technology wasn't very advanced, the unafflicted had quite a difficult time telling whether a victim was dead or alive. Then one day it was discovered that someone had been buried alive. This alarmed the townspeople, so they called a town meeting to decide what should be done to prevent such a situation from happening again. After much discussion, most people agreed on the following solution. They decided to put food and water in every casket next to the body. They would even put an air hole from the casket up to the earth's surface. These procedures would be expensive, but they would be more than worthwhile if they would save people's lives. Another group came up with a second, less expensive, "right" answer. They proposed implanting a twelve-inch-long stake in every coffin lid directly above where the victim's heart would be. Then whatever doubts there were about whether the person was dead or alive would be eliminated as soon the coffin lid was closed. What differentiated the two solutions were the questions used to find them. Whereas the first group asked, "What should we do if we bury somebody alive?" the second group wondered, "How can we make sure everyone we bury is dead?"
Much of our educational system has taught us to look for the one right answer. This approach is fine for some situations, but many of us have a tendency to stop looking for alternative right answers after the first right answer has been found. This is unfortunate because often it's the second, or third, or tenth right answer which is what we need to solve a problem in an innovative way.
A Whack on the Side of the Head
How You Can Be More Creative
Roger von Oech
“Half the failures in life arise from pulling on one's horse as it is leaping” - Julius Hare
The Habits that Spark Your Creative Genius. Part IV
It's a Leap of Faith
Venturing toward a path of creative expression and action, especially in the light of the workday, takes a leap of faith. Like any journey, this one has costs: We have to attach and associate ourselves with a particular idea, inspired notion, or desire. While the prize for achieving success and pursuing a creative spark may be great and holds great allure, when deciding whether or not to make the leap across the chasm between dark and light, the cost of failure is something that greatly influences our actions.
Creative genius requires bold energy and faith. Compelled by sparks of ideas and energy, we come to a point in our creative journey where it is necessary to take a leap of faith. With that, we accept that outcomes may at first be uncertain and dangerous. However, if we make the leap and relinquish our control for clarity and certainty and trust our instincts, we give ourselves a fighting chance to clear a path, rejoice in the experience of awakening our creative genius, and ultimately shine the light on other possibilities that will unleash it still further.
Venturing: The Oxygen for Your Ideas
If you are serious about making the leap, then you must make venturing into the unknown a habit. The irony is that while your creative embers will spark in your dark chambers, in order for you to realize the full potential of your creative self, you must create out, bring forth, and make known your ideas to others. Instead of keeping them in the dark, you must bring them to light. Plato once said that "you can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark but not an adult who is afraid of the light." When we decide to venture and attach to a spark and fan it further so that it may catch fire, then we accept that what creative expression needs most is the validation of light and energy from others. Just as oxygen keeps a fire alive, the input, reactions, and expression of others can and should positively impact the expression of the ideas that you have sparking within.
If you keep your ideas and sparks to yourself and never take a risk, their flame will eventually burn out, and if left uncultivated, all sparks of creative expression will ultimately become extinguished — certainly not the goal of a path toward creative genius. When we feel that burning desire to express our creative genius, we each must confront one essential question: Do I keep it silent and dim where no one can see it or do I let it come bursting out in hopes that it may catch fire and blaze a new path of adventure and possibility? If the answer to that question is yes, you will keep sparking and bringing ideas to the light.
Stimulated! Habits to Spark Your Creative Genius.
Andrew Pek and Jeannine McGlade
“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures. “ -Jessamyn West
Are Photographs True? Part I of II
Does traditional photography get closer to the truth than do painting and other forms of representation? Do digital images falsify knowledge and undermine belief in photographs? This discussion is sometimes called the ontological debate, because it has to do with the philosophic nature of the photograph — its ontological status (what a photograph is) and what follows from how one conceives of a photograph. The differing answers can be grouped into two major theoretical stances, one realist and the other conventionalist.
CREDIBILITY AND PERSUASIVENESS: Regardless of what a person thinks about the nature of photography, whether it is more accurately thought of as a unique medium or as a medium of conventions it shares with other media, most critics, agree that photography is accepted by the public as believable: "People believe photographs." Never mind that advertising has taught us that photographic images can be marvelous tricksters: What we see in a photograph is often mistaken for the real thing. People have inherited a cultural tendency to see through the photograph to what is photographed and to forget that he photograph is an artifact, made by a human.
The assumed credibility of the photograph is due to the optical and chemical relationship of the photograph to the thing photographed, to its dependence on a mechanical device, the camera, and also its reliance on Western realism. Photographers are well aware of the aura of credibility the photograph has that other media of representation do not share. Lewis Hine (who used photography for social reform), stated, "The average person believes implicitly that the photograph cannot falsify" — but he was quick to add, "You and I know that while photographs may not lie, liars may photograph.”
Paul Strand, a student of Hines's, believed in the realism of photographs but took the idea into an aesthetic direction, namely: the straight aesthetic and declared that the "very essence" of photography is "absolute unqualified objectivity." This position, in due course, was furthered by Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, and many others of the straight aesthetic.
A belief in the trustworthiness of the photograph was fostered by the news media — especially Life magazine in the l930s-l950s, when it was influential in society and in journalism. Gisele Freund, photographer and writer about photography, claims, "What gave so much credibility to it Life was its extensive use of photographs. To the average man, photography, which is the exact reproduction of reality, cannot lie." She explains, "Few people realize that the meaning of a photograph can be changed completely by the accompanying caption, by its juxtaposition with other photographs, or by the manner in which people and events are photographed."
Advertisers have long been knowingly using photographs because of their credibility. David Ogilvy encourages his colleagues in his book Confessions of an Advertising Man to use photographs: A photograph "represents reality, whereas drawings represent fantasy, which is less believable."
Photographs continue to be powerfully persuasive. Both Susan Sontag and Abigail Solomon-Godeau have commented on the credibility and resulting political power of the photograph in relation to American abuse of Iraqis held at Abu Ghraih prison in Baghdad in 2004. American soldiers, with personal digital cameras, took unauthorized photographs of Americans abusing Iraqis, and these photographs eventually found their way into the news media, creating international outrage and national embarrassment. Solomon-Godeau comments: "Appalling and politically devastating as the photographs are to the White House and the military, their authenticity is unquestioned." The belated release of these pictures has yielded what seems the unimpeachable truth (photography's original PR claim). Written reports of the atrocities, however, had circulated for more than a year and were ignored by the government of the United States before the photographs became public. Sontag comments: "Apparently it took the photographs to get their attention, when it became clear they could not be suppressed: It was the photographs that made all this 'real.'"
Theoretician Joel Snyder is one scholar among many who disagrees with realist theories of photography: The notion that a photograph shows us "what we would have seen had we been there ourselves" has to be modified to the point of absurdity. A photograph shows us “what we would have seen" at a certain moment in time, from a certain vantage point if we kept our head immobile and closed one eye and if we saw things in Agfacolor or in Tri-X developed in D-76 and printed on Kodabromide #3 paper. By the time all the conditions are added up we are positing the rather un-illuminating proposition that, if our vision worked like photography, then we would see things the way the camera does.”
Ernst Gombrich and Nelson Goodman write about the history of art to reveal how different people in different cultures and time represent the world and understand those representations. Both Gombrich and Goodman argue that pictorial realism is culturally bound. That is, what was realistic for the ancient Egyptians is not realistic for us; and perhaps more important, our version of realism, to which we are so accustomed as convincingly realistic, would not be decipherable to ancient Egyptians.
Styles of representation, realistic and otherwise are invented by artists and draftsmen in a culture, and then learned by viewers in that culture. Styles of picturing are made up of invented codes that become conventional. Realism, for Goodman, is a matter of a picture's codes being easily decipherable, readily readable. Ease of information retrieval from a style of picturing is mistaken by a culture for pictorial accuracy because the viewers are unaware of the representational system within their own culture: they are too familiar with it to notice it. A style becomes so easily readable that it seems realistic and natural — it seems to be the way the world is.