“What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.” - Eugene Delacroix
Is photography an art? Is it really a serious activity or a serious art? Does it really have a proper place in the university curriculum, as a department in museums? Is it different from the other art forms? In a sense, this is a phony debate, because there is no doubt the battle has been won.
The question is rather, if photography is an art and is socially or sociologically accepted, is it an art like any other? It isn’t exactly an art, like painting, and perhaps that may explain something about its current influence. In some way I would suggest that photography is not so much an art as a meta-art. It's an art which devours other art. It is a creation, a creation in the form of some certain kind of visual image, but it also cannibalizes and very concretely reproduces other forms of art; there is a creation of images, images which would not exist if we did not have the camera. But there is also a sense in which photography takes the whole world as its subject, cannibalizes all art forms, and converts them into images. And in that sense it seems a peculiarly modern art. It may be the art that is most appropriate to the fundamental terms and concerns of an industrial consumer society. It has the capacity to turn every experience, every event, every reality into a commodity or an object or image. One of the fundamental axes of modern thought is this contrast between image and reality. It doesn't seem wrong to say that our society is rooted or centered in a certain proliferation of images in a way that no other society has been.
The world becomes a series of events that you transform into pictures, and those events have reality, so far as you have the pictures of them.
Most people in this society have the idea that to take a picture is to say, among other things: ‘this is worth photographing.’ And to appraise an event as valuable or interesting or beautiful is to wish to have a photograph of it. It has gotten built into our very way of perceiving things, that we have a fundamentally appropriative relationship to reality. We think that the properly flattering contact with anything is to want to photograph it. And the camera has indeed become part of our sensibility.
There are an unlimited number of photographs to take, every photographer feels that. There are not an unlimited number of things to write, except in a very cerebral sense, which no writer really feels. For the photographer, the world is really there; it is an incredible thing, it is all interesting and in fact, more interesting when ‘seen through the camera' than when seen with the naked eye or with real sight. The camera is this thing which can capture the world for you. It enables you to transform the world, to miniaturize it. And photographs have a special status for us as icons and as magical objects that other visual images such as paintings and other forms of representational art such as literature do not have. I do not think that any other way of creating image systems has the same kind of obsessional power behind it.
“Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.” - Claude Monet
THE PASSION KEY. Part 1
Many creative people and most would-be creative people are interested in their artistic projects but not passionately interested in them. There is a huge difference here, and a big problem. Mere interest does not sustain motivational energy, and it isn't a match for the obstacles that arise as you try to create. You need passionate interest in order to generate energy and to see you through the rigors of creating.
Passion and its synonyms; love, curiosity, enthusiasm, excitement, and energy - are vital to the creative process. Though it is possible to create without passion, your art will suffer, and the likelihood of your continuing over the long haul is greatly reduced. If I had to tease out the key motivator that fuels the artist's journey, it would be passion. Passion creates and restores mental energy.
Creating is hard, and what that means is that every day we may find our creative progress hard - and it is difficult to love something that presents us with problems. Since that love may not come naturally or may evaporate all too easily in the face of difficulties, you must learn how to kindle passion - and how to rekindle it when it vanishes.
So let's begin by looking at some ways to rekindle that passion.
1. Get obsessed. The word obsession got co-opted by the mental health industry and turned into a negative by definition. When you define obsessions as "intrusive, unwanted thoughts," then naturally all obsessions seem negative. But not every repetitive thought is unwanted or intrusive - some are exactly the thoughts we want. One way to fall back in love with your work is to allow yourself to obsess about it - to really bite into it, to really think about it, and to pay real, obsessive attention to it.
2. Be a little more impetuous. You may be living in a careful, controlled, and contained way to ensure that you are taking care of all your responsibilities and getting the items checked off your perpetual to-do list. That way of living can be entirely appropriate, but it pretty much bars the door on impetuosity.
3. Accept that you have appetites. We all have these appetites, and creative people tend to have even bigger appetites than most, which is why addiction is such a big problem in the arts. But when we try to rein in these appetites, as an unintended consequence we also rein in our appetite to create. Rather than reining in all your appetites, just rein in those that produce negative consequences. Let yourself be really hungry when it comes to creating.
4. Be ambitious. Sometimes we sell ourselves on the idea that it is unseemly to have ambitions and that ambitiousness is a manifestation of narcissism or pride. It is really nothing of the kind. To have ambitions is really just to have desires, to have passions. It is perfectly proper to have desires and passions and to want things like best-sellers, or gallery shows, or articles written about you, or anything of that sort. Try to free yourself from the idea that there is something wrong with feeling and being ambitious, since those ambitions are really just manifestations of desire - and desire is a good thing!
5. Feel devoted to your work. Luciano Pavarotti said: "People think I'm disciplined. It's not discipline, it's devotion, and there's a great difference." We are in a completely different relationship with our art when we feel devoted to it as opposed to when we feel it is something we should be doing. If you have never felt really devoted to anything, you may want to locate that feeling in your being and to start treating your art as an object of your devotion.
6. Opt for intensity and even exhaustion. One of the ways we honor our pledge to make personal meaning is to do the work required of us, even if that effort exhausts us. If it exhausts us, we rest, but we do not let the fear of exhaustion prevent us from making our meaning. Try to live intensely. Exhaust yourself in the service of your work.
7. Understand the power of our cultural and societal injunctions against passion. Those injunctions can easily stop you from expressing the passion you feel. We are a very buttoned-down, unexpressive, don't-let-your-emotions-show kind of culture, and everyone is in that cultural trance. It can feel very hard to go against the grain and act passionately in the service of your ideas and projects. If you know that you are somehow inhibited by cultural messages and by the demand not to look conspicuous, think through what you can do to shed that cultural straitjacket.
8. Remember that passion isn't unseemly. We have to get it out of our heads that being passionate about our work, being obsessed with our work, or being in love with our work is unseemly. If we are holding some mental injunction against passion or some internal lack of permission to be passionate, that judgment will severely restrict our ability to create.
9. Remember that passion isn't a given. You have to bring the passion - it won't appear just because you showed up at the canvas or the computer screen. The mere getting there isn't enough. You need to bring enthusiasm, love, and passion with you, which you do by actively falling back in love with your work and by investing meaning in it.
10. Remember that passion isn't optional. To repeat the main point here, we have very little mental energy for something that barely interests us, for something whose difficulty outweighs its desirability. If we inject passion into our work and think of it as something we love and to which we are devoted, it will flourish.
Making Your Creative Mark - Nine Keys to Achieving your Artistic Goals