Photographers and Subjects: Imagination and Execution

Is it too much to ask for brilliant ideas and excellent storycraft?  Which is more important?  Personally, I side with craft because poorly executed brilliant ideas still makes for a bad story.  I have read a number of these, where a really interesting idea was subverted by amateurish prose.  Thinking about it from another angle, I have stumbled into some fantastic pictures with my little point and shoot camera, but I am not a photographer.  Everything came together and I just happened pressed the button.  I had no appreciation for lighting, timing or angle.  I knew the picture looked good, but I couldn't express why.  I had no skill at photography.

The difference between honed skill and happy accident is intent.  Anyone can take a picture, but photographers do it with purpose.  Using experience, a photographer will position himself to take best advantage of the subject and its environment.  His camera, aside from being an order of magnitude more expensive than mine, allows him to tweak all sorts of variables in order to leverage those conditions to his advantage.  I stumble into excellent pictures and he sets them up.

However, photographers and writers both need starting material, subjects and ideas to manipulate.  Skill becomes more about knowing how to leverage circumstance to make something beautiful.  However idea generation and creativity are simply more skills that must be practiced.  Next time you are bored, I would recommend finding something out of place on a person or in a place and quickly sketch out the back story of how that seeming contradiction came to be.  That man rocking the cue ball look?  It isn’t male pattern baldness.  One day, his hair gained sentience, tried to take over the world and he had to fight it off in an epic battle of good and evil.  The low rider car over there?  The owner had to modify it when his house sunk into the ground and the vehicle would no longer fit into the garage.  So on and so forth.  The point of the game is rapid fire idea generation, so no thought is too outlandish to explore.  Another technique is inspiration by consumpion.  When I need to kickstart my creativity, I increase my consumption of science podcasts, TV, books and music.  There is some anxiety of influence in this technique, but it works wonders.

 In the end, I think you need both the raw material of the idea and the workmanship of good storycraft to make something beautiful.  Skilled writing, like skilled photography, becomes more about recognizing what you have to work with and how to best present it.  In the end, there are very few truly terrible ideas, but many ideas that have yet to find a good home.

Beginning the Discussion: What has served you better in the past, your creativity or your skill?


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