Revitalizing Creativity

by Micah Walter


Today's post isn't going to be a tip or a trick, or even a story about how Aperture helped to improve my workflow. No, today I would like to talk about something a little more personal. I want to talk about revitalizing your creativity.

I have always thought of myself as a creative person. In fact, these days, more and more, I am seeing myself defined less a just a photographer, and more as a "creative professional." Either way, I have, since birth, been an observer, and a dreamer, and one of those people who at first glance might seem to have their head in the clouds.

The thing about photography is that it involves both sides of the brain. This is true in all forms of art, but it is especially true in photography. We photographers have the added duty of understanding our craft on a more scientific level. We need to be aware of how light interacts with matter, and how a certain concoction of chemicals can cause a latent image to appear visible on a piece of paper. Well, we used to have to know that. Now, we need to understand computers, and things like image compression and color management.

When I was in college, I spent a good deal of time in the lab. Week after week I would go out and shoot an assignment and come back and spend the rest of my time developing negatives, sorting through slides, mixing chemicals, and toning prints. One summer I traveled through the four corners region of the United States, and spent about a month photographing what I saw. This was all for a class I took and the only requirement was to produce a portfolio of 32 finished images. It was a monumental task for me at the time, and upon my return to upstate New York, I was faced with spending the rest of my summer in the darkroom.

By the end of the summer I had produced what I thought was my best work to date. But, I was exhausted. I smelled like fixer, and my eyes were tired. I didn't tell anyone at the time but I dreaded ever having to return to the darkroom again. This of course can be a scary predicament for a student of photography.

Luckily for me, my portfolio was met with praise and I received an A for the class. But I didn't know what was going to happen next. I wasn't ready to get back into the darkroom. Right around this time digital photography had begun to take off at our school. We had a small assortment of digital point and shoots, and one or two digital SLRs. We had been working with Photoshop and scanning our negatives, but the school was still very much a darkroom-oriented type of place. Creatively, I was down on my luck. I was done with the darkroom, and so I decided to explore digital photography.

After a random encounter with a mutual friend I had somehow been given the opportunity to show off my southwest portfolio in an art exhibit. It was to be a joint show with another friend from the trip. This friend and I decided that instead of showing off the work we had printed in the darkroom, we would try and do something a little different. We borrowed a block of time on a high-end drum scanner and scanned all of our negatives and slides. He made giant prints on an Iris printer, and I made smaller color prints on an Epson 2000P. The results were stunning and we framed the prints and hung the show.

We invited everyone we knew from our university. Faculty, students and friends and family all showed up for the opening, and we made sure to leave out the fact that we had made the prints digitally. Eventually the rumor got around that the artwork was made from scanned film, and the teachers began to talk. It was really amazing to watch. We felt like we had convinced a group of very traditional thinkers that digital photography had arrived and was ready for professional consumption.

Digital photography revitalized my creativity. When I got my first digital SLR, I was off and running. I didn't have to go back in that darkroom anymore (although I do miss it sometimes) and I could complete my creative vision from anywhere. It was just me, my camera and my laptop--my favorite creative package.

Aperture has once again recharged my creativity. Now that I no longer need to really worry very much about losing images, or keeping versions and masters connected, I am freed. I can allow my creative juices to flow, and my camera, my laptop, and my mind's eye are are working together as one. With Aperture, I just import my files and I am off and running. My digital darkroom is a fun place to be. I look forward to working on my images in Aperture every time I take a picture and I am comforted by knowing that all the tools I need are sitting there waiting for me anytime I need them. It is really an exciting time to be a photographer, or in my case, a creative professional.


2007-04-24 13:08:16
Spot on, can relate to this having learnt and loved B&W processing for daily paper, but how liberating digital has become (and was evident on the first encounter too). Not to dismiss the past as many techniques use software to emulate the chemical darkroom, but likewise I don't smell of fixer any more!