on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Planned Productions

And the Unplanned Experience

Guy Tal

Professional photographic artist, author and speaker working primarily in the Western US.


Here, then, is the beginning of a vicious circle. Because “beautiful” poems make the poet beloved, a great quantity of poems come into the world that attempt nothing except to be beautiful, that pay no heed to the original primitive, holy, innocent function of poetry. These poems from the very start are made for others, for hearers, for readers. They are no longer dreams or dance steps or outcries of the soul, reactions to experience, stammered wish-images or magic formulas, gestures of a wise man or grimaces of a madman—they are simply planned productions, fabrications, pralines for the public. They have been made for distribution and sale and they serve to amuse or inspire or distract their buyers. So just this sort of poem finds approval. One does not have to project oneself seriously and lovingly into such poems, one is not tormented or shaken by them, rather one sways comfortably and pleasurably in time to their pretty, regular rhythms. ~Hermann Hesse

I was surprised by the number of favourable responses I received to a recent post in which I stated that not one of the images I consider as my most meaningful resulted from planning. Continuing this line of thinking, it also implies that if I was in the habit of planning my photographs, I may have succeeded in following my plan and rewarded with images that are pleasing and popular—things that can be planned for—but I would never have made any of these images that I consider meaningful and revelatory—things that cannot be planned for. In this sense, planning can be considered a great impediment to making the kind of work I value most. With the danger being, ironically, succeeding in accomplishing the planned outcome.

Among the changes observed in the brain during flow states and in times of heightened creative performance is a phenomenon known as transient hypofrontality, involving the temporary deactivation of parts of the prefrontal cortex known to be associated with decision making, a sense of self, inhibition, self-censorship, and planning.
Worse yet, if beholden to plans, I would not have had the experiences that led to the making of those images—experiences marked by such things as exploration, discovery, creative epiphanies, novelty, and what psychologists refer to as flow states, defined as optimal experiences that are so enjoyable that people will pursue them for their own sake, independent of outcome, and which involve changes in consciousness and brain functions that are profoundly rewarding and known to be strongly correlated with creativity.

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