on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Creation vs. Production

The Autotelic Photographer

Rafael Rojas

Rafael Rojas (Master Hasselblad 2014, MA Photography, ARPS), is a Swiss and Spanish full-time artist photographer, lecturer, author, and creativity mentor. He has been involved in teaching most of his life, first helping young students, then teaching undergrads, and later as a university lecturer.

Nowadays, his teaching activities focus on helping photographers see the world with different eyes and use photography as a tool of personal and creative expression.

After seven years of work, the MasterCOURSE “Photography with Intent”, an intensive mentoring program for Expressive Photographers, has become the apex of his teaching career and his utmost contribution to the Community of Photographers.


"I am asked with surprising frequency, "How do you know where to make pictures?". To the extent there is a rule, the answer is that it is usually where you stop long enough"

- Robert Adams

A few days ago I received a really pleasing email from a participant of one of our photo-immersion workshops. The email came with a personal and unsolicited review of the two experiences he recently had with us, exactly when I was to start writing this article about the implications of creation and its opposition to the concept of production. What I read there came to me as a perfect example of what I intended to elaborate on this article, and filled me with joy and gratitude to this fellow photographer.

Snowflake - Finland

For this reason, I decided to start the article with this spontaneous reflection, even at the risk that some of the readers might mistake it for a sneaky act of self-promotion, which is absolutely not. On this message, that I copy literally, I have highlighted some of the words in bold, since they are related to aspects I will cover throughout this article:

"I still miss the days spent in Finland and Norway. The places we went to were absolutely spectacular, but what strikes me most is the style of your photo trips, which deeply changed my philosophy and style of travel and photography. I used to make precise travel plans, go to iconic locations one after another for sunrises and sunsets, and try to maximize the places to visit in limited travel time. But now I find your photo-immersion trips truly a better way to get more personal photos and train one's "photographer's vision". For instance, after reviewing the photos taken during the Finland trip, I surprisingly found that more than half of my favourite photos were taken not in Risiitunturi, but the random places we visited along country roads, the trees, the houses... I would definitely skip and miss them if I did not come with you. And these places, which did not look very photographically promising at first glance, were challenging to get satisfactory photos from, and really forced one to sharpen his photography skills. Of course, the whole process has been quite fun! It was so interesting to see how we came back with very different photos from the same places."

These lines, which indeed reflect my own way of approaching photography (and any creative endeavour, in fact) contrast sharply with something else I recently read in the newsletter of a known landscape photographer, that vented the secret for great landscape photography as the three P's: Planning, Persistence, and Patience. In my opinion, this set of P's leads to a fourth one, the end result such an approach typically leads to Production. I know this because, me too, I used to follow this same approach in the early stages of my photographic career.

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