Inside this issue
Keeping an open mind & no preconceptions
I am an Austrian nature and landscape photographer with a deep respect for nature and all its creatures. I find the beauty in the mundane and the wonders in the small things, and I want to convey what I see with my eyes and my heart. My photos are triggered by an emotional engagement with the world surrounding me and reach from landscapes to small scenes to abstractions. After a difficult personal situation a few years ago, photography became my lifeline and has developed from a hobby to a passion, which I want to live with respect for nature and as a responsible nature photographer.
When I was a child, I knew nothing about the concept of creativity. When I was a young adult, I knew nothing about the concept of creativity. I did not think about it; I did not analyse it. I just poured all my emotions – the happiness, the fears, the sadness, the loneliness, the insecurities - into my poems, stories, and fairy tales. It was what it was.
Was I a creative child? Was I a creative young person? I probably was but what does “being a creative person” mean? Is there a creativity gene? Are we born creative – or not creative? For a long time, I had thought I had lost my creativity and was looking to find it again. The harder I looked, the more inaccessible it seemed to become. For a long time, I had identified being creative as producing something beautiful, interesting, unique and beat myself up because I seemed to have lost that ability. I couldn’t “create” anymore, so I had lost my creativity.
After years of work and care for my sick and old parents, I was finally confronted with myself again when my mother died. I had to accept the challenge of being “me” again and not living other people’s lives. That threw me off track for a while.
When I finally took up a camera for the first time, it was not so much for producing something beautiful, inspiring, and unique. It was about engaging with nature that gave me so much solace and peace, and I just wanted to share what I loved.
Create in your mind
During the past years, I have come to realise that the creative process is not necessarily linked to the “creation” of a product.
For me, creativity means engaging with a situation, internalising a sensual experience making it my own. The world we experience is not an objective truth but a perception of reality filtered through emotions, moods, and beliefs. Creativity starts when our mind is open to take in whatever comes through these filters – without thinking, without analysing.
This became very clear to me last July. With COVID 19 restrictions being alleviated in summer, a friend and I decided to spend a few days in Venice. We wanted to visit the city without the usual masses of tourists and take some photos. Long story made short, all my gear was stolen on the night train and I ended up in Venice with only my phone. Of course, I was devastated at first, but then I decided to not let this spoil the experience for me. We explored the city, we made photos. I made photos with my phone. And while I was taking in everything that inspired me, I realised that I was no less a photographer, and the creative process was not less intense because I didn’t have a camera. Even without a phone, even without a piece of paper to draw or write on, even without my voice to tell the tale, the creative process would have been the same because it entirely happened in my mind. The very event that had robbed me of my precious tools made it very clear to me that creativity was completely independent of tools and techniques.
Tools only come into play when you become aware of this creative process and you want to externalise what your mind has come up with by processing reality with your emotional filters in place.
If you have never produced any “creative” work of art in your life, this doesn’t mean that there is no creativity. Whenever we engage with our environment, whenever we react to a situation, whenever we try to find a solution for a problem, creativity happens. Some of us find an outlet for how our mind is coping with experiences in the form of writing, painting, making photos, or whatever. For others, it just means deciding how to go on with their lives, how to solve a problem, how to tackle a task. That doesn’t make the creative process less valuable, just less tangible for others.
Make – don’t plan
For me, the outlet I choose is photography, together with the occasional writing of poetry or short prose. My creative process is always triggered by the interplay of a sensual experience and an open mind. This sensual experience can be positive or negative, a situation or an emotion. It can stretch over a longer period or happen in the blink of an eye. For me, these experiences are often strongest when I am out in nature because that’s when I feel most in touch with emotions and sensations. However, the creative process can only happen if I don’t suppress my feelings and keep my mind open and susceptible to their influence.
Whenever I plan to produce something “creative” it won’t work. Whenever I try too hard, I get disappointed. Creativity is nothing that can be planned or forced. Going for the ultimate creative photography or post-processing technique just for the sake of producing a creative work of art will, in the long run, kill creativity. When alternative photography and processing techniques become an end in themselves, being used, again and again, the results become predictable and repetitive.
Creative photography for me means: to look, feel, engage, let the photo grow inside of me, let the photo tell me what it wants to be. No preconception, no big plans. The result might be new and surprising even for me.