No, It Doesn’t Always Come Together

Monday, 20. February 2017 0:16 | Author:

Just over a week ago I was sitting alone after a fairly trying rehearsal, thinking about what we had accomplished and where we ought to go next. Probably I was scowling, which seemed appropriate. It was then I heard someone say, “Don’t worry; it always comes together.” My first impulse was to give a really snarky reply, but I thought the better of it. What would be the point in abusing someone who was not really a theatre person and who was living in the happy delusion that shows always come together?

Then this week after a choreography rehearsal, during which much progress was made (choreography had been a bit behind schedule), the student assistant director made a statement that seemed to indicate that if all the pieces were caught up, the show would somehow mysteriously fall together. This was a little better, but not much.

The fact of the matter is that shows don’t always come together. And those that do, don’t come together by accident or magic.

In most cases there is a certain shared energy in a company that seems to grow as opening approaches, and this helps a production come together. But most directors know that that energy is not enough to build an artistically cohesive production.

Shows come together when someone makes them come together. Ideally it is the director who causes the show to come together, a director who guides/forces/coerces/manipulates the company into coming together, which may be more or less difficult depending on the cast, the designers, the production, and the interpretation.  I have even known directors who purposely initiated director-focused company ire in order to weld the performers into a unit. That works because shows can also come together if a cast, as a whole, is reacting to an incompetent/hateful/unbalanced/weak director. Failing one of these scenarios, the show will not come together, and the results will not be pretty.

A show not coming together can manifest in different ways: often the actors seem to be in different universes or all going in different directions artistically or thematically. The musical numbers may not fit seamlessly into the show. The lights or sound may not coordinate properly with the acting and staging. The costumes may not work with the rest of the show.

But a work of art not coming together is in no way limited to theatre. If the conductor cannot somehow bring together the separate elements of the orchestra, the score, and the interpretation of the score, the concert will fall flat. The same holds true for a choreographer and the dancers.  And a film director is very likely to produce a disjointed movie if he/she cannot bring all the various pieces together.

Nor is the problem limited to the collaborative performing arts. If a photographer and subject don’t somehow come together the result is probably a wasted photo session. The same is true of a painter or sculptor and his/her subject.

In fact, no good art “just comes together.” The disparate elements of any work of art—whether it is performing or visual or plastic or written, whether it is a script or a poem or a novel or a musical composition—must be cajoled, massaged, manipulated, orchestrated—and sometimes forced—to come together. This is the source of a great deal of an artist’s angst—knowing that all the parts must somehow coalesce into a unified whole—and having to work to make that happen. Sometimes, it is not intuitive, or even instinctual; sometimes it is the greatest challenge in making art. And it’s a challenge that we must meet repeatedly—every time we create.

Category:Creativity, Theatre, Uncategorized | Comment (0)

Art is Powerful and so are Artists

Tuesday, 7. February 2017 0:37 | Author:

This week a conversation with a friend who is an actor and a writer turned to politics, as so many conversations do these days. He said that he was being very cautious lately because “Federico Garcia Lorca was shot in the street.  You know that sometimes they take the poets first. Why do they do that?” “Because artists are powerful,” was my response.

I was thinking at the time about Patsy Rodenberg’s comments in the video Why I Do Theatre. She says much the same thing as my friend, that often repressive regimes want to suppress the artists first, because artists are powerful and use that power to tell the truth, which is something intolerable to those same repressive governments.

Make no mistake, art is indeed powerful. And that power ranges from the trivial (Hitler’s toothbrush mustache was reportedly copied from Charlie Chaplin and Oliver Hardy) to the profound  (Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, among others moved people with their photographs of American farmers during the Great Depression. Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible as a response to the witch trials of 1950s McCarthyism. Shepherd Fairey’s Hope poster became for a time one of modern America’s most influential and imitated pieces of art.)

And powerful art is not limited to the US. Leo Tolstoy has been an influence on a significant numbers of other writers, philosophers, and politicians. Anouilh’s Antigone “became a symbol for the [French] underground during WWII). Rodenberg’s South African actors had all been imprisoned, presumably because they spoke the truth and had influence, at least in the view of Apartheid.  Ai Weiwei continues to make art that is “highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government’s stance on democracy and human rights.

And the power of art translates into personal power for the artist. In a Tiffany’s ad during the 2017 Super Bowl, Lady Gaga says that her transformation into an artist was due to the power that she felt; she goes on to say that talking about how creative one is is “empowering and important.”

Perhaps it’s time that we too recognize the power that we have, that we understand the nature and the potential influence of the creativity we possess. The artists that produced many of the Super Bowl 2017 ads did just that. In addition to making ads to influence buying, several made ads with political content, one of which was so powerful that Fox Sports deemed it “too controversial” to present in full so it ended with a web address where viewers could see the conclusion. The ad generated enough traffic to the 84 Lumber website where the entire ad was posted to crash the website. That’s power.

Certainly all of us do not set out to make political art—but it may be anyway. Nobel winner Toni Morrison has said that “all good art is political.” And she makes a pretty good case for there being no other choice. Morrison is not the only person who thinks this is the case. Regardless of whether we agree, we must remember that by virtue of being creative and artistic, what we make is important and influential and we, ourselves, are powerful. How we use that power is up to each of us individually.

Category:Aesthetics, Communication, Creativity | Comment (0)

If I Don’t Make It

Sunday, 22. January 2017 23:40 | Author:

If I don’t make it, I can always teach.” Maybe, but you may not be any good at it—because it’s a different skill set. And you may not like it, because it’s not only a different skill set, it requires a different mindset.

And be assured, just because you’re good at one (producing art or teaching art), does not mean that you will be good at the other. In fact, I have recommended that certain people go into teaching who I would never recommend be performers; likewise I have suggested that others should set their goals on performing and forget the “security” of teaching.

And speaking of that whole teaching security thing, it doesn’t really exist. Teaching has become far less secure over the past 10 years for a number of reasons. And then there’s the educational bureaucracy, which has become far more onerous in roughly the same amount of time. These factors, taken together, make teaching in the arts a far less attractive occupation than it might have been several years ago.

Well, if I teach, I will have time to do my art afterwards.” No, you won’t. Those who try this find that the only way to pull it off is to slack on one or the other or relegate one or the other to part-time status. Good teaching takes enormous time and preparation. Yes, this is true even in those studio courses where it seems is that all the instructor does is wander in and offer a few suggestions and some critiques. Any instructor worth his/her salt has already been thinking about members of the class and how best to facilitate their development. The class is merely an implementation of those strategies. Thus there is little time left for creating art.

Likewise, if you spend the majority of your time, effort, and ingenuity on producing your art, you will be less than a good teacher. Teaching requires just as much time, effort, and creativity as producing art, so when one spends all of that artistic capital on making art, there is less available for teaching. Students may not understand this until years later, if ever. They may never know they’ve been short-changed—until they try to compete with others who had teachers and coaches who were more concerned with training their students than with their own success in the artistic marketplace.

The other thing you will likely be after a day of either teaching or making art, is tired. You simply may have insufficient energy to do whichever one comes second, at least on a daily basis.

While it is possible to be a really good full-time teacher and a really good full-time artist at the same time, the individuals who can pull it off are very rare. Unless the teacher somehow combines teaching and making art, the quality of the art or volume of output is sure to suffer.

And that may not be a bad thing. The world can still enjoy the work of the artist/teacher, just not as much of it. In the meantime, the world gains the benefit of a person of a person who not only imparts information, but who attempts to shape the experiences of students so those students can realize their own potential, a person who guides, encourages, and challenges his/her students to become the artists and teachers of tomorrow. And those are valuable people.

Category:Education, Productivity | Comment (0)

Science Offers the Proof

Sunday, 8. January 2017 23:38 | Author:

Although we seem to be living in a post-factual, science-denying society, I still have a tendency to put faith in scientific findings. And one of the things that science has found is that art is good for us—neurologically. While there are numerous studies that tell us how we benefit our brains if we make art (for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here), what is more interesting—to me at least—is how art impacts the mental health of audience members.

My interest in this topic began with a Salon article on “Why Abstract Art Makes Our Brains Hurt so Good.” The article, written by art critic Noah Charney, describes the work of Nobel-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel, which says essentially that abstract art forces the viewer to engage in bottom up thinking. This is thinking that “includes mental processes that are ingrained over centuries: unconsciously making sense of phenomena.” Bottom up thinking stands opposed to “top-down” thinking which is based on personal experience and knowledge; such thinking is used “to interpret formal, symbol, or story-rich art.” Thus “looking at formal art is actually a form of passive narrative reading;” abstract art, however, “strips away the narrative, the real-life, expected visuals [and] requires active problem-solving….It makes our brains work in a different, harder way at a subconscious level.” Charney concludes his article by stating, “Abstract art is where we began, and where we have returned. It makes our brains hurt, but in all the right ways, for abstract art forces us to see, and think, differently.”

But it’s not just abstract art.

One British study concentrated on “beautiful paintings” and found that simply viewing images of beautiful paintings increased blood-flow in the brain “just as it increases when you look at somebody you love.” The study concluded that there is now proof that “beautiful paintings make us feel much better.”

Study after study has found that the benefits of experiencing art include decreased stress levels and “a significant improvement is psychological resilience.” One study concluded that “The brain hardwired to process art” and generates pleasurable emotions while doing it.

Kevin Loria writing for Business Insider looked at a number of studies on the impact of viewing art. They found that:

  • “Viewing paintings triggered responses in brain regions associated with visual understanding and object recognition, as might be expected, but viewing artwork also was connected to activity associated with emotions, inner thoughts, and learning.”
  • There was an increase in critical thinking and social tolerance after visiting an art museum.
  • Arts programs may help older adults stave off cognitive decline. Viewing art can “relieve mental fatigue and restore the ability to focus.”

Some studies have evaluated brain response not only to visual, but to auditory arts as well and found that the benefits, though slightly different, were still there. “When you’re doing [either experiencing or making] art, you brain is running full speed.” Other studies have shown that any art is of benefit in making the brain healthier. For example, there is new research that makes “a strong case that engagement with music, dance and other arts may be just as powerful [as exercise and taking on new challenges] for preserving mental health and acuity throughout our lives.”

And studies are ongoing. New technologies are being developed to measure exactly how and how much benefit we receive from engagement with the arts.

The conclusion is that what we as artist do is important, not only because it allow us to say what needs to be said, but because the artifacts and performances we produce have a positive neurological impact on the brains of our audiences. Studies are just beginning to measure the degree of this impact. We do important work; science offers the proof.

Category:Audience | Comment (0)

TIL

Monday, 12. December 2016 0:25 | Author:

Any day that you learn something is a good day; any day that you learn multiple things is an amazing day. I had one of those recently.  The day was to be the opening of a show I had directed; I was planning a personal project that was giving me problems; and there was heavy rain in Houston area. As the day progressed, I learned not one, but five important things. Maybe learned is the wrong word; some of these things I already knew, at least theoretically, but having them so strongly reinforced was like learning them all over again.

  1. Trust your subconscious. The first lesson of the day had to do with that personal project and occurred while I was in the shower. The solution of one of the problems that I had been beating my head against for a week suddenly appeared—not tentatively, but full-blown and complete. I can only assume that since I had all the associated facts in my head but could not consciously find a solution, my subconscious took over and worked on it while I slept. I don’t know that this is the ideal way to solve all problems, but letting the brain do its thing is highly recommended.
  2. Worry is pointless. About 2:30 pm, one of the lead actors in the show texted to say that he was flooded in and might not be able to get to the theatre that evening; he would try, but his appearance was far from certain. I texted the stage manager and told her to alert the understudy, who, I was sure, was underprepared. That she could not find him was cause for concern. I suggested she try his girlfriend, and there he was. At this point I realized that I had done all I could do. The actor would appear or not, and the understudy would go on or not. There was literally nothing I could do at this point to impact the outcome of the evening. So instead of fretting, which would have been my usual path, I asked everyone to keep me posted via text and took a much-needed nap; it was a far better choice.
  3. Trust your staff. Knowing that the understudy was probably underprepared, the stage manager called him early and had him come in to freshen up blocking and lines and to familiarize himself with the show props he had never touched. Evidently, she did this quite methodically, knowing that it would help not only his preparedness but his state of mind. By the time the actor appeared, the understudy was a prepared as he could be, because the stage manager had indeed managed the situation.
  4. Truth can be found in unexpected places. You may have had the experience of reading or (if, like me you are an audio book fan) listening to a book, and having truth jump out at you. It may have been something you thought and the author put into words for you, or it may have been an observation about people or life that struck you as terribly insightful. (Sometimes, such statements impact me so much they appear in my blog posts.) Those moments are to me like finding jewels in the gravel. This happened on the same day. The book was The City of Mirrors (Book 3 of the Passage Trilogy) by Justin Cronin. Cronin had put some observations about people that struck me as remarkably insightful into the minds and mouths of his characters. It was like getting an unexpected present.
  5. Project completion is a joy in and of itself, and worth celebrating. I went to the theatre for opening night. My part in the production was complete; the show was now in the hands of the stage manager and the actors. That, for me, is always a bitter-sweet experience. The joy comes from having experienced the process and from knowing that completion of one project always opens the way to the next project.

Try as we might, it’s not every day that we get to learn something, and in my experience, any day that brings multiple learnings is worth celebrating, or at least remarking upon. So I did. Hopefully, the things I learned last Saturday will resonate with you as well.

Category:Education | Comment (0)

Politics and Art

Sunday, 27. November 2016 23:49 | Author:

The Sunday after the US election, I got a text asking whether Unnatural Light would be commenting on the election. I replied, “No, at least not this week.” I had thought to wait until the election was really over (when the Electoral College votes on December 19 or the counting the electoral votes on January 6). But as the days passed and more and more things happened, the more I felt compelled to at least say something about my thoughts and feelings.

The arts community seems to be primarily liberal, or “progressive” if you prefer. I am no different. The election and its immediate aftermath are, in my opinion, horrific. As Austin Kleon put it, “It’s been a rotten week.” This is not because the “other side” won. I have lived through many non-progressive administrations. What has been most disturbing about this election has been the potential regression and repression. There seems to be unceasing talk of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny, as well as suppression of criticism. Equally disturbing are the members of a variety of minorities who have, in the last week, talked to me about acquiring defensive weapons because suddenly they no longer feel safe in the America-we-are-becoming.

That said, there are those in the arts community who are political conservatives. Indeed, there are some who are supporters of the President-elect. I have no real explanation for this other than that art and politics are not necessarily aligned.

Most artists have some opinion of what art is and how it should respond to the politics and culture of the time. The President-elect feels that a plea from the Broadway stage for inclusion is harassment and requires an apology, that the theatre should be “a safe and special place“. Others feel that Edward Albee’s assessment of theatre is the correct one: “Well, I think if you don’t offend some people, you’re probably failing in some way.” “A playwright has a responsibility in his society not to aid it, or comfort it, but to comment and criticize it.” “All plays, if they’re any good, are constructed as correctives. That’s the job of the writer. Holding that mirror up to people. We’re not merely decorative, pleasant and safe.Patsy Rodenburg thinks that the power of theatre in general and actors specifically lies in the ability to tell the truth to people who may not want to hear it. She explains in a must-see TED Talk video.

There have been several posts on the internet purporting to advise artists on the appropriate response to the newly-elected administration. There have been calls to give the incoming administration a chance, to work with the incoming administration, to oppose the incoming administration at all opportunities. And, of course, there have been innumerable articles on how artists are responding (here and here, for example).

Personally, I am not convinced that there is a “correct” response for artists. In a 2011 post, I defended artists who chose not to create political art. This is because, at the bottom of it, I believe that art is individual and that each artist speaks with his/her own voice and concerns him/herself with those subjects that are important to him/her. From time to time, I have made political art, but it does not make up the bulk of my body of work by any means; I only do such work when I feel very strongly about a political topic and when making that art coincides with my current artistic interests and goals.

So, no, I do not think that proper artistic response to the recent election is that artist make anti-administration art. What I do think is that each artist should follow his/her artistic instincts. Each artist should speak to his/her audience in whatever way is appropriate to that particular person. I agree with Rodenburg; art is powerful. So my wish is that each artist use that power and present the truth as he/she sees it. My belief is that that is one of the only requisites in art: whatever our topics, no matter who it offends, we must present truth to our audiences.

Category:Communication, Creativity | Comment (0)

What about the Un-Obsessed?

Monday, 14. November 2016 1:30 | Author:

There have been a lot of posts about artists and obsession and the integral connection between the two.  But what of those who are not really obsessed in a single direction? They are not driven to engage in a specific art, i.e. to paint or act or write, but they are driven to make art or some kind. These are those who recognize that they “can’t not art.” What are they to do and how are they to do it? Or how about those who decide that multiple personal revenue streams make sense (as a number of contemporary financial advisors suggest).

We are not set up for polymaths.

Some of those who “can’t not art” have a vague notion of what art they want to work in. They may want to do two-dimensional art or they may want to work in music or they may want to do theatre. What they don’t know is which specific area or specialization of the overall field they want to work in.

We are not set up for undecides.

By we, I mean arts training programs.

Collegiate systems and, to a lesser degree, private training programs are all set up to train students in a single area. With few exceptions these programs expect students to come in with a specialization in mind so they can be slotted into the exact program that trains the student in that specialty. In a few programs there is concern that students be exposed to all specialties within an art, but, for the most part, programs are supporting a very specific type vocational training or area of concentration.  The only concession to a truly educated student population is the forced core curriculum. But even that does not foster a real well-rounded education, and there certainly is no exposure to all the sub-disciplines within an art.

This approach coupled with mandated hour requirements for a degree restricts students’ exploration. For public institutions, the state legislature determines that only n credit hours and not more can be counted toward a degree, and those hours and their relation to the degree plan are subject to local, state, and federal scrutiny for financial aid purposes. So the student is not allowed to explore a multiplicity of areas.

How is the student supposed to find the right path when the system requires that he/she establish an educational path to a career when he/she is eighteen years old? And how many eighteen-year-old know what they really want to do for a career, particularly when the choices are restricted?

So the polymaths and undecideds are just screwed…

Unless they can find a program that requires that they learn all areas of an art. In such programs students can experience a number of sub-disciplines and then make a far more intelligent decisions about which of those sub-disciplines is the best fit for them. Some even choose multiple areas to generate multiple revenue streams. There are a number of actors, for example, who support themselves when they are not in a show by doing technical theatre or management work.

But such programs are in the minority.

So the polymaths and the undecideds have to do it themselves. They can take courses outside their degree plans or online or in non-credit programs to obtain background. But the best way to learn is to actually work in the field; the explorer can get an internship (paid is better) and find out if a particular area fits. A young person I know who “can’t not art” is going to do exactly that. She told me that she was going to take the time to “dip [her] toes into several ponds” before she made a final decision. A wise approach, I think.

 

Category:Education | Comment (0)

A Question of Ethics

Monday, 31. October 2016 0:48 | Author:

The question of ethics is not one that comes up very often in arts education except as regards plagiarism. However, there is the occasional consideration. A friend of mine who teaches visual and plastic arts sent me this problem recently. Although the case he presents here is hypothetical, I think he may have encountered a similar real-life situation:

A student in some one of the arts comes to his/her instructor with a project idea that is not only contrary to the instructor’s beliefs but would probably be offensive to a majority of society (hate speech, fringe group propaganda, pornography, advocating violence for some reason, advocating cultural or racial paranoia,). Which is the appropriate path for the instructor?

  1. A. Help the student incorporate the message into his/her art because art is about communication and the teacher’s job is to guide the student in achieving the student’s goal.
  2. Let the student know that what he/she is doing is inappropriate and a probable detriment to society, and counsel the student that art should be for the betterment of society.
  3. Considering the greater good for the community, discourage the student from completing the project, at least with its present direction.
  4. Some combination of A, B, and C
  5. Some other answer

Anyone thinking about the problem for more than a moment will realize that the choices are not all that simple. For example, if one were to choose 1, would the instructor then be an accessory to the production of questionable art, to the production of hate speech, porn, advocating violence or paranoia? Without instruction, the piece would probably be less effective and thus damage society less. Or is the instructor completely without responsibility in this situation?

In considering answer 2, one must ask oneself whether art really should be for the betterment of society. While that is the goal of a lot of art, I don’t know that it should be the goal of all art. Actually, I would be very hesitant to assign any one single goal to art. People make art for all sorts of reasons; some of them are political, and some, decidedly, are not.

The problem with 3 is that to advocate for the greater good, one would must know what the greater good is. And who is to say that the instructor’s view of the greater good is accurate? To the best of my knowledge, teaching in the arts does not entail any special insight into the needs of society, whether those needs be sociological, cultural, or political.

While not mutually exclusive, 1-3 are designed to be not easy to combine so 4 is difficult at best and adds unneeded complexity at worst.

My answer (5) combines 1 with a part of 2. The instructor’s job is, I believe, not to censor the student, but rather is to guide the student in developing the skills with to achieve his/her goal. However, that guidance must be more comprehensive than just advice on technique and methodology. Part of that guidance must be advising the student when he/she is doing something that is in bad taste and that might be a detriment to society. The student should understand what the impact of his/her work is likely to be and understand what reactions the work might receive.

What was your answer?

Category:Education | Comment (0)

The Thing About Fantasy

Monday, 17. October 2016 0:43 | Author:

Not long ago a tape was released wherein US Presidential candidate Donald Trump detailed the behavior toward women a man can exhibit if he is a celebrity. The backlash was quick and furious. The protest was not, as one popular meme suggests about “naughty words;” it was about the idea that a man does not need to seek consent from women for sexual engagement. One of the defenses of Trump’s words compared those words to the series of erotic romance novels that began with Fifty Shades of Grey.

Critics were quick to point out the false equivalency between Trump’s words and ideas and Fifty Shades of Grey. Trump’s words indicate a willingness to assault real women, with absolutely no concern for consent, whereas Fifty Shades of Grey is a work of fiction. It matters not a whit that an erotic fiction displays no concerns for consent; it’s fiction. And likely, it’s fantasy since all that is required to fall into the category of fantasy is to be “an illusion or a visionary idea.” There don’t have to be dragons, or giants, or magic rings; there just have to be fanciful ideas.

Fantasy is necessary, not only to those works what do have dragons and giants and magic rings, but to all art. The ideas and concepts that do not derive directly from reality, must come from the imagination. Even those stories taken from real life must be given imaginative treatment if they are to become art and not mere reportage.  Those who create are well aware that they are incorporating fantasy into their work. Their work would be lacking without it. So too, the consumers of that art understand that it is, at least in part, fantasy.

In fact, most humans above the age of 4 are really quite adept at discerning the difference between fantasy and reality, even though they may spend hours engaging in fantasy. It’s when that ability to differentiate breaks down that trouble ensues. People try to pattern their sex lives on internet porn. Television fans send messages to series characters warning them about other characters. Readers allow ideas and events in novels to infect their belief systems as though they were true.

Fortunately, such instances are rare. While a number of people play first-person shooter video games, most of those people own no real weapons and would not even consider stepping onto a real battlefield, no matter how heavily armed. Likewise some people enjoy erotic fiction, fully understanding that if the actions described in the fiction were to happen to them in real life, they would be afraid, appalled, and probably disgusted. People rabidly follow the Star Wars stories, knowing all the while that the Rebel Alliance is not a real organization they could join to fight the Empire. They may dress up and go to Comic Con, but they are aware that they are fans, not soldiers.

The thing about fantasy is that it’s fantasy; it is fictional. It is intended to entertain, to engage the imagination of the consumer, to transport that consumer into a world where pain and consequences are just as fictional as the situations, and the consumer suffers not at all. This stands decidedly in opposition to the real world where there are very real consequences to every action and where people are constantly hurt.

But time spent in a fantasy universe, whether it be a book or a film or a painting or a photograph or a play can be fun. It can be entertaining. It can be educational. It can enhance and enrich our daily lives. But, unless we experience a mental slippage, we always know and appreciate the differences between fantasy and reality.

 

Category:Uncategorized | Comment (0)

When You Think It’s a Failure But It Isn’t

Monday, 3. October 2016 2:40 | Author:

Recently I have written a couple of posts about artistic failure, and here’s another one—but from a completely point of view. What occasioned those posts was a photo shoot that had virtually no yield in terms of useable pictures, at least immediately. So I thought the grown-up thing to do was write it off and move on.

Normally, this is no too difficult for me. Not every projects succeeds. I try to learn and go on to the next project. At least this is what I usually do. Something about this shoot, however, would not let go. So I decided to listen to the project or my inner voice or whatever was telling me not to leave it alone just yet and reconsider.

So I made a list of what I considered to be salvageable images. (Some say my standards are unreasonably high and that was the problem in the first place. I disagree.) I found about 20 that I thought might have potential, all very different from each other.  For a while, all I did was study them, trying to see how acceptable images could be made from them. Then I set out to repair. A Photoshop™ tweak here, an adjustment there, a re-crop to modify composition and acceptable images began to emerge.  At the same time, I edited the list.

Of the images that I originally identified, a dozen proved, with work, to be acceptable. A little more than half of those are actually worth showing.

The experience made me want to reexamine images from other shoots that failed for one reason or another. So I took a look at some of them. Some were just as bad as I remembered; others, however, caused a little tingle of “maybe…” Perhaps the time that I have spent away from those projects has allowed me to have a different perspective.

And all of that has caused me to reevaluate my thoughts on the nature of artistic failure—what it means and when to make the call. Maybe a project is never a failure—we always learn something. Maybe we shouldn’t label it a failure until we completely abandon it. Maybe the difference between a successful project and one that is not successful is simply a matter of perspective and viewpoint.

Because of all those maybes, I have learned that it is probably a mistake to declare a project a failure until every little piece has been examined, every possibility explored. The project may represent an unexpected kind of success and not be a failure at all.

Category:Creativity, Photography | Comment (0)

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