DISCIPLINED EYE, WILD MIND: CRE­ATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY

Adrian Hatwell talks to three award-win­ning cre­ative pho­tog­ra­phers — Kelvin Gil­bert, Cather­ine Cat­tanach, and Janyne Fletcher — about mas­ter­ing the art of cre­ativ­ity

New Zealand D-Photo - - CONTENTS -

Adrian Hatwell talks to three award-win­ning cre­ative pho­tog­ra­phers — Kevin Gil­bert, Cather­ine Cat­tanach, and Janyne Fletcher — about mas­ter­ing the art of cre­ativ­ity

It is one of hu­man­ity’s most val­ued at­tributes, though per­plex­ingly trou­ble­some to pin down — cre­ativ­ity. A way of think­ing, a kind of en­ergy, an ex­pres­sion of pas­sion. For many an artis­tic soul, cre­ativ­ity is the stuff of a life well-lived. But ex­actly what it is, how it can be rec­og­nized, and whether or not it can be learned are ques­tions with­out easy an­swers. Luck­ily, when it comes to bring­ing cre­ativ­ity to bear in the pho­to­graphic process, we have three of the coun­try’s lead­ing cre­ative shoot­ers will­ing to help us wres­tle with th­ese im­por­tant, if elu­sive, con­cepts.

Re­sist­ing def­i­ni­tion

Try­ing to put a def­i­ni­tion to cre­ativ­ity is some­thing of a self-de­feat­ing ex­er­cise, but most peo­ple will have an in­nate feel­ing for it. It may not be an easy thing to put into words, but ask­ing those who ped­dle in it pro­fes­sion­ally to give it a stab can be il­lu­mi­nat­ing.

For com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­pher Kelvin Gil­bert, cre­ativ­ity is a mat­ter of con­stantly chal­leng­ing him­self to push against tech­ni­cal bound­aries, while giv­ing him­self the free­dom to pur­sue the things he is pas­sion­ate and in­spired by.

“It’s more than just sim­ply tak­ing a photo, it’s about see­ing the world in a dif­fer­ent light and know­ing how you want to show it to the viewer,” Gil­bert ex­plains. “Whether it be a sin­gle in-cam­era image that has been planned out and shot in a way that makes it unique, or a mul­ti­ple-image com­pos­ite that takes many hours of pro­cess­ing to com­plete to show your own view of the world.”

Of­ten, the idea of cre­at­ing some­thing orig­i­nal, shoot­ing some­thing in a way that has never been seen be­fore, is con­flated with the no­tion of cre­ativ­ity. But pho­tog­ra­pher Cather­ine Cat­tanach has learned to push past this lim­it­ing no­tion of cre­ativ­ity, af­ter the quest to make some­thing 100 per cent orig­i­nal be­came paralysing.

“Now I’m a bit eas­ier on my­self, and I think cre­ativ­ity sim­ply means mov­ing be­yond the ob­vi­ous, and al­low­ing your­self to have a play,” Cat­tanach elab­o­rates. “It means ac­cu­mu­lat­ing a whole heap of in­spir­ing things that speak to your soul, whether those be pho­to­graphs or pho­to­graphic tech­niques, paint­ings, mu­sic, films, or as­pects of na­ture, and then let­ting your brain remix those in­flu­ences to come up with some­thing au­then­tic.”

Pho­tog­ra­pher Janyne Fletcher finds it help­ful to not be overly pre­cious about what is or is not con­sid­ered ‘cre­ative’, and in­stead fo­cuses on in­vest­ing a sense of her­self into her work. Of­ten times she finds cre­ative work will pro­voke some­thing more in the viewer, be­yond what is on the sur­face, but she warns against us­ing that as a yard­stick for cre­ativ­ity.

“There’s noth­ing wrong with some­thing that just has re­ally strong graph­ics, where there’s noth­ing more to it than be­ing a very strong vis­ual,” Fletcher says. “It’s not telling a mas­sive long story or any­thing like that. I’ve done plenty of those, I un­der­stand it can be — for want of a bet­ter word — dec­o­ra­tive.”

Find­ing in­spi­ra­tion

In­spi­ra­tion is im­por­tant, but it amounts to noth­ing if not put into prac­tice. By the same to­ken, prac­tice with­out in­spi­ra­tion can lead to a rut — shoot­ing sim­i­lar sub­jects in fa­mil­iar styles with pre­dictable re­sults. Cre­ativ­ity re­quires time and ex­pe­ri­ence, both with and with­out a cam­era, to flour­ish.

Busy pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers can of­ten find it dif­fi­cult to make time to shoot work that isn’t nec­es­sar­ily pay­ing the bills, but Cat­tanach says mak­ing the ef­fort is an es­sen­tial part of keep­ing her cre­ativ­ity ablaze.

“Ev­ery time I make the time to do a shoot just for me, I get so fired up and I have a bril­liant time. It feeds my cre­ative soul, and I think, this is awe­some — I should do more of this”

But it is not nec­es­sar­ily the times when she is com­pletely free to do her own thing that im­part the best re­sults. A few lim­i­ta­tions or chal­lenges can pro­voke the cre­ative brain into ex­plor­ing fresh ter­rain or dis­cov­er­ing a new an­gle.

“Prob­lem-solv­ing also of­ten leads me into cre­ativ­ity, there’s noth­ing like few lim­i­ta­tions and con­straints to make you re­ally fo­cus,” Cat­tanach says.

In the age of dig­i­tal photography, the abil­ity to per­form dig­i­tal post-pro­duc­tion has made a huge im­pact on the cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ties in photography. While some tra­di­tion­al­ists lament the in­tru­sion of dig­i­tal edit­ing on the craft, other artists have fully em­braced the new cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ties af­forded through tech­nol­ogy. Gil­bert is one such dig­i­tal ad­her­ent, fre­quently cre­at­ing be­guil­ing im­agery that would be im­pos­si­ble with just a cam­era alone.

“There are no longer any lim­its or bound­aries thanks to dig­i­tal post-pro­duc­tion, it’s like they say: the only lim­i­ta­tion is your own imag­i­na­tion,” he ex­plains. “Dig­i­tal edit­ing gives you the abil­ity to en­hance or even cre­ate moods and emo­tions, vi­tal to to­day’s cre­ative photography.”

For those about to be­gin ex­plor­ing dig­i­tal edit­ing, he rec­om­mends start­ing with Adobe Pho­to­shop and com­ing to grips with high-fre­quency sep­a­ra­tion, colour grad­ing, non-de­struc­tive edit­ing work­flow, clear-cut­ting, and com­posit­ing tech­niques.

Fletcher is also an ad­vo­cate for the cre­ative power of dig­i­tal edit­ing — she thinks she might ac­tu­ally be a frus­trated painter, the way she en­joys play­ing with her im­ages in Pho­to­shop. With­out any spe­cific work­flow, she will be­gin with an idea in mind and ex­per­i­ment in post-pro­duc­tion un­til she has achieved it. Or cre­ated a dis­as­ter.

“Don’t be afraid of mak­ing mis­takes and re­ally tak­ing it to the limit, hav­ing a few com­plete stuff-ups,” Fletcher says. “Be­cause that’s how you learn how to push those bound­aries.”

In fact, hav­ing the courage to fail is a theme echoed by all three pho­tog­ra­phers when it comes to be­ing cre­ative. Seek­ing out con­struc­tive feed­back, specif­i­cally from peo­ple you re­spect and trust, can be in­valu­able in artis­tic de­velop­ment, but cre­ativ­ity is ul­ti­mately an ex­pres­sion of self. Or, as Cat­tanach puts it: “Give your­self li­cence to ex­per­i­ment, and stand by your con­vic­tions — if a pho­to­graph is work­ing for you, it’s a suc­cess.”

Janyne Fletcher

Based in Cen­tral Otago, Janyne Fletcher has been a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher for over a decade. Her cre­ative photography has won awards with both the New Zealand and Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Pro­fes­sional Pho­tog­ra­phers. janyne­fletcher.co.nz

Kelvin Gil­bert

Kelvin Gil­bert runs his com­mer­cial photography busi­ness, Novo Imag­ing, from Palmer­ston North. His cre­ative and com­mer­cial work has won ac­co­lades, both lo­cally and abroad, in­clud­ing a list­ing in the Lürzer’s Ar­chive of the best dig­i­tal artists world­wide. novoimag­ing.co.nz

Cather­ine Cat­tanach

Cather­ine Cat­tanach is a Welling­ton-based por­trait pho­tog­ra­pher. Her award-win­ning cre­ative work has earned her the ti­tle of Cre­ative Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year in the 2016 New Zealand In­sti­tute of Pro­fes­sional Photography’s Iris Awards. cather­inecat­tanach.com

KELVIN GIL­BERT

CATHER­INE CAT­TANACH

JANYNE FLETCHER

JANYNE FLETCHER

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