“Everything passes through your imagination. What you produce at the end is very different from the reality you started with.”
― Brassaï, Paris by night
These past few weeks in Spain have been stormy. As well as photographing the tempestuous seas, I have been going down to the beach to see what the sea has churned up and deposited on the sand.
Big piles of bamboo have been ejected onto the coastline, along with all kinds of things that found their way into the ocean.
I have discovered some beautiful pieces of wood shaped and smoothed by the sea as well as shells, nuts, fruit pips and polished glass. We’ve been building up quite a collection – fronds from the palm trees, beautiful bits of wood, even a whole tree!
I’ve decided to start photographing my favourite things I find on the beach. Because even though these objects appear so simple – the sea, the weather, the stones, wood and trees – they are so full of the infinite complexity of nature.
“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Confucius
The photos in this post are different to what I usually post – they aren’t finished photos, or they may not even be photos that I am going to finish.
These photos are snapshots, like thoughts that I have jotted down in my notebook. I am recording observations and ideas that I may develop later, as I work on my projects of the sea and beach and nature.
These photos are all from my smartphone (and here are 19 photos to show you why your camera doesn’t matter.)
This week for your inspiration I am pulling a bunch of ideas from Pablo Picasso. Partly because he had some wicked ideas about making art – but also because I am staying very near his birthplace at the moment, Malaga. I am in the environment, the hills and sea that he was born into – and that’s a super-cool and inspiring thought for me.
Let’s get started because, as Picasso said:
“Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working.”
1. “If I paint a wild horse, you might not see the horse… but surely you will see the wildness!”
We often think, especially as photographers, that we are photographing what we see. Of course we must ‘see’; I talk about it endlessly because the ability to see and notice things in your environment is the number one thing most people are missing in their photography.
But we are also photographing something that has generated a feeling in us. Something that has probed and provoked our interest.
We see, we feel and then we create. And what you end up creating can be anything! It can look like anything, feel like anything – the photograph, your art, is yours to make your very own.
2. “The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.”
I have spent a lot of time just staring at the sea. It’s pretty hypnotic. From an outside perspective it can seem like I am not doing anything productive, that I am just looking at a pretty scene before me.
It’s all going in. Everything around us is feeding us, our ideas, our thoughts, our creativity, our photography.
As Picasso says, wherever you are you are absorbing the energy and emotions from everything around you. You might think that time can be just empty, but being peaceful and quite – really looking at things, not necessity in a super-focused way, but just allowing your attention to drift – is so utterly helpful for your creativity.
In fact, I encourage everyone to do as much of this type of ‘open awareness’ as it provide ideas for your creativity.
I read on the Siyli website about open awareness in relation to meditation (which I think also applies to photography). Open Awareness – “is your ability to maintain your presence of mind while allowing different stimuli to pass through your awareness – and it’s an incredibly useful…When you cultivate open awareness, you open the doors to tremendous insight.”
This helps pull us away from our usual barrage of thoughts (and things to do) and allows us to connect to the world around us, and get ideas from it.
I also like this from Picasso:
“A piece of space-dust falls on your head once every day… With every breath, we inhale a bit of the story of our universe, our planet’s past and future, the smells and stories of the world around us, even the seeds of life.”
So go find the stories!
I have chosen this spot on the beach which I am shooting over and over at different times of day, during different weathers. It’s a really fun project, I’ll show it to you all soon.
3. “If only we could pull out our brain and use only our eyes.”
The mind is a busy place. It always seems to have a lot to sort out, think about and organise. But the busy mind is the worst place to create art.
Learning to see is about learning to ignore that busy, analytical mind and become present, learning to observe the world around you. It’s getting in touch with the present moment.
I would also add – use your our heart, your guts, to guide you. This is where our instinct lives. It’s where we get ideas about our photography without logically knowing. Intuition is that knowingness, in a way where you are led by ideas and interests, and not by your logical, analytical mind.
It also connects with what Picasso said:
“My hand tells me what I’m thinking.”
Your eyes, your instinct, can lead you in your photography. (Your busy mind will mostly lead you astray :))
Beautiful colours of dawn
4. “To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing.”
This is the same for any creative medium. If you don’t know where to start – don’t worry! Just START! Ideas flow when you begin.
5. “The more technique you have the less you have to worry about it. The more technique there is the less there is.”
A few weeks go I wrote about how I had got some super-intense comments on an article I’d written – How to Shoot on Manual. It was very interesting to hear what you all had to say. (Btw I wrote a little follow up – a story of manual – hope you like it.)
This quote from Picasso sums up so much for me about why learning technique makes things easier when we are out creating. You become so at ease with your tools that your creativity just takes over.
Every day the sea, sky and light are different
6. “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
At the moment I like to think of not knowing how to do something as something to celebrate. It’s an opportunity to exercise my (always ageing) mind, it’s an opportunity to learn and see something in a different way.
Keep yourself young and your mind agile by learning new things!
‘He can who thinks he can, and he can’t who thinks he can’t. This is an inexorable, indisputable law.’
Totally, totally agree. I didn’t think I could be a world-travelling photographer, that seemed impossible to me. But I now am! If I can do what I thought impossible, then so can you.
7. “In art intentions are not sufficient and, as we say in Spanish, love must be proved by deeds and not by reasons. What one does is what counts and not what one had the intention of doing.”
There is never a better time to do something than – now. Picasso said so – so get started, ok?
Peace, calm, blue, light
For further reading there is a short article about Picasso on the ever-rich-with-inspiration site Brainpickings: Picasso on Intuition, How Creativity Works, and Where Ideas Come From
The article is drawn from interviews between Picasso and Brassai that became a book –
(Brassai was a very interesting photographer, famous for his photos of Paris by night – as well as the more salubrious life of the bars and streets of Paris from the 1930’s.)
So ideas a-plenty for you there. I hope it’s a little nudge to do something cool with your photography in the week ahead.
I’ll be back out at dawn tomorrow on the beach, photographing the ever-changing scene of sea and sky.
Anthony and my writer-in-residence Diana