Archive for November, 2010

What Is Inspiration Exactly?

November 30, 2010

You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ~Jack London

Here’s my attempt to boil down what inspiration really is, how we can benefit from it in our creative work and why it shouldn’t be confused with ‘motivation’.

A definition of inspiration: Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.

A definiton of motivation: Motivation is the energizer of behavior and mother of all action.

So, there’s a striking difference between the two, motivation is the mother of all action and inspiration relates to stimulation and emotions, and I must add; it’s also related to our experiences. Simply put: What we choose to do with our inspiration depends on our amount of motivation.

This article too has its inspiration from somewhere, more precisely a statement by Chuck Close at Reader’s Digest concerning the importance of ‘work’ as opposed to the importance of ‘inspiration’. My immidiate reaction while reading it was: Why should we only limit ourselves to one of them?

The fact is that we definitely shouldn’t. If we really do want our results to look inspired, then ideally we shouldn’t

  • work without having the amount of inspiration we need for producing creative results
  • be inspired without transferring that amount of inspiration into results

Just keep in mind that we don’t need inspiration in order to perform ‘easy’ tasks which are simply systematical processes, like organize archives, do research, schedule work needed to be done, answer e-mails and so on. That’s where motivation is the only requirement.

I agreed with Close’s main idea, which was the fact that we shouldn’t sit around and wait for something to just happen out of the blue. Sure, sometimes good ideas can come while relaxing with music, viewing art at exhibitions or reading at cafés, but for something to happen we obviously need to write down or sketch the ideas before we lose them, and it’s also crucial to plan when and how we intend to put the ideas into action.

It is my humble opinion that inspiration is needed in order to create some kickass ideas. It’s not the work in itself that usually produces ideas, but the experiences we had before we digged into the work. You’ve maybe felt some sparks of the so-called ‘creative ecstasy’ from time to time, making your mind feel tickling. That’s the stimulation. If you get that feeling while working, you’re on a very good path. Just remember not to stop while you’re ‘in there’.


Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. ~Pablo Picasso

Interview with Helge Skodvin

November 23, 2010

Meet Helge Skodvin.

Skodvin is a Norwegian photographer. When searching for photographs he prefers driving around with his large format (4×5) camera available. He can enjoy driving for a whole day and only take two exposures, simply because of the beauty of the slow process and in the same way; the slowness, and the magic, of the darkroom procedures when he returns from his journeys. Among his highlights I mention the Grand Prize in the international Polaroid contest in 2003 and the exhibition at Fotografiens Hus in Oslo two years ago.

B Can you recall a specific day when you set yourself a goal to become a photographer or was it more of a slow process where you realised, bit by bit, what you wanted to do?

H It was a slow process I guess, but I recall the day when I decided to quit my day job and leave that behind. I was working as a carpenter, and on this day I was working on rebuilding a site that had been totally destroyed by fire. I almost like said to myself “no way, that´s it”. And I shut down the machines and went home. And from then it has only been photography.

B What drew you towards photography?

H The magic of the red lamp and the drakroom. The intense smell of fix. Ah, it doesent get any better than that.

B You’ve lived in Oslo, London and currently in Bergen, but in your photographs I can sense there is a focus on small communities and also a longing for deserted places, empty roads and dark landscapes. Do you think by living in big cities you are more visually drawn to smaller places?

H That´s hard to tell. I guess I just like it more. Not as a daily life, but as photographs.

B Would you say it’s more difficult to find something visually appealing in urban enviroments?

H Not at all. It´s just different settings. I have never thought about that it is a diversion between those two.

B You’ve said earlier that you’re fascinated of the transition between culture and nature. Can you explain this further?

H I really like the feeling of something man-made in nature. A road, powerlines, a roadside lamppost. Nature as pure nature I don´t find interesting in photography at all. When I go hiking og cross-skiing yes, but in images no.

B Do you think your personal work benefits from the commercial work, and in case, in which way? Does your clients often let you use your artistic freedom?

H Some clients do, but I am more than happy to photograph commercial work. It´s different pleasure. I love to work.

B What is your favourite photography book?

H “Uncommon places” by Stepen Shore.

All photographs by Helge Skodvin.

Distracting elements: Watermarks

November 11, 2010

I’m beginning to think fear is the basic root of all activity on this planet, so I guess there’s no way the world of photography could be without it either. Resulting in: Watermarks.

“But it’s a copyright statement.”
“It’s an additional marketing tool.”

Truths with slight modifications. First of all, it’s basically a protection disguised as a copyright statement. Second, your name will most likely be used in the same context as your photograph is presented in. Your name is already mentioned and visible to the viewers, shouldn’t be necessary to repeat it. Conclusion is, watermarking is about you doing everything in your power to prevent someone stealing it by adding an element that will be hard to remove… and hard to ignore.

There’s too much watermarking.

Watermarking is an extremely popular trend, both among amateurs and professionals. One of the biggest photographic co-operatives, Magnum Photos, watermarks all of the pictures on their site. And not only one watermark on each photo, no, five! But you know, they’re Magnum, they already have a huge amount of credibility, and won’t lose that credibility from those they need it from by watermarking. As all photographers know, it will never look as good on a screen as on a good quality print; I can easily read that simple message into the Magnum-watermarks. They want to protect the work they’re presenting, even though they’re doing it by adding distracting elements (as they well know), but prints and books is what it’s all about anyways.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not particularly blaming Magnum, because as we’ve seen they have their reasons and they don’t have much to lose by doing it. But I am blaming the whole society of fearful watermarkers.

What is this trend actually leading to?
Why is watermarking a problem?

It is my honest assumption that watermarks in themselves creates a common illusion that non-watermarked photographs are free for everybody to take and use. At least this counts for people who doesn’t have the general knowledge about copyrighted material. The result is that watermarked photographs seems copyrighted and non-watermarked doesn’t to the general audience who doesn’t care to do the essential research. It all actually ends up with watermarkers making the life tougher for those who aren’t watermarking.

As I’ve already hinted at, looking at a watermarked photograph is close to looking at a tagged building. It’s usually not a pretty sight. It doesn’t look clean and it certainly wasn’t the architect’s intention, because he wanted it clean. Exactly like most photographers like it. That’s why they went close and narrowed their subject down and that’s why they removed distracting elements in the first place. What a paradox then, to add a distracting element right before presenting the result to their web-audience!

Instead of helping digging the grave, here’s what you should do.

  • First of all, you should keep in mind that you own your photographs from the very split second you created them. And unless you have given or will give the copyright over to someone else, people aren’t allowed to use them for their own benefit without your agreement, no matter what.
  • Make sure simple copyright statements or name credits are included somewhere close to all of your published photographs.
  • Include copyright statement in the metadata. You probably have the option to do this in your DSLR, and software like Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Bridge comes in handy if you want to quickly add information into multiple files.
  • You could always try to hunt down potentially stolen work with TinEye.

More reading: – “Why I Don’t Use Watermarks”