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Thread: Competency vs. Creativity

  1. #1
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Competency vs. Creativity

    Just for the sake of a good arguement. It seems to me that there is allot of confusion about "creativity".

    To me, seeing beautiful, even great images, in a well established way in a well established genre is not creativity. It is competency. True creativity breaks norms, established traditions and ways of seeing. Adams (as much as I love him) was competent. Weston was truly creative.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    "When did photography become a desk job?" Kirk Gittings 2009

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  2. #2

    Re: Competency vs. Creativity

    I don't think so.

    I would use "innovative" to describe what you call "creative"

  3. #3

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    Re: Competency vs. Creativity

    IMHO, Weston was no more creative than Adams, using your definition. Wynn Bullock was creative, adding the dimension of time to his images and creating vast forests in microcosms. Minor White was creative, discovering cosmos on a windowpane.
    Michael W. Graves
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  4. #4

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    Re: Competency vs. Creativity

    The term creativity is over used and easily abused. It's for the most part a subjective opinion and being creative can also be used as a means to justify pretty horrible work.
    Competency is less subjective as there are more or less accepted definitions and norms, also a truly competent photographer will always come through with something at least worthwhile.

    I agree with Henry's use of "innovative" as a better description of your definition.

  5. #5

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    Re: Competency vs. Creativity

    Do you see any interdependence of the two -- innovation and competence? Innovation without competence would risk missing the point, whereas competence, in a dull sort of way, probably could plod along without being particularly innovative.

    Which do you feel is a better goal for an amateur, or does it really matter?

  6. #6
    Mike
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    Re: Competency vs. Creativity

    I agree with Kirk entirely. When creating anything, it is my own struggle to break free of convention and create. In other words, if confronted with a beautiful sunset, I'm always instinctively led to take pictures I've seen in the past, even subconsciously.

    I once took music lessons from a famous 60's musician for a year. It was one of the best experiences of my life. The first time I walked into his basement, I was shocked at the total lack of any music in his apartment. I expected there to be a huge collection of records and books etc. There was nothing. There was his instrument, a tape recorder and some sheet music. He told me he basically stopped listening to music a long time ago. He reached a point where he understood music from a very advanced but fundamental place and wanted a clear mind with which to create. It continues to give me a lot to think about. I'm convinced to this day that great artists spend the vast majority of their time creating rather than enjoying others' work.

  7. #7
    Robert M Teague
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    Re: Competency vs. Creativity

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Gittings View Post
    Just for the sake of a good arguement. It seems to me that there is allot of confusion about "creativity".

    To me, seeing beautiful, even great images, in a well established way in a well established genre is not creativity. It is competency. True creativity breaks norms, established traditions and ways of seeing. Adams (as much as I love him) was competent. Weston was truly creative.
    I don't agree with you at all. There are natural rhythms and patterns to nature, which manifest themselves in the world around us. Little things like the arrangements of petals in a flower, the patterns on a tree. The trick is trying to see them in a way which is pleasing - that is creativity. I don't see it as a matter of "competency" at all. As for Adams and Weston, I see both as creative, although I really don't care for Weston's work at all.
    Robert M. Teague
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  8. #8

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    Re: Competency vs. Creativity

    "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly."

    So what if I haven't nailed the exposure "just right" or some other skill that will come with practice if the photograph I did make has the cojones to stand out as something special? I'd rather hang that on a wall than a perfectly executed boring print. Bradford Washburn's prints were often far from perfect, but he was hanging out of an open door of a monoplane in a freezing oxygen starved enviorment when he took them and then would developed the film in a bathtub---but his subject matter would knock anyone's socks off! Consider Atget and his vignetting lens too. Marvelous! Technique means a lot---I agree---but IMHO a successful photo dosen't rely solely on technique.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.

  9. #9
    Ted Harris's Avatar
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    Re: Competency vs. Creativity

    This thread is making me smile .... way to go Kirk. While I agree with you that there are vast differences between the two, I also agree that creativity is very subjective. We can accept the norms that the art critque world or the academic aesthetic philosophers tell us we should accept .... and change as their ideas chage .... or we can go with our gut. It is the interpertations that make the world go round and round and round and round. In art, I find both the abstract expressionists and washington color painters wildly creative but there are many that would find one school or the other or both boring, sloppy, inane, etc. I also agree wtih both you and Robert .... with you that Adams is often rather pedesterian bu tperfectly done and with Robert that there are natural rythmns and pattern in nature that some do very very very well.

  10. #10
    Eric Biggerstaff
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    Re: Competency vs. Creativity

    Kirk,

    I agree with others that what you are calling creativity is, to me, innovation.

    I think competency relates to understanding how something works and being able to repeat it. In photography, that means being able to get the image you want correctly onto film and later, if you print, to creat a print from that image that works.

    I think creativity is how you CHOOSE to use or not use the toolset you have developed while becoming competent in the craft. I think creativity relates to emotion while comptency relates to mechanics. And, emotion in a photograph can be very difficult to define.

    I also think innovation comes in both new visions and in new toolsets, the Zone System was an innovation as was the acceptance of a "straight" vision in artistic photography. Both very important.

    I think both Weston and Adams were both very creative and both innovators. One perhaps was more innovative with regards to the emotional aspects of the art while the other may of been more innovative with regards to the mechanical aspects of the art, but both were creative and innovative. Adams gets a bum rap about being all mechanical and no emotion, but I tend to disagree with that. Also, Weston had to be highly competent in the mechanics of photography to make the images he did.
    Eric Biggerstaff

    www.ericbiggerstaff.com

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