Gardeners, architects, hunters and fisher(wo)men....

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Daniela

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Last night, I had the chance to attend a writer's presentation on his creative process. One thing that caught my attention when he was talking about writers' approach was this idea of gardeners/architects. He explained that some writers are like gardeners in that they start writing and see how things develop, what blooms, so to speak. Instead, the architects, collect ideas, plan ahead and create a blueprint before they begin writing. This reminded me of the street photographer equivalent: hunters or fisher(wo)men (which doesn't really make sense to me, but since I don't practice any of those two things, I'll go with it).

I was wondering if there are other ideas in regards to this, either related to photography or any idea creative process. And how would you define your approach? Does it change depending on whether you're shooting a landscape, street photography or a portrait?
 

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I tend to do better if I have some pre-formed idea of what I'm looking for, although generally not planned out to the last detail, as I think it can be useful to be flexible and willing to take a diffferent approach if a subject isn't available or the weather dictates a change etc
 

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I will sometimes notice something that would make a good subject but don’t have my camera with me. I then think about it (which format, film type, lighting, etc.) and then return to get the shot. Other times I am in the mood to shoot something but have a bit of a block and at those times I will give myself a prompt. The prompt might be a word randomly selected from a dictionary or and element of composition. For example, I might select “repetition” as a compositional element and then go out and looking for that. Another one I’ve done is to look for negative space and hunt down images that reflect that.

I work in other mediums aside from photography and I bounce between the gardener and architect approaches. My sketchbooks are loaded with pieces where I place a dot on the page, followed by another dot, then another, and keep doing that until the drawing reveals itself to me. I get that from Wassily Kandisky’s quote that “All drawing start with a dot.” Other times it might just be a line or a similar mark. However, I do start some drawings, paintings, or mosaics, with a specific plan in mind, a plan that I’ve thought quite a bit about, sometimes over years, and then it’s just a matter of execution.

I regularly attend artist presentations and it is hearing their answer to the question of where they get their ideas that most intrigues me. I have a long time friend, a writer (a dozen books and 1,000s of article) visit recently and we spent quite a bit of time on this. He works in the architect mode which, I believe, is because he writes non-fiction.

For a good book on this topic, I’d suggest “Creativity” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who is also author of “Flow.”
 
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Last night, I had the chance to attend a writer's presentation on his creative process. One thing that caught my attention when he was talking about writers' approach was this idea of gardeners/architects. He explained that some writers are like gardeners in that they start writing and see how things develop, what blooms, so to speak. Instead, the architects, collect ideas, plan ahead and create a blueprint before they begin writing. This reminded me of the street photographer equivalent: hunters or fisher(wo)men (which doesn't really make sense to me, but since I don't practice any of those two things, I'll go with it).

I was wondering if there are other ideas in regards to this, either related to photography or any idea creative process. And how would you define your approach? Does it change depending on whether you're shooting a landscape, street photography or a portrait?

Author Patterson writes dozens of pages of an outline and then fills in the story or has other writers do it for him.

When shooting, I like to walk around until something catches my eye. Of course, picking nicer spots when the light is the best is important too.
 
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Daniela

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I tend to do better if I have some pre-formed idea of what I'm looking for, although generally not planned out to the last detail, as I think it can be useful to be flexible and willing to take a diffferent approach if a subject isn't available or the weather dictates a change etc
I agree that flexibility is a great strength to have; not only because it makes the process more enjoyable, but also because unexpected things can lead us in directions we wouldn't have considered otherwise. Have you had that experience?

I do all three, sometimes in unison, sometimes in conflict. It occasionally comes together in the darkroom, usually gets messy by this stage.
I bet most of us use a mix of all of them at different times. How do things get messy in the darkroom? Where is the conflict?

I will sometimes notice something that would make a good subject but don’t have my camera with me. I then think about it (which format, film type, lighting, etc.) and then return to get the shot. Other times I am in the mood to shoot something but have a bit of a block and at those times I will give myself a prompt. The prompt might be a word randomly selected from a dictionary or and element of composition. For example, I might select “repetition” as a compositional element and then go out and looking for that. Another one I’ve done is to look for negative space and hunt down images that reflect that.

I work in other mediums aside from photography and I bounce between the gardener and architect approaches. My sketchbooks are loaded with pieces where I place a dot on the page, followed by another dot, then another, and keep doing that until the drawing reveals itself to me. I get that from Wassily Kandisky’s quote that “All drawing start with a dot.” Other times it might just be a line or a similar mark. However, I do start some drawings, paintings, or mosaics, with a specific plan in mind, a plan that I’ve thought quite a bit about, sometimes over years, and then it’s just a matter of execution.

I regularly attend artist presentations and it is hearing their answer to the question of where they get their ideas that most intrigues me. I have a long time friend, a writer (a dozen books and 1,000s of article) visit recently and we spent quite a bit of time on this. He works in the architect mode which, I believe, is because he writes non-fiction.

For a good book on this topic, I’d suggest “Creativity” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who is also author of “Flow.”
I also work with other media and enjoy using the randomness/starting-with-a-mark approach (surrealist techniques are my favorite). They're great for working through uncertainty and/or simply getting the process started. How wonderful that you have someone to discuss these things! It's fun to learn about how others approach their process and play. Thanks for the recommendation. I've read a bit about flow, but never actually read the book! Since you work with different media, do you find that your work in one influences your work in another?

When shooting, I like to walk around until something catches my eye. Of course, picking nicer spots when the light is the best is important too.

I also enjoy wandering until something catches my eye. It's such a thrill to find that little bit of beautiful light being reflected off this random thing and capturing it on film before it's gone. And in terms of the quality of light, it's one of the reasons I love fall and winter: light is softer, even at noon. Do you find that to be the case where you live? Do you have a favorite type of light?
 

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I've known a lot of writers, they all had different working methods. I was one of them for a bit, until I started hanging out with other writers! Decided I could kill myself a lot slower w/visual art. The op is a braver individual than I to sit through a writer's talk, those things are not my cup of tea. Just show me the work, and shutup about it.

Writers carry that stuff around in their heads 24/7, there is never a break. Totally different than how I work w/ photography, as when something is satisfactorily printed it's on to the next thing.

My method for any image related work is to stop thinking and pay attention to what I'm seeing. That will dictate the course of any art/photography, although truthfully, painting and drawing is much less thought based. And fast. Making a series of 10 or 20 fast drawings of something will turn your brain off effectively. I have to be in the moment.

The main thing w/ photography, unless you're a studio photographer, is to always have a camera w/ you and be ready.
 

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Last night, I had the chance to attend a writer's presentation on his creative process. One thing that caught my attention when he was talking about writers' approach was this idea of gardeners/architects. He explained that some writers are like gardeners in that they start writing and see how things develop, what blooms, so to speak. Instead, the architects, collect ideas, plan ahead and create a blueprint before they begin writing. This reminded me of the street photographer equivalent: hunters or fisher(wo)men (which doesn't really make sense to me, but since I don't practice any of those two things, I'll go with it).

Sounds like the guy needed to collect a few more ideas before he created the blueprint for his presentation.

And I am not sure I understand the comparison of street photographers and fisher(wo)men. Is it street photographers go out on the street and see what they get and fisher(wo)men go out on the water and see what they get? Sounds sort of like what Forrest Gump's momma said:

Street photography and fishing are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.
 
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MattKing

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FWIW, the non-gender specific version of fishermen seems to have evolved to "fishers" up here. Which works, even if it sounds strange.
I have friends who plan every photograph. I have friends who hate planning ahead. Thankfully, they are able to remain friends.
I do a bit of both.
 

Tom Kershaw

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I agree that flexibility is a great strength to have; not only because it makes the process more enjoyable, but also because unexpected things can lead us in directions we wouldn't have considered otherwise. Have you had that experience?
Yes, I have frequently changed direction when reconsidering approaches, for example I now take more of an interest in the built environment photographically speaking, when in the past I'd be more focused on "nature". One aspect I find helpful is to visualise myself using a particular camera for example, in order to consider what kind of images I would like to make in a particular instance, and any technical or aesthetic limitations that I might encounter, e.g I wouldn't take out my Mamiya 7ii for a session of macro or close-up work.
 
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Daniela

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I've known a lot of writers, they all had different working methods. I was one of them for a bit, until I started hanging out with other writers! Decided I could kill myself a lot slower w/visual art. The op is a braver individual than I to sit through a writer's talk, those things are not my cup of tea. Just show me the work, and shutup about it.

Writers carry that stuff around in their heads 24/7, there is never a break. Totally different than how I work w/ photography, as when something is satisfactorily printed it's on to the next thing.

My method for any image related work is to stop thinking and pay attention to what I'm seeing. That will dictate the course of any art/photography, although truthfully, painting and drawing is much less thought based. And fast. Making a series of 10 or 20 fast drawings of something will turn your brain off effectively. I have to be in the moment.

The main thing w/ photography, unless you're a studio photographer, is to always have a camera w/ you and be ready.

LOL I enjoyed it. I don't think the obsessive nature you describe is a matter of profession/activity but more of personality.

I can see what you say about different media eliciting different responses, and I think it's very interesting that you talk about drawing as being less thought-based. I guess we'd have to define which type of thinking we're talking about, because drawing involves the use of executive functioning skills, like planning, organizing, problem-solving, etc. I guess that when those things become automatic after lots of practice, one could "get lost" in the action and enjoy more its sensory aspect...
 

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FWIW, the non-gender specific version of fishermen seems to have evolved to "fishers" up here.
What? Not fisherpersons? Who's in charge of this stuff?

There used to be actors and actresses. Now actresses are called actors too. I am not sure why they decided on that. Why not call actors actresses? Probably because the actors didn't let the actresses vote.
 
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Daniela

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Sounds like the guy needed to collect a few more ideas before he created the blueprint for his presentation.

And I am not sure I understand the comparison of street photographers and fisher(wo)men. Is it street photographers go out on the street and see what they get and fisher(wo)men go out on the water and see what they get? Sounds sort of like what Forrest Gump's momma said:

Street photography and fishing are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.

😆 Let's be fair to the poor guy. An arbitrary classification like that is done to help us understand our roles a bit better not to attempt to explain a whole field or be taken as a hard truth.

So, this is my understanding of the hunters/fisher(wo)men analogy:
There are two types of street photographers: the hunters, who are chasing a photo opportunity. They are active, constantly moving, and ready to shoot. Then, there are the fisher(wo)men (I added -wo- to be inclusive), who like to find a scene they like, compose it and wait for something interesting to happen, like someone walking through, to shoot.
I have no idea of where that comes from. I found it useful because having seen street photographers' work or videos, I thought I could never do it. I'm not fast at identifying a potential photo-worthy situation and, more importantly, I don't like to be rushed. So, when I saw that composing an image and waiting was also a possibility, that gave me confidence to go out and try it. So, a simplistic way of looking at things with an arbitrary classification helped me and I'm giving it a try. That's why I find that listening to different ideas can be helpful :smile:
 
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Daniela

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FWIW, the non-gender specific version of fishermen seems to have evolved to "fishers" up here. Which works, even if it sounds strange.
I have friends who plan every photograph. I have friends who hate planning ahead. Thankfully, they are able to remain friends.
I do a bit of both.

Hehe fishers sounds funny to me even as a non-native English speaker, but it's logical.
I think most of us fall somewhere in the middle of this simplistic classification :smile:
 

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If I have a project that I am working on, I am part hunter and part architect. I know what my overall plan is, but I am hunting for scenes that fit. On the other hand, that doesn't put blinders on me and I will take a photo of just about anything that catches my eye. When I work in the studio on a still-life, it's pretty much architect, it's about design and control. Street photography is all hunting, landscape can be as well. Portraits depend on whether they are candid or more posed. I know (and have done) some photographers like to create elaborate set-ups and staging (think City Sherman, Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson), the ultimate architect in that case, but I find that genre can be too artificial and self-serving most of the time.
 

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I also work with other media and enjoy using the randomness/starting-with-a-mark approach (surrealist techniques are my favorite). They're great for working through uncertainty and/or simply getting the process started. How wonderful that you have someone to discuss these things! It's fun to learn about how others approach their process and play. Thanks for the recommendation. I've read a bit about flow, but never actually read the book! Since you work with different media, do you find that your work in one influences your work in another?

Yes, one does influence the other, sometimes very directly. Over the years I’ve made photographic prints that I was satisfied with and others that no matter how much I tried, I could not get the subject to speak to me through the print the way it did in person. What I’ve done is end up using the photograph as a reference for a drawing. I usually sit back with the finished drawing and see what the photograph was missing.

Going the other way, drawing has influenced my photography in that I have slowed WAY down and spend more time looking. One can grab a quick photo of something but in order to draw it, one really has to see it, as in spending time to take in the details. I do lots of “urban sketching” and I usually spend 2-3 hours with the subject.
 

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So, this is my understanding of the hunters/fisher(wo)men analogy:
There are two types of street photographers: the hunters, who are chasing a photo opportunity. They are active, constantly moving, and ready to shoot. Then, there are the fisher(wo)men (I added -wo- to be inclusive), who like to find a scene they like, compose it and wait for something interesting to happen, like someone walking through, to shoot.
I have no idea of where that comes from. I found it useful because having seen street photographers' work or videos, I thought I could never do it. I'm not fast at identifying a potential photo-worthy situation and, more importantly, I don't like to be rushed. So, when I saw that composing an image and waiting was also a possibility, that gave me confidence to go out and try it. So, a simplistic way of looking at things with an arbitrary classification helped me and I'm giving it a try. That's why I find that listening to different ideas can be helpful :smile:

I usually refer to the two types of photographers as hunters and gatherers. That way I don't have to deal with that fisherpersons nonesense.
 

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Daniela

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Yes, I have frequently changed direction when reconsidering approaches, for example I now take more of an interest in the built environment photographically speaking, when in the past I'd be more focused on "nature". One aspect I find helpful is to visualise myself using a particular camera for example, in order to consider what kind of images I would like to make in a particular instance, and any technical or aesthetic limitations that I might encounter, e.g I wouldn't take out my Mamiya 7ii for a session of macro or close-up work.

I like your visualization exercise! It goes beyond the "what lens do I need for this" mindset...I'd have to say that the only time I go that far is when I'm using my homemade pinhole camera, since it's so unpredictable. Thank you!
 

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FWIW, the non-gender specific version of fishermen seems to have evolved to "fishers" up here. Which works, even if it sounds strange.

Knowest thou not that "Fishers" was correct English during the Shakesperian era? Some might recall the phrase "fishers of men" from the King James Bible. I prefer some features of that olde English.
 

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I was wondering if there are other ideas in regards to this, either related to photography or any idea creative process.

Not photography-related, but when it came to writing, I always told my students that I saw two archetypical (academic) writers: Mozart and Beethoven. I think I got the idea somewhere else, but admit I forgot where or how exactly. Must have been years ago...The Mozart type just starts writing and brilliant prose spouts forth. The Beethoven sits down and makes many drafts, rearranges everything, goes through severe depression and ultimately comes up with a monumental work (which he can't hear himself, because he's gone deaf in the process). I also explained to them that the Mozarts were kind of rare and if you don't happen to be one, all you can do is try to be a decent Beethoven.

It's an extremely tricky and unscientific taxonomy, of course, but I always found it kind of funny.
 
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Daniela

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If I have a project that I am working on, I am part hunter and part architect. I know what my overall plan is, but I am hunting for scenes that fit. On the other hand, that doesn't put blinders on me and I will take a photo of just about anything that catches my eye. When I work in the studio on a still-life, it's pretty much architect, it's about design and control. Street photography is all hunting, landscape can be as well. Portraits depend on whether they are candid or more posed. I know (and have done) some photographers like to create elaborate set-ups and staging (think City Sherman, Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson), the ultimate architect in that case, but I find that genre can be too artificial and self-serving most of the time.

So, the genre determines the approach for you. Thanks for all the architect examples. I agree with you that the genre can become artificial with time. While I don't know all of his work, I think Duane Michaels might be the one who is able to escape that trap with his humor and wit.
 
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Daniela

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Yes, one does influence the other, sometimes very directly. Over the years I’ve made photographic prints that I was satisfied with and others that no matter how much I tried, I could not get the subject to speak to me through the print the way it did in person. What I’ve done is end up using the photograph as a reference for a drawing. I usually sit back with the finished drawing and see what the photograph was missing.
That exercise sounds so good! I'll be giving it a try. Thank you!

Going the other way, drawing has influenced my photography in that I have slowed WAY down and spend more time looking. One can grab a quick photo of something but in order to draw it, one really has to see it, as in spending time to take in the details. I do lots of “urban sketching” and I usually spend 2-3 hours with the subject.
Agreed. You reminded me of an HCB quote I wrote down in an exhibition I saw a few weeks ago:
"Photography is, for me, the spontaneous impulse of a perpetual visual attention, which captures the moment and its eternity.
Drawing, through its graphology, elaborates what our consciousness has grasped at this moment.
The photo is an immediate action; drawing a meditation."
 
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