My Prize Winning Stupid Idea

Sep 22, 2014 / Photography / how to be creative

Recently, I won third prize at the APA Curator’s Voice Competition. The group show with images from all winning artists is up right now at the ModernBook Gallery in San Francisco until September 27. This is the last week to catch the Approaching The Unreal show. If you are in San Francisco, please stop by. 

I have been thinking that if winning this photography prize is not a validation of my mantra, Follow Stupid Ideas, I don’t know what is. 

Two images got selected out of the four that I submitted. I already talked about the first image in a previous article, and today I want to talk about the second image, This Old House. That was also a stupid idea. My inner critic was saying “no no no it’s a crazy idea, it would look stupid,” but here it is, winning a prize.

The process of creating something is always a mystery to me. There is this Resistance (a term borrowed from Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art) that will always try to talk me out of it. Sometimes this voice is so convincing that I will not try something because it has already talked me out of it.

That day, I ignored this voice and proceeded to work anyway.

I photographed doors around my neighborhood. In one of them, I had to set up my camera across the street, set up the timer, run across the street (watch out for street traffic!), and stand in front of the door. I really love that door.

I did not plan to photograph an open door. That’s another thing about my photographs. There are always things in it that I didn’t plan for. They are accidents. That’s another mantra that I work with:  be open to accidentsWhen it came time to collage, I found that using this open door extended the narrative of the image in an unexpected way, so I kept it.

The background of this image I shot with film. It was an image I shot one day while out near a golf course (another reason why I felt stupid using this background, I mean, come on, a golf course!). I accidentally bent the film when I put it in the scanner (the vertical line on the right that looks like a light beam and the crescent moon). That film crease looked like a crescent moon. I liked this accident so I kept it too. 

See all those dust particles in the film image? I kept those too. I love them. They give the image atmosphere.

I’m always open to accidents, mistakes, unintended results in my images. They fascinate me, and if I think it works in the context of that image, I keep it. Thus, the resulting image is a product of planned and unplanned maneuvers. As I mentioned in my previous article, when I start to question whether I created the image or not, then I know I’m on to something. 

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