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'I'm Not Very Creative' (Part 1)

The White Cottage, Isle of Skye Photograph by Steve GoslingWould you like to be a more creative photographer? If so, then please read on. I recently gave a couple of talks at the Wilkinsons Cameras Digital Splash event in Preston, Lancashire. At the end of one of the talks a lady came up to me asking for advice and early in the conversation she declared, 'I'm not very creative' adding that's what she wanted help with. Essentially she wanted me to give her advice on how she could become more creative in her photography. Now that's not a topic that can be addressed satisfactorily in a 5 minute conversation. And unfortunately she is not alone - her 'problem' is one I hear a lot about from people who attend my talks or come on my workshops. It's a problem that begs the question 'can we all be creative or is this a talent a few select people are born with, blessed with even?'.

My belief is that we can all be creative; that we are born creative. Children tend to see the world without constraint, without the tinted glasses of familiarity and aren't afraid to display their uniqueness. Jeff Curto in one of his 'Camera Position' podcasts ( gives an example of showing a black circle drawn on a white sheet of paper to a group of mature photographers and a group of young school children and asking 'what is this?'. The adults came up with accurate but not very imaginative responses whereas the children said things like 'it's a telegraph pole as seen by a bird' or 'it's the sun's evil twin sister'!

Why might this be the case? My theory is that education systems, years of socialisation and professional training drain the creativity out of us - unless we make a conscious effort to resist. This is a view supported by more learned people than me - Professor Ken Robinson makes a forceful case about the negative impact of formal education on creativity in his lectures (e.g. ) and in his book, 'Out of Our Minds; Learning to be Creative'. It's not uncommon for many creative people to be seen as mavericks, eccentric or even mad but perhaps they are just different because they consistently refuse to conform to what is expected of them.

Dusk Descends, Glencoe Photograph by Steve GoslingSo is it possible to regain that creative spark we had as children or once lost, does it go forever? I take a positive view of this. I believe creativity is a habit - it's a way of working, a way of thinking and a way of seeing the world. But developing our creativity requires us to take action - it requires hard work, practice and dedication. Great musicians, artists, writers, dancers and other creative people don't succeed without constant practice of their art. And photography is no different.

In my next blog post I'll talk about the strategies that I have used to develop and sustain my creativity in the hope that others might find this useful.