There Are Few If Any Original Ideas

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I know photographers who refuse to act on any ideas other than their own, and while I can appreciate this attitude on some fuzzy, idealistic, purist kind of level, I honestly can’t say I respect it very much. There are few if any original ideas, but there are lots of good ones. Listen to suggestions from your clients, your assistants, and yes even your subjects. You’ll be a better shooter, and I daresay, a better person for it.

via planet shapton.

There Are 21 Comments On This Article.

  1. A good point. It’s good to think originally, but also not to be a closed book to great ideas you can put your own perspective on. As Paul Rand would say – Don’t try to be original; just try to be good.

  2. That attitude seems more like a psychological condition of not working well with others rather than a creative creed. When looking through other photographers’ work from different eras, I’m always surprise to find that things I thought were new and modern had been done before many years ago. Clifford Coffin’s fashion photos in bombed out building are just one recent example (and I thought all this urban decay stuff was a modern trend!). It’s almost always the voice that’s original, not the concept.

      • I agree. Look at all the trendy photos with people in air, jumping, bouncing, taking off, etc. They go back to Phillipe Halsman or earlier.

  3. I find the best way to get to an “original idea” is to keep thinking and working. Joe totally has it right, but I think consistently making and understanding how to execute, as he said, fresh takes on old ideas will organically bring you to the ability to make an original idea. Creativity doesn’t come without rigor.

  4. You commercial people crack me up. Walker Evans never acted on anyone else’s ideas. Neither did Arbus or Frank etc. etc.

  5. It is good to see that I am not the only one who thinks creativity is not just trying to come up with what is really not a new idea but refreshed with a new perspective. Some changes work and some don’t, they only way you will find out is to put it out there and see if it sticks.

    Anon, I think there are very few things that are new and original today. There are only so many new discoveries. If you are fortunate enough to find one it is a great thing. I have thought about starting several projects only to google them and find out that they have been done. I thought I was being original. I look at it this way these days, how can put my perspective on a subject that is different from everyone else.

    • Seems to me that there is a big difference between googling a subject and finding out someone has already shot it, and shooting a subject that is not new using your own aesthetic predilections. The only way to be original (or, maybe, one of the ways to be original. ….I don’t want to get fundamental here) is to just start and follow your instincts. Of course, we all have as many bad instincts as good ones…..and therein lies the rub.

      • So true Tony, I wouldn’t disagree. I would say though that we can save time in the pursuit of an idea to see if our approach will have the effect we desire.

        • But how do you know what the effect will be without producing and showing the work?

          Perhaps your approach and ambitions are different from mine. Far be it for me to dictate anyone’s working method, but for me the idea of saving time in any pursuit is a red herring…time is really all we have. How you spend it decides a lot.

  6. Who cares really? I think another poster said it right; it’s more of a mental issue. Everyone wants to be a special snowflake, even more. Badly. But I’ve come to realize that no matter what you can’t imitate another work exactly. You more often than not will have your own little spin on it without even trying.

    I think of it more as “learning”.

  7. I think this resumes to “how you receive feedback and how to manage the good one from the bad one”. There are times when your client don’t have a clue about what “to suggest” in your work.

    Many opinions here are focused on the originality issue. I think is not about that, you can be original if you know when to get feedback and when to be selective with that feedback.

    When I think about originality I can’t avoid to think about Björk and when I visualize this very talented musician, I discover that she is “so Björk”, she gets feedback and then reprocess that feedback.

    Photography is a lot about reinterpretation of reality and by that means whatever your styles and vision tells you.

    My two cents.

  8. Live long enough, touch wide enough and you will find there is truth in the proverb, ‘There is nothing new under the sun’.

    Reality is, just because something is ‘new to you’, does not mean it’s new.

    This, however, is not cause to slam the door on creative self-expression. Go ahead. Give it spin. Who knows, you just might be one of the few – who add an interesting facet onto the original idea – that inspires others to keep the idea going.