I’m coffee shop dwelling, whilst I write this post.. I took a little hiatus with Creative Conversations, which was due, in part, to having a few big photoshoots just before and just after Christmas.
Incase this is your first time coming across my personal project, Creative Conversations is a series in which I sit down with people to discuss their ideas and perceptions of creativity, what it means to be creative and how and whether they pursue that in their lives. You can read previous posts here.
One of the things I was really keen to explore during this series, was why people don’t feel they are creative and where that comes from. When I was in High School it was suggested that if you were creative you weren’t intellectual or academic. I find that mad, I believe some of the most intellectual people - scientists, researchers - have to be creative in their jobs. Yet, you wouldn’t normally associate creativity with a scientist, or even a mathematician. But I also wonder if there is a fear that comes being seen as a creative person that you won’t be taken seriously in academia, or the professional world. These were all sorts of questions that arose after my conversation with Anna.
Anna is originally from Moscow, Russia and is in Edinburgh studying for her Masters; “It was a toss up between London and Edinburgh. I always thought I’d go to London, but it was too similar to Moscow, and so many people romanticised Edinburgh” She is specialising in cultural projects and looking at Art as business.
“I haven’t ever really thought about creativity before Talking Heads, I took it for granted growing up. The thing is, most of my life I lived with my parents, who in their day-to-day lives aren't creative in any way. My Dad loves taking photos, but that's a hobby he doesn't get to indulge in often - usually only while travelling abroad once or twice a year. So you could say that my 'immediate' household wasn't too creative - my rationality (and love for all things well-structured) comes from my Mum, who is a Mathemtician, and that has been a dominant trait for me since I was a child. Having said that, I have always spent a lot of time with my grandparents - especially during the school holidays, and that was where the creative source knew no end. Granddad invented all sorts of games, quests, riddles and codes I had to solve, and I revelled in it! He still writes poetry, and therefore I owe a huge part of what I am today to this side of my upbringing. So yeah - I guess it's just my hang-up of sorts: 'my household' is not something I would define as creative per se, but some of the most important people in my life definitely are in one way or another and I was brought up creatively to a certain extent”
I found it really interesting when Anna mentioned her ‘hang-ups’, and something which she isn’t alone in, I feel there are a lot of people who might view creativity as a lesser skill and something that isn’t as highly regarded as being intellectual.
Anna attended a High school that specialised in the arts, and her best friend went on to become a designer. In fact most of her friends from school were artistic “I appreciate art because of them. I like how creative people see the world in different ways”. Anna’s father was a hobbyist photographer in the 90s so she grew up in a household with a lot of cameras, which inspired her to take her own photos; her favourite past time is to walk around Edinburgh taking photos of the architecture, nature; “I love the Spring time, and the sea". As we are chatting it starts to feel clear to me that Anna lives quite a creative life, although it’s becoming apparent she doesn’t seem to feel that way.
“To be creative you have to be competitive, and I feel too conservative” That point stuck in my head for days after our interview, I agree with Anna’s point…to an extent. I feel if you want to be a commercial artist or pursue a creative career with your work in the public domain then yes, you have to work particularly hard to make it happen. I also feel that Instagram, and social media as a whole, has a huge hand in people’s perceptions of what is ‘acceptable’ creativity and that putting your creative work out into the world to see does make you feel very vulnerable. However, I also believe that you don’t have to be publicly creative to be creative, there are still plenty of people living creative lives that aren’t on Instagram. There is so much that we do everyday that is creative; taking a different route to work, cooking meals and problem solving are all incredibly creative.
When we were discussing this point it really made me think about the blurry lines that surround being creative and being artistic. And maybe because they are so close there is often a lot of confusion. I believe that some people are artistic, which involves being creative. But you can also be creative; lead a creative lifestyle, without being artistic. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.
“I like the distinction you point out - the creative vs the artistic, I also feel that I understand creativity (like most things, to be honest) very literally - therefore for me being creative is to create, to produce something new, daring, be vulnerable and brave enough to show it for what it is - your creation.
Of course, given that logic, you could argue that me writing cute poems in greetings cards or taking beautiful pictures (if I do say so myself) IS actually creating new things and therefore being creative. However, my poetry rarely comes from the heart or inspiration - I can basically produce these sorts of rhymes at will, so it's not like Shakespeare or Pushkin there in my verses. And as for the photos - I in all honesty don't see what I do as creating something - more like, I pride myself on being able to SEE the beauty in the lights and shadows and forms and patterns and nature, etc. As you would know, photography is a pretty technical skill/art, and a lot of aesthetic appeal comes from proportions, parallels, perspective, etc. And therefore my view of photography (at least in my case, where the object is not a human being) is quite rationalised like that: I just have an eye for a shot and am somewhat able to capture it. And while I do share my photos on Facebook/Instagram/Flickr/elsewhere, I see it as sharing my view of the world... and I seriously struggle to identify this with being creative (again, in my very narrow understanding).”
The above part of our conversation was an edit that Anna sent to me, we had our conversation a couple of months ago and I wanted to follow up before posting. The reason I love talking about and exploring creativity and being creative is because I am fasciated by other people’s opinions on the topic, and also to see where the conversation will take us. I read Anna’s above statement a few times whilst my head took a moment to process. Ultimately I’ll leave you all to make up your minds regarding Anna’s statement, some of you I’m sure will agree and some of you won’t. Her point on photography is an interesting one and a whole conversation in itself because photography can be very technical. You need to know how light works in order to correctly light a subject, you need to know how your gear works from the ISO to the shutter speed and understand composition. But then comes all the rules that you learn to break, how the shadows play with the light, knowing and having a vision in mind for your brief. Again it’s a differing of opinion, and I wouldn’t necessarily class myself as a technical photographer when I know others who geek out about that sort of stuff. But that’s what’s interesting - to me - about opinion, is it only broadens your mind set and understanding of what other people think, feel and believe.
This was such a fascinating conversation, and I still find it thought provoking that Anna doesn’t view herself as a creative person and I wonder why, because to me she sounds incredibly creative. Below, Anna sent me another edit to our conversation that I thought I’d add in…
“One final remark - and a newly added thought on creativity.
Ever since you and I met for our chat, I've had quite a few group projects at uni and many of them involved presentations, pitches, strategising, etc. And I'm seriously taken aback by this, never in my life had I thought of myself as being a 'visual' person! I mean, of course I've only ever taken notes by hand, I love my colour differentiation and can shop at Ryman's forever, and then there is my photography, but never until I came to Edinburgh did it all click into place! From the many teams I've had the pleasure of working with in these two semesters, so few people seem to really see how to visualise things - data, ideas, strategies - so that it conveys the message without any commentary! Whereas I quite literally can't do anything unless I have a scheme with arrows, mind maps, connections etc all coloured accordingly in front of me! More and more I catch myself struggling with an assignment or an essay that does not inspire me - see, I love doing the research, but if and only if it sparks interest in me... And while my logical side makes sure that I can persuade myself to be interested in whatever the situation requires, I need that spark all the same.
Lastly, and funnily enough, a friend shared one of those personality tests with me just before I read your email (here's the link if you're interested - it's fascinating how much research must be behind it for the results to be so accurate) - and look what it had to say... you guessed it, about my creative side!
"Insatiably curious and always up for an intellectual challenge, INTJs can see things from many perspectives. INTJs use their creativity and imagination not so much for artistry, but for planning contingencies and courses of action for all possible scenarios".