“Grey Wave” : Hiroshima, Japan, 10th December 2011
Yesterday I went out on a photo shoot for only the second time since the beginning of September.
Various things have prevented me from taking anything other than iPhone snaps, but now I’m really excited to be able to get out and about with the Nikon again.
But, I got to thinking that the idea of constraint can actually be a force for creativity rather than merely a hindrance.
Let me explain. I’m a great fan of the French writer Georges Perec, an eccentric who deliberately applied constraints to his writing. He would often set up narrow parameters, often mathematical, within which he would set his words.
The most extreme example of this is perhaps his novel ‘La Disparition‘ (1969), in which he used no words containing the letter ‘e.’ Quite a feat when you think that this letter, in French as in English, occurs with greater frequency than any other. Even more remarkable is the fact that this work was successfully translated into English (‘A Void‘) – just imagine the headaches those constraints caused the poor translator!
The effect of this lexical constraint is to force a strange mood into the story, and the result is quite startling in its originality.
Similar artificial constraints can be applied to other art forms, too.
The late British DJ John Peel was once asked why he played so much ultra-minimalist European techno on his show, to which he replied that he liked to see what people could do operating within the narrowest of parameters.
So, why not apply this principle to photography, too? Of course this has been done before, but yesterday I thought I would force myself to stick to only using a 24mm focal range and shooting in monochrome. Not too much constraint, but it’s a start. One of the the results you can see here.
You could go much further – restrict yourself by location, time of day, subject matter – the possibilities are endless.
I think this is a good way to go about taking photos in your home environment, reinventing what would otherwise be a stale exercise in overfamiliar territory.
One could even take this further and apply random elements : before you go out, simply draw up several lists, one containing six locational criteria, one with six technical factors and other six relating to subject matter. Simply roll a dice for each list, et voila, that’s your assignment for the day!
Give it a try – and let me know what happens…
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