The following is a true (if somewhat dramatized!) example of my typical creative process.
I’ll set the scene: Kyoto, Japan 2017 with a group of photographers, bucketing rain, wind blowing, a beautiful autumn garden, dripping & flowing water everywhere, 2.5 hours allotted to shoot this place, at this time.
For me, it was a nightmare of trying to hold an umbrella open against the rain & wind while attempting to find creative inspiration in this sagging, dripping, nearly drowned landscape. I spent a frustrating 30 minutes or so trying to talk myself into the proper mood. “Just take a photo!” I implored…..“I don’t see one thing that I find interesting enough to waste pixels on,” I answered…..“What time is it???” I whined….. “Another two hours to go…….#%&@.”
I finally found a dry refuge on the raised walkway of a temple, which I circumnavigated multiple times while looking for a subject to concentrate on. Trees? – no. Other temples? – no. People? – hell, no. Eventually I stopped and leaned against the building, sighing and whining softly under my breath. As I looked up, my eyes settled on a nearby group of small white tents arrayed side by side in a line. On the opposite side of the tents, vendors were selling tea, ceramics, and other trinkets to tourists. I had walked right by them without stopping on my way into the garden. But now, on the backside of these same tents I saw something that sparked my interest, that got me excited, that made me forget the pouring rain, and made me reach for my camera. It was something about the folds and creases in the draped tent material; it reminded me of something, something interesting.
Some of the tents showed signs of a table or other furniture pushing the material out from the inside. The buttoned-up closure on one tent was visible, on others various cords were trailing across the flowing fabric. I simply began to walk back and forth along the temple walkway, shooting without stopping. The only thing that had stopped was time itself; I had finally lost track of time! I had stopped thinking about how long the shoot was, how I wasn’t feeling creative or inspired, and simply kept shooting.
It was only after I returned to the hotel and started looking at the images that I realized what they reminded of – origami! Not precisely folded and shaped origami, but what you might see if you unfolded a piece back into its original form – a sheet of paper. But that sheet of paper would have remnants of the folds and creases, wouldn’t it? Also, raindrops were visible on the tent fabric, so maybe an origami form that had come undone after getting wet in the rain. That thought sparked 1968’s hit song “MacArthur Park” to start playing in my head – and the bit about “someone left the cake out in the rain” really started to resonate with me, making me laugh out loud with delight. The title for this collection of images soon became obvious: Origami: Deconstructed!
I’ll be returning to Kyoto in early December with another group of photographers where I’ll undoubtably be given way, way too much time in a garden or temple. But I’ll remember that “cake in the rain” and hope that “…I’ll never have that recipe again” doesn’t actually happen, and simply take a deep breath and trust in the gods of creativity. They have certainly served me well in the past.
MacArthur’s Park is melting in the darkJimmy Webb
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
‘Cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
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