#919. Origami Deconstructed

By Nancee Rostad | Art & Creativity

Oct 23

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 dark
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

Jimmy Webb

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  • philberphoto says:

    “If you have lemons, don’t make lemonade, make Mojito!” I can’t decide what is best, Nancee, the images, the story, the teaching…. Thanks and kudos!

  • Sean says:

    Hi Nancee,
    Super images, and also, they’re in black and white – floats my boat! I particularly like these words of yours, and I quote “… which I circumnavigated multiple times while looking for a subject to concentrate on …”. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? It’s a common experience, I sense, that’s corralled within context specific circumstances – immediately understood and appreciated if a photographer.

    • pascaljappy says:


      And isn’t it fantastic that a creative mind will *always* find a way? Just unplug and let it do its thing.

      Great series Nancee, thank you.

    • Nancee Rostad says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Sean. Sometimes it takes a lot of “circumnavigation” before a worthy subject is found and, as you said, this is understood and appreciated by other photographers. It’s not appreciated by any non-photographers that I might be traveling with, however!

  • Steve Mallett says:

    Nancee, it was all going so well until MacArthur Park had me snorting into my coffee. Undoubtedly the worst lyric he ever wrote! Images are lovely though and I can sure identify with the process.

    • Nancee Rostad says:

      Thanks, Steve! I agree with your comment about MacArthur Park – the lyrics are ridiculous (I believe they were supposed to represent a drug “experience” – most likely LSD). When I’m shooting and find a fascinating subject, music, with or without lyrics, immediately comes to mind, which plays over and over in my head until I’m done. I’m not sure why this happens, guess it’s just part of my creative process.

  • Paul Perton says:

    Aaah Nancee, as usual, you’ve made your own kind of lemonade. I love the way the Japanese put tarps around everything – I think photographing them can be very Zen.

    • Nancee Rostad says:

      Thanks for your always encouraging and thoughtful comments, Paul. Finally finding something to shoot became a very Zen experience, for sure.

  • Michael Fleischer says:

    Hi Nancee, well done!

    A keen searching creative mind/feeling/eye will always spot an opportunity!

    A stain of “odd” helps too…;-)


    • Nancee Rostad says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Michael. It seems that I always find “odd” things more interesting to photograph, perhaps that’s saying a lot about my personality, as well. I’d much rather be thought of as odd than just normal!

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    The people I admire most are the people who don’t know the meaning of “I can’t” or “you’ll never be able to”, and do it anyway.
    I suspect your middle name is “Creativity”, Nancee! 🙂

    • Nancee Rostad says:

      Most people who know me would say that my middle name is “Stubborn”, but I’ll take “Creativity”! Thanks, Jean Pierre.

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