The first photo that I was able to publish was a retro-looking orange stapler that I found in a desk that I inherited from its previous occupant. It had a lot of vintage 70’s character and looked as though it should be proudly placed on top of one of those old metal office desks that you’d expect to see in the office of a principal or factory supervisor.
Beyond that, the image didn’t hold much aesthetic value. I’ve long since deleted the image from my files and hadn’t thought of it until I recently listened to a master class by Yo Yo Ma.
You see, Ma was talking about creativity through the lens of his art, music. As a musician myself, I got his point right away. No two notes can be performed by two people the same way. And performing isn’t about perfection. It’s about emotion, creativity and communication.
As I continued to listen, I started to transpose what Ma was saying about music and applied it to photography. That’s when the image of that orange stapler came to mind. Why had I disliked it so much? It didn’t stimulate curiosity. It didn’t trigger any emotion. It wasn’t creative. It was purely utilitarian, destined to be printed in a dictionary or instruction manual, the pages to eventually be recycled or used as kindling.
I like to think I’ve grown as a photographer since that stapler. No–I’m going to say that I know I have grown as a photographer since that image was taken. Like Ma’s music, the goal of any art should be to trigger emotion. After all, the definition of art, according to the online dictionary, is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
This is what makes me confident my photos are better now than they once were. They may not be improved from a technical aspect. I still use, although a newer version, an iPhone as my primary camera. But ever since I discarded the image of the orange stapler, the sole objective of every shot is to trigger emotion, to make the viewer see something in a different way and to impart some message.
There’s even a new lexicon today referring to creativity and the arts. Producer. Influencer. And my favorite–content creator. Even young people on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok are using words like “curate” to describe the way they collect and organize photos and videos.
It’s all about emotion.
My challenge for anyone reading this is that we start the new year using emotion as the lens through which we influence, produce and create.