Nancy Rotenberg’s book, “Photography and The Creative Life”, is one of my most cherished books, a book I refer to often. It is full of inspiration and passion, Nancy’s passion. It is not a book about technique, f/stops or shutter speeds. In fact, she does not even caption her magnificent images. She would rather you decide what they mean to you. Nancy was my mentor, friend and advisor. She alone is responsible for pushing me kicking and screaming into leading photography workshops. And while cancer took Nancy much too early, her spirit remains and is ever present in my walk with photography and the creative life.
With the holiday season upon us, might I suggest you pick up a copy of this book and read it. Don’t read it once, read it twice and then read it again. For those who have heard my Dream, Believe, Create lecture, you will quickly understand where much of my inspiration comes from.
I’m interested to hear what you have to say about the idea of “Photography and The Creative LIfe”. What do you do to tap into your creative side? What can you share that will help others live a more creative life?
Let me start. I believe we all have F.U.D., fears, uncertainties and doubts. We carry these around with us as we try to be creative. Most times they are like big bricks in our camera bags weighing us down. For me, I did not believe I had a creative bone in my body. Heck, I couldn’t even draw a stick figure. How on earth could I be a creative photographer? As such, I had to look through everyone else’s viewfinder to know what a good image looked like. I would try to find a good subject, but I never felt like mine was as good as Dan’s or Bill’s or Ferrell’s or Tony’s….. My breakthrough came in 2004, when I went to South Africa for a workshop with Freeman Patterson. I went with my friend Ferrell McCollough and learned just before the trip that Nancy was going to be a participant as well! Can you imagine my excitement?! As Ferrell and I were exiting the plane in South Africa, he said. “John I have challenge for you.” What would that be, I asked? “On this trip, you will not be allowed to look through anyone else’s viewfinder. I want you to come home believing you are a good photographer and can see worthy images all on your own.” I’m not going to lie, this scared me to death. A trip of a lifetime to South Africa with my hero Freeman Patterson and Nancy happens to be on this trip too and I can’t look through her viewfinder to make sure I’m going to get images like hers?!?! I took Ferrell up on his challenge. It was hard, however, I came home with images that forever changed the course of my journey with photography. Images that were mine! Images that I created. But more importantly, I realized I was creative. I could do this without looking through anyone else’s viewfinder!
The blog image was created on this trip. It is a montage or “slide sandwich” as we called them in the film days. One image is of the dancing girl on the rocks in the tiny town of Nourivier. The other is a multiple exposure of the wonderful flowers in Freeman’s beloved fields This creation captures the essence of my journey to South Africa. I went to be with Freeman to learn about the creative techniques he is so well known for. Things like slide sandwiches and multiple exposures. I ended up falling in love with and being taught a valuable lesson by the people in South Africa, especially those from Nourivier. It was in Nouriver that I learned to “dance” as Nancy would say. It seemed natural that I should combine the two images to create a third. Every time I see this image, I smile. It hangs in my office as a constant reminder of this trip and more importantly, as a reminder that I am creative.
Nancy’a book is hard to find, however, her daughter Marci has some left. You can contact Marci at email@example.com.
A girl in Nouriver South Africa