Why is it so hard for photographers to take a craftsman’s approach to their work. Photography seems to miss an essential part of the creative process, craftsmen teach us how to fix that.  

In his book “A Craftsman’s Legacy : Why working with our hands gives us meaning”, Eric Gorges shares a core truth about what a craftsman does.
“That’s another one of the contradictions of being a craftsman – putting my heart and soul into it, thinking about it in my sleep and spending my days with it, and then letting it go.”

It got me thinking about how, even though in many ways photography IS a craft and we as photographers go through the same level of agony and ecstasy as we pour all of ourselves into our work, we often get hung up on that final piece. We don’t like to let go of our work. 

I believe there may be real value in finding a way to complete the process of the creative cycle by figuring out how to let the finished work go. 


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5 thoughts on “040 What photography gets wrong about the creative process and how craftsmen can help fix it.

  1. The creative cycle presents differently for different disciplines of art. I love the podcast, and I found that Episode 40 lingered with me at work throughout the day. While listening, I was wondering if, perhaps, you might have been drawing on a metaphor for letting go that does not easily translate between the directly applied craftsmanship of handmade items and the artistry of expression through the mastery of a recording medium. The difference lies, I think, in the concept of expressionism, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a theory or practice in art of seeking to depict the subjective emotions and responses that objects and events arouse in the artist”. Photography can do that, literary skill and poetry can do that, whereas woodworking and leather crafting usually exist for the utilitarian application of the object created. Sculpture kind of blurs the lines of delineation between the two disciplines, as does Thomas Skrlj’s tin type photography; and, anything can be expressionistic. But, I think, as a general rule, some artistic disciplines are geared toward direct use, while other are geared toward intellectual consideration. I don’t think either is superior or inferior to the other. I think they both exist for different ways of being enjoyed. Another metaphor for the photographic creative cycle, and its means of “letting go” is the wine making process. A vintner lets go of the wine, but never gives up control of the grapes.

    Great episode, love the podcast. See you on the radio next week back at Creativity Base Camp!

    1. Michael,

      First let me say a heartfelt thank you. Both for joining the adventure each week AND for taking time to leave me this fantastic comment. You certainly have given me a lot to think about as I mull this idea over further and if it’s ok with you I’d like to share some of your thoughts as a follow up to the conversation in an upcoming episode?

      I think you do make a good point around the difference in say photography and leatherworking, though one thought came to mind since I recorded. Your comments actually got me thinking further about it as well. I wonder if that feeling of letting go is missing today because by and large, most photographers today do not print anymore. We don’t take the photographic process all the way through to the physical, tangible place where we can hold a print in our hands. If we were printing regularly it would likely feel very much the same as the example you gave with the wine maker. Letting go of the print(wine) but never giving up control of the “negatives/raw images”(grapes).

      Again, I really appreciate the comment! See you at Creativity Base Camp for the next adventure indeed!

  2. David,

    I am very much looking forward to the next episode; and, yes, by all means, please feel free to share with your listeners what I have shared with you. I think you are right about the notion of prints, and giving them away, as a means of bringing some kind of closure (even if it is recurrent) to the cycle of creativity.

    Take care!


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