Can the creativity of an image be assessed without knowledge of the image’s context?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by leslie_reid, Feb 5, 2017.

  1. BTW, if you want to introduce new paragraph, type <br><br>, HTML equivalent of line break
     
  2. Supriyo, I don't disagree with some of what you wrote. The difference is in intent. Was the player intent on changing the game? Or was he/she intent on playing it or preserving/perfecting it as it exists? The thought process is totally different, first from second. Known goal versus sniffing for a new goal that is not, does not fit within the goal(s) of the existing game.
     
  3. Julie (not Sean), I apologize for the confusion. I think Supriyo has really hit on the high points. Your last comments made me think (this is a positive) of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, wherein Calvin would play a game he called Calvinball. The rules of this game would be made up as he went along. It always made me giggle, and also think of my own children's approach to games they played. I admit to being a proponent of rules and conformity in many things. Yet, my profession demands that I seek creative solutions to unique problems within the boundaries of the applicable rules and standards. For much of my professional work, the intended outcome is very well defined, but the means of arriving at that outcome is, at least to some degree, undefined, even baffling. A further complexity is added when you realize that one must achieve the desired outcome using already-established, proven, and approved parts, materials, and techniques. (Oh, and within budget and schedule as well!) Pick the most creative Architect you like, and I can guarantee that his executed work consists of parts and materials generally available for construction. I tend to feel that photography is, in many ways, a lot like architecture. The tools and material palettes we have to work with are finite, and common to most practitioners. In some cases it is the application of those tools and techniques that defines a creative process. In others, it is the work product (the final outcome) that is new and different, illustrative of creativity. In rare cases would one find the process and the outcome outstandingly creative. For example, your composites are fascinating and creative. They are the outcome, based in substantial measure on your mastery of processing tools. Is the application of those tools, today, equally as creative as they were when you were learning to use them? Is the creativity in vision that allows you to imagine an outcome? Is it in the process that produces that outcome? Or, is it the outcome itself?

    My perspective is that much of creativity is founded in a mastery of tools, techniques, and materials, such that the artist can recognize an opportunity when it is presented, and then take advantage of that opportunity to best creative effect. There is also the approach in which the master artist sets up a very demanding process (as in a studio shoot) to make real his/her creative vision. It is of little effect for one to imagine an outcome if one does not or cannot make that outcome happen.
     

  4. Good point. I think, for really creative persons it comes naturally to think out of the box and change the status quo. Even in absence of conscious intentions, creativity will show in what they do. Conversely for a not so creative person (me for instance or average joe), no matter how intent one is to be creative, it seldom shows up in the end result or the thought process. Even for a creative person, creativity may not show up all the time.
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    [ Remembering your comment from the previous thread, one cannot be creative on cue <even if the intension is there>. ]
     
  5. Thank you Supriyo. I was about to give up on trying to explain my point of view (which I know full well is not shared by you and David).

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    The adaptations that every activity entails to get through the day (to get my fork of scrambled eggs into my mouth) or to complete a task (to travel about, to get a job done) is not creativity, IMO. For me, creativity is not a difference of degree but a difference in kind. Playing a known game is not creativity. It is also not trivial, it glorifies the game. To me, Michael Jordon is not creative. The people who formulated basketball were creative but surely couldn't play worth a lick, nor did they have any way of knowing the potential that could be found in the game.

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    But the great and amazing and brilliant players that have mined and made live the potential of the game are not, to my mind, creative. They know before the game starts, they know the week before, they know ten years before the game begins, what they want to do: get the ball in the hoop. A creative person does not know. He/she does not know what this thing or process or act that he's formulating will be or do or allow. He/she creates.

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    My belief versus yours. At least I hope we both understand each other. I do understand what you and David are saying, and I do know that yours is a valid understanding of what many people think of as creativity. To you, creativity is common; it's in every adaptation of any activity; to me, it's rare, something new being born into the world.
     
  6. Thats it! Thats the difference between your and my views. I feel a lot of creativity is involved in getting the ball into the hoop. Particularly when five highly skilled people are competing against you, you have to surprise them with your strategy, by thinking differently than them. Although not quite in line with your notion of creativity, the player creates strategies without knowing whether they will be successful.
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    When I think of creativity, I think of Alexander's war strategy. You see, the idea of war to solve each other's problems, or designing a game of basketball are not very creative in my view. War is the most unimaginative way of solving problems (what wretched soul proposed the first war), a game of basketball is quite generic, structurally similar to any other sport that involve getting a ball through a hoop, which have been there from ancient times. My notion of creativity lies in the strategy to win. Which enthralls you more, reading about the origin/creation of basketball, or watching the skillful maneuvers of a NBA player?

    Adaptation, yes, but a rare adaptation, that nobody else had thought of.
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    Arguments aside, I do understand you, Julie. At the same time, I feel creativity, a common English word cannot entail different meanings for different people. I believe in the democratization of language, to be communicable to the masses. If many people define a word in a certain way and my definition differs from them, I ought to call my version a special subset of the popular definition. You are free to hold a very high standard for certain things, but then you need to recognize your version as different from the common meaning of creativity, which is IMO inclusive of what David was describing. Not to say I don't find your opinion inspiring or thoughtful. Now that I have understood your POV, I actually find it quite intriguing.
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    Thats it for now. I can go to bed now.
     
    sjmurray likes this.
  7. I remember seeing this quote a few days back. Recognizing Julie's comments, I post it here:

    "Although this openness to new ideas might sound like just waiting around for serendipity to strike, it’s a more deliberate process... Simonton’s research has similarly shown that the best predictor of creative achievement is an openness to experience and cognitive exploration...None of this means that goals don’t have a place, but they’re not a great driver of creativity. Rather than beginning with a specific goal, most creative people “start out with with a hazy intuition or vision,” Kaufman told me. “After a lot of trial and error they get closer and closer to discovering what their idea is and then they become really, really gritty to flesh it out.”

    Source:
    http://lifehacker.com/dont-use-goals-to-force-creativity-1723897071
     
  8. "Which enthralls you more, reading about the origin/creation of basketball, or watching the skillful maneuvers of a NBA player?" See my previous comments on Weston.

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    When have I refused to recognize your beliefs? I have repeatedly said that I respect the beliefs of others. I have merely stated my beliefs.
     
  9. One of the great things about "belief" is that a belief can be wrong. Nothing about belief is sacrosanct except the fact that one has it. But it doesn't make the object of the belief true. I can believe that climate science is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. That doesn't make it a rational belief and it doesn't make it true.
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    I'm open to what Supriyo said many posts earlier: there may be no escaping some game. I tend to think of the history of photography as a series of building blocks. Like Supriyo, there don't seem to me to be starts from a blank slate, or photographers who defy every rule of every game that's come before. And, even if I could be convinced that some people really started brand new games, that wouldn't suggest to me that interpreting an already-existing game wasn't as creative.
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    I view the the history of art and its associated creativity as a progression, with more and less extreme rifts that I don't think are total rifts. There have been surprises! But, looking back, even the surprises mostly make sense within the context of progress . . . creativity and art are like a dialogue through the ages. One may not understand parts of the dialogue as it's being spoken and one may feel that one speaker is not communicating to his predecessor as he is speaking but, usually, and especially in hindsight, one can see there was communication and not a complete breakdown of the chain of evolution, whether in photography, painting, or any other endeavor.
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    A word about calculus, and a caution that a belief about even calculus can be wrong. One might well believe that calculus students don't question, but I've been in classes where most students of merit or any kind of stature do question what this calculus thing is, what it's used for, how it's used, and how it works. Those are often the questions good students begin with and keep in mind throughout their course of study. That's kind of what learning is. On the other hand, some students (I'll call them less creative students) read a bunch of books and memorize facts and quotations, merely regurgitating them for the professor and the class. I call that book learning, if it's any kind of learning at all, but it's not what goes on with active, engaged, thoughtful students. Decent students ask creative questions.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2017
  10. ...​

    Only if it can be measured. Until you show me a creativity-o-meter, my belief is as good as yours. And I show respect for yours.
     
  11. I agree with you here, Supriyo. What I was trying to say earlier that might have given the impression I didn't think one's process could be creative, is that I don't think just because one thinks one is being creative one is actually being creative. It goes back to that same "beliefs can be wrong" thing.
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    [I'm perfectly content to think others beliefs are wrong even if I don't have a meter to prove that. And I welcome others thinking my beliefs are wrong and challenging me in that area, even when there's no proof one way or the other.]
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    More to the point, Supriyo, I was wanting to say that just because one follows a creative process or what they believe is a creative process, is no insurance that the result is a creative one or shows creativity in the author. I suspect we agree on that. As a photographer, I give a lot of priority and importance to what I wind up displaying on the screen or hanging on the wall. That is my creation. If my goal is creativity, which it often is not, I don't care as much about the process as much as I care about what's hanging on my wall and how I feel about it.
     
  12. ...​
    In my opinion, you can't "think you're being creative." That would mean you know what you're doing. Doubt is the active ingredient of creativity. In my opinion.
     
  13. Leslie, here are some thoughts about your photo, in hopes of answering some of your questions, in hopes of tying ideas about creativity to actual photography, and in hopes of conveying my own take on creativity. While creativity may involve originality to various degrees, they are not one and the same. And I tend to think about creative photos in terms other than just originality.
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    On the zygomatic arch photo, no, I don’t consider it creative though I think it’s a fine photo. Here’s the deal. I think your approach was a potentially creative one but you would have had to push that a little further for me to think of the photo as creative. The creative approach part of your process comes in getting something to look like something else, in not being stuck by “what it is” and able to see it as something different from “what it is.” In your case, you're photographically transforming the bone into the arch. This can certainly be a creative way of photographing.
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    But then I consider whether the photo itself strikes my imagination and I have to say I’m left wanting. That’s because, if it were, in fact (which I now know it’s not) a picture of a sandstone arch, it would feel somewhat documentary in nature, a bit of a dull perspective and a somewhat ordinary warmly-lit sunset or sunrise display of light. So that part of it just strikes me as pretty. While you acted creatively in transposing a thing you found into looking like something else, there is less creativity in having shot the something else aspect of it in a fairly typical manner for the something else (shooting what you’ve transformed into a sandstone arch in a way not unexpected or different for sandstone arches). Compare to David’s photo, where his perspective is somewhat alarming, and his high contrast look seems to support and further that sense of alarm (or at least sense of disorientation). His has an energy that moves my imagination. I feel the energy. With yours, it’s more about looking and being pleased. Yes, with yours, I’m surprised to find out what it actually is . . . but that’s a more intellectual side of me. It’s kind of a revelation that doesn’t have much lasting power. As I continue to LOOK at the photo that initial revelation of what it is wears thin and I'm left looking at something that seems somewhat typical . . . for the long haul. Now that you've either told me or I've figured it out, I know something about what your photo really is of, but I’m still not all that moved visually. My continued looking at it doesn’t keep my imagination engaged whereas David’s keeps playing with me and visually stimulating my imagination. David’s gives me a sense of his own personal wonder and investment. With yours, I would ask what, more than the coolness or magic of the transformation, moves you about the object (regardless of what it appears to be and perhaps in conjunction with the space it’s occupying) you’re seeing?
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    [There may well be times where the simple photographic transformation of an object into seeming like it’s something else will be enough. I don’t like making what could sound like a general rule. And that’s the tricky part about art and creativity. They are very hard to pin down and it’s not always possible to be logically consistent about these things and to specify exactly what is or is not working. I just do the best I can and critique each photo separately but don’t mean to suggest that these precise thoughts would translate to every photo that is of one thing made to look like another.]
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    In short, I think those ideas of personal wonder and investment are significant to creativity, whatever the degree of originality.
     
    wolfgangarnold likes this.
  14. A lot to catch up with here; I'll work backwards in a series of posts...
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    First, thanks, Fred — I think those are interesting and important comments on the initial photo, and I think they beautifully illustrate the difference between the intrinsic and perceived creativity levels for the photo. From the intrinsic side, I’m completely comfortable with my assessment that it’s creative because I know what went into making it. From the perceived side, I’m completely comfortable with your not finding it creative, and your detailed explanation is giving me important information about how creativity is perceived and evaluated by the viewer. I took the approach I did (emulating a stereotypical photo of a sandstone arch) because I intended it to be a “this isn’t that” photo, not a nature photo—I was expecting viewers to start off thinking that it was a landscape, then be startled when they suddenly realized that it wasn’t a landscape at all; I was attempting to provoke the same kind of sensation that people get when they hear the punchline to a joke. For the photonet audience, the photo was a failure, because the clues I left (the title, the cranial sutures, and designation as a still life) weren’t strong enough for the “punchline” to be understood. But when I showed it to a wildlife biologist I work with, it succeeded exactly as intended. And therein lies an important point about perceived creativity: different viewers bring different contexts of understanding with them, so opinions are likely to differ strongly among viewers.
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    I also suspect that perceived creativity may have a broader range of definitions than intrinsic creativity—in my experience, a person who is applying their creative abilities knows it by what it feels like. The result of those applications of creativity, however, may or may not be deemed creative by viewers. In some cases, today’s viewers don’t perceive the context for the creativity at the time of the past composition (Stravinsky’s characterization of Vivaldi: he wrote the same concerto 500 times), or today’s viewers with 20-20 hindsight can perceive the creativity that contemporary viewers didn’t have an appropriate context to recognize (Van Gogh’s failure to achieve recognition during his lifetime). Perceived creativity may change through time; intrinsic creativity is constant through time, but is understood only by the artist. And this also fits well with the standard definition of creativity: a creative work is something that is (1) original (note that this is not “the original”—even if the same problem is solved creatively multiple times, if no one is copying anyone else, it’s original to each person) and (2) appropriate. Van Gogh’s contemporaries undoubtedly thought his work was original, but they clearly didn’t think it an appropriate solution to the problem of what a painting should look like.
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    I suspect that Fred and I may agree that the zygomatic arch photo is original, but my expectations for what was “appropriate” for the photo I was making were different than his expectations for what was “appropriate” for the photo he was looking at, so we end up with different assessments of creativity, and both are right, given the contexts that each of us were working with. Or at least that's my take on it.
     
  15. Leslie, I think if you say "I like this photo" and I say "I don't like this photo," we are both right. Assuming neither of us is lying when we say those words, we are each saying something true.
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    On other matters, we can each say "it's my opinion" but those matters are still more objective than "I like this."
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    Example: I see a woman with what I maintain is a happy expression. Pretty much everyone else I run into thinks the woman has a sad expression. I see a guy and think he's got a happy expression and pretty much everyone else says he's got a sad one. While everyone I run into seems to like tomatoes, it amuses me but doesn't really compel me to rethink my dislike of tomatoes. But if I were thinking consistently that people wore sad expressions who everyone else thought were wearing happy ones, I'd be doubting either my expression perception or my understanding of "happy." Appealing to the person wouldn't help. They might say "I'm happy." But I could respond with "Well, you don't look happy to me."
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    Regarding the happy-looking people, I still might assert, "this is my opinion and you're entitled to yours." Maybe it would show respect, since there's no such thing as a happy-expression-ometer, for everyone to simply accept my "opinion." I'd much prefer people show me respect by correcting me and trying to help me understand what a happy expression is and what a sad one is.
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    No one has said anything this outrageous, but imagine someone saying "Creativity is when someone loses their mom and cries a lot." I think that person should be made aware that she is likely talking about grief and not creativity. I'm trying to show that there is a degree of objectivity to the concept of creativity that there's not to the concept of "I like."
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    We have much finer and more reasonable points of disagreement here but, no, I don't think we're both right. For me, saying that defies both logic and language. What's the solution to our both not being right? There's the rub. I have no solution as to how to decide who is right but that doesn't mean both of us are! But I'll stick with the point that my saying or thinking I'm creative doesn't make me so.
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    Here's one solution. It could conveniently be the case that we're both wrong. Creativity may involve what we don't yet know. If I don't yet know what art is and what all my photographic goals are, I leave room for creativity. Maybe creativity takes place in that as yet unknown space. We don't yet know what chess move we're going to make or whether we're even going to play chess.
     
  16. I'm game for posting an example of mine. I'll use an old one because its one of my favorites and I was very young and first experimenting with the camera, probably around age 18 or 19. My friend Chip was hanging out at our house one day and I noticed both he and my brother Peter (the younger guy in the photo) had similar glasses frames. That was the only impetus for taking the picture. Right away I realized having them stand side by side was rather mundane and uninteresting, so I had Chip face the window and had Peter face me. In the resulting photo I love the silhouette of Chip against the darker background, and then the expression on Peter's face, and the whole gestalt of the image, looking somewhat like a album cover for a music duo. I believe it is creative because I had the 16x20 peter and chip jpg 72.jpg idea, then choosing the place for the light and background, and then the arrangement of the two people. Interesting and lucky because I only did one shot! The rest of the roll of film was random stuff around the house.
     
  17. Great double portrait, Steve! Not knowing your backstory, I might have thought it was a montage of the same person. It actually still reads that way to me, even knowing it's not!
     
  18. Excellent portrait Steve with dual focal points, and great idea too. The shallow DOF brings the subjects emotionally closer to the viewer.
     
  19. Leslie, I agree with a lot of things you wrote in your description. Here's my opinion about some of what you wrote:
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    Creativity isn't in things. It's a process that happens to you and you don't/can't know it's happening when it's happening. By your description of your process, I think there's no question you were being creative but it's not as if you or any artist can be thinking "Oh! I'm being creative!" as you're doing whatever. Creativity is the arrival at or discovery of a new space in your world that you can be in. That new space allows new/more/different, but what it allows is not creativity. Creativity was in the finding of the space. What it allows is for you to be there. It's not any "thing." Once you've found it, you can mine it, but that's after the creativity, the 'making' of that space in your consciousness. Van Gogh wasn't being creative: he was being van Gogh. He was living in the space he found. Ditto for Miles Davis. The things, the paintings or music was not the creativity; the space he was in was.
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    I needed your self-description to know that you were making new space for yourself. Now, what can you do there? Maybe nothing, maybe something. In any case, you have room to work. What did van Gogh do in his?
     
  20. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Julie, are you saying creativity is a state of mind?
     

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