The Creative Process - Introduction - Chapter 1

The Creative Process Chapter 1
Studies V  ~  May,  2014 

   Fig. 1  The Creative Process 

Click on images to enlarge 

This project was initiated by a single picture I had made while searching for hints, clues, ideas for a new project.  When I am in the space between projects I often just photograph spontaneously and wait to see if a picture comes along that "tells me" this is the direction to go in next.  This approach usually works for me because I have a deep trust in my creative process, which has a life of its own, and which I grown to deeply respect and honor.   

The picture below, which I will write more about is dated and entitled April 12, 2014.  In brief, it is about the space between things, just as I was feeling between projects when I made the photograph.  I thought it a strange photograph especially in relation to the photographs I had been making for the Still Life project, and I began wondering if I could use this image as a point of departure for an entire new series of images.

Could I create a new project based in the vague intention of making photographs too odd and obscure, too cryptic and mysterious to understand or speak about?  Inexplicable images which look good and spark my curiosity with their numinous presence, their luminous creative energy, and that seem to pulsate from within . . . but which seem to have no conceptual grounding?  This characterization of the kind of images I was contemplating making comes close to what depth psychologist Carl Jung defined as the symbol, which I had first wrote about in 1972 for my MFA dissertation paper.  

Symbols are like mirrors.  They reflect back to the viewer what is hidden in their own unconscious psyche but which needs to be acknowledged and integrated into one's consciousness.  On a more poetic-mystical level, symbols provide us with what Robert Bly calls News of the Universe.  The April 12 photograph was like a revelation to me.  After spending so many months making Still Life photographs of things, I found myself coming spontaneously face to face with an image that was about . . . nothing, the space between things.  


Fig. 2  First "Seed" Photograph, made April 12, 2014    

The First Photograph:  April 12, 3014 
The photograph above, entitled April 12, 2014 was the first photograph that I deeply resonated to after deciding that the Morandi inspired project Still Life had reached completion and that it was time again for me to begin looking for a new project.  The image was made spontaneously, without thinking, on impulse.  

When I first made the photograph, I had no sense of the importance it would eventually have for me.   When I finally was able to take serious notice of it, and I began to quietly contemplate it . . . I experienced a surprisingly deep fascination and engagement with the softness of the tones, the directness with which it was looking into the spaces between things.  I became attracted to it's visual structure, its vertical banding, the two glints of reflected highlights, the muted twilight colors.  My experience of the image peaked to the point where it became like an epiphany for me; I felt in the image a deep sense of recognition; the image resonated with aliveness, it insisted that I pay close attention to it and "listen" to what it had to say to me.  When I imaginatively entered deeply into the image I felt a subtle kind of energy begin to pulsate and move throughout my body.  

It became quite clear that the April 12 photograph was providing me with the visual direction I had been seeking for the next project.  It's the kind of image I call a "seed image" in the sense that as I looked more deeply into the image I could somehow imaginatively apprehend a body of work that would eventually, organically manifest from within it.  

This is not an unfamiliar occurrence to me.  I have often found my way from one project into the next by simply photographing as openly and intuitively as possible.  I have a profound trust and respect for my Creative Process, and it has usually known better than "I" where my next creative journey needed to go next. 

I wrote about the April 12 image in my Epilogue to the Still Life project, for it holds the auspicious honor of being the photograph that both completed the Still Life project and initiated the The Creative Process project.  

The key points I discussed in the Epliogue are relatively simple and direct, but the primary issue is this:  I am looking into space . . . into nowhere . . .  past and over and beyond the objects I had photographed face-on for the Still Life project.  


in the
that you
came from
even though 
you have
an address



Synchronicity : Two Examples of "Meaningful Coincidence"
I found the poem above, by Rumi, in a the calendar I have in my bedroom.  When I read the poem, shortly after making the April 12 photograph and writing about it for my Still Life Epilogue, I found not only the meaning of the poem, but also the timing of it's arrival into my conscious awareness, to be an excellent example of synchronicity, which is a very important aspect of my creative process.   The poem helped define how I felt about the April 12 image, my experience of the space between the glints of light, and my situation in life when I made the photograph, that is to say, I was in the space between projects and searching for an image that would provide me with a new picture-making direction.  The poem affirmed for me that this particular image was indeed pointing the way, "directing me" toward my next project, this project.

The April 12 image functions for me as a symbol.  It's presence of mystery, its attractiveness and aliveness and the experiences of synchronicity associated with it, are all very clear indicators that this image was manifested by a very special creative energy, it contains that same creative energy, and it transmits that energy to me even as I write this.  In short, it is functioning for me as a symbol.    

Another example of synchronicity:  
When I made the April 12 image I had just begun re-reading a favorite book of mine which I have had for about ten years and have read and re-read at least six times, entitled The Splendor of Recognition.  It occurred to me that the title of the book was mirroring my experience of the image, that is to say the image helped me to recognize the direction I needed to pursue into my next project.  

As I got deeper into the first chapter of the The Splendor of Recognition it became quite clear that what I was reading was providing me with information and ideas I was searching for in relation to the making of the April 12 image and more generally my creative process as a whole.  Thus the impulse to re-read this wonderful book, just at this time when I was between projects and searching in confusion and with some anxiety as to what to do next, and then recognizing that the book, along with the April 12 image, was providing me with answers I was seeking . . . all this falling together in time and space is another excellent example of what Carl Jung termed meaningful coincidence, or synchronicity. 

To re-cognize something as potentially creative and full of meaningful presence as all these things falling together a-causally, of course suggests some kind of personal validation, perhaps a guiding spirit, but it also implies remembrance.  It's as if the April 12 image, the Rumi poem and the re-reading of the book had awakened in me some subtle memory, something I already knew, or had experienced before and then forgotten.  Or perhaps its just inner necessity.  Now is the time to do what I need to do to fulfill the creative will of a process too dynamic, too mysterious, too ineffable to understand.

In any case the first chapter of The Splendor of Recognition was giving me important insights about perception and creation that I was needing to really imbibe in that moment.  And now that I could see the importance of its material for me in relation to my newly conceived project, I decided to go back and read it over again and collect important excerpts for future use in what is now chapter 3. 

The Splendor of Recognition is about many things, but in general I would say it is largely about how we create the worlds we each live in through the process of perception.  More broadly the book is for me about the Creative Process on many different levels.  

The Splendor of Recognition
This remarkable book was written by Swami Shantananda, one of the teaching swamis of Siddha Yoga Meditation.   http://www.siddhayoga.org/   I first read the book shortly after it was published in 2003.  A new edition came out in 2013  

I learned about Swamiji's book through my involvement with Siddha Yoga Meditation.  In the summer of 1987 I met the great meditation teacher and living head of the Siddha Yoga lineage, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda.  I received shaktipat initiation from her at a meditation program that summer and I have been practicing Siddha Yoga regularly ever since.   I have written about many of my experiences of Siddha Yoga, including my shaktipat initiation, in the Epilogue for my photography project "An Imaginary Book."

Swami Shantananda's book is a commentary on the Pratyabhijna-hydayam, an 11th century yogic scriptural text based in the philosophy known as Kashmir Saivism.  The yogic principles Swamiji writes about apply simultaneously to the divine Creation on a vast cosmic scale, to the life of every individual person, and certainly on a more personal level, to my creative process in photography.  

Interestingly, before Swamiji got into Siddha Yoga, he had been a serious student of Art History.  He speaks often of the aesthetic experince in relation to yogic concepts and spiritual experiences; indeed, many of his own personal experiences of yoga which he shares in the book are related to aesthetic experiences.

I have devoted Chapter 3 of this project to selected text excerpts from Swamiji's book.  In  Chapter 5  I have written my commentaries of my own on some of his writings in the book, and on some selected photographs from my collection of images in Chapter 2.  


Commentary on a Photograph

Fig. 3  Plastic sheet partition

The enigmatic photograph above was made in an old house that was being remodeled.  It was one of the last photographs I made for the Still Life project. I have decided to include it in this project along with a few other photographs made before the April 12 image.  The subject matter is a plastic sheet partition that was being used to separate and seal off two adjacent spaces being remodeled in the house.  In the upper left corner of the image, in the background, there is a tungsten light source which highlights the surface abrasions, smudges and dust particles that have collected on the surface of the plastic.

The cryptic markings on the plastic surface remind me of pictures I have seen of Paleolithic drawings made on the surfaces of cave walls.  Fig. 4 below shows several 17,00 year old drawings on a cave wall in Lascaux, France.   It's not clear to researchers what the images mean, but theories include accounts of past hunts, mystical rituals for future hunts, and prehistoric star charts!  For example, it is thought that perhaps the eyes of the bull, the bird, and the bird-man in the image below may represent a cosmic constellation: the three stars of the Summer Triangle.  

 Fig. 4  Cave wall drawing (17,000 years old), Lascaux, France

The"drawings" and dust on the surface of the plastic sheeting--which defined the very point in space between the two adjacent rooms--also reminded me of a quote I had found in Gaston Bachelard's wonderful book, The Poetics of Space.  Bachelard took the following words from a novel by Milosz: "The mystery of things, little sensations of time, great void of eternity!  An infinity can be contained in this stone corner, between the fireplace and the oak chest  . . .  the musty odor of the minutes of three centuries ago; the secret meaning of the hieroglyphics in fly-dung; the triumphal arch of that mouse-hole . . .  and finally, the soul of all this old dust from corners forgotten by brooms."

I am particularly interested in the reference to the space between two things, and the author's use of the words mystery, void, eternity, infinity, secrete meaning, hieroglyphics, soul, and forgotten.  Though so many of my past photographs have been centered on things themselves, both my April 12 photograph, and the Plastic sheet photograph above are more about the space between things, space which is pervaded by a living presence, a secret meaning, a consciousness as yet unknown but nonetheless pregnant with the feeling of potentiality.  Space which is fully alive and yet separates things, things forgotten and yet with an eternal presence.

I am remind me of the taoist teaching that the space between the walls of a ceramic pot makea the pot useful; and similarly, that the silence between spoken words or between the notes of a musical composition add coherence and important nuanced meaning to what is being expressed.  

I am also reminded of a Siddha Yoga teaching that has always haunted me: a suggested technique to aid in the practice of meditation is to focus on the space between the in-breath and the out-breath.  Try it.  It may haunt you as well.  

The space between anything provides a screen of potential consciousness upon which we can project our most unconscious or hidden and secret thoughts and feelings.  These spaces of an intermediary reality could offer richly rewarding meanings if one were to imaginatively enter into those spaces and patiently, attentively, wait and listen to what the process of contemplation yielded.  These spaces are pregnant with potentiality.  They long to speak to us . . .  we just need to learn how to listen.  

A symbolic photograph is itself an image of the Intermediary Imaginal World, and I will be exploring this idea in detail in my fourth chapter, entitled The Symbolic Photograph and The Imaginal World.


Commentary on a Photograph

 Fig. 5  From Chapter 2, The Creative Process

Finally I wanted to write briefly about the image above which serves as the "title image" for this introductory chapter for the Creative Process project.   I will probably write more about it in my Commentary Chapter.   I find this image (#5 from Chapter 2) to be very mysterious and compellingly attractive image, indeed so much so that I consider it, along with my April 12 photograph, a "seed" images for this project.  Suffice it to say for now, it's blueness is highly symbolic for me; the way the square frame is divided vertically into two primary band of space and intersected by a strong sense of horizontal movement is significant for me; and especially the figurative presence in the left side of the frame is most noticeably important.  The figure is a feminine presence, though in actuality the image was a reflection in a window, a reflection that was not of an actual human form.  The figure seems vibrantly alive, as if it's shape could change--transform-- in any moment.  Indeed, there is for me a sense of movement and transformation that pervades the entire image.  

I will close this commentary with a quote taken from Swami Shantananda's book The Splendor of Recognition.  Since the text refers to Siva and Sakti I must first define these two words.  Sakti is the feminine, dynamic aspect of absolute Reality; the power personified as a goddess, and the creative force of the universe.   Siva is the static aspect of absolute Reality, personified as a god and the illuminative principle of Reality.  

The image above is a visual symbol which embodies my feelings about the creative power of the universe and the creative process that seems to be alive within me and which has a will of its own within my own creative life.   The quote, which serves as a blessing for this project, is also offered to you as a Welcome to the project: 

"She, the primordial Sakti . . . is the seed of all the moving and motionless things which are to be, and is the pure mirror in which Siva experiences himself."  

*          *          *

I am writing this concluding section in early July, 2014.  All five chapters have been completed.  I continue to fine tune the text.  Writing is so difficult for me.  I am quite amazed at how quickly and how intensely this project as unfolded, and come to completion.  As I was writing the contemplations (Chapter 5) I received an idea for another project which would return me, in a way, to my roots with the black and white image.  I have made a few preliminary images already that I like very much for the next possible project.  I look forward to seeing where the idea takes me. 

Any forthcoming creative projects will be announced in the Latest Additions section at the top of my website's Welcome Page.  Thank you for visiting this introductory chapter to The Creative Process project, and welcome to the project as a whole.

*          *          *

This project was announced on the Welcome Page 
of my photography website 
on May 14, 2014
It began April 12, 2014 and was revised many times. 
Latest revisions:  July 1 and July 6, 2014

Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.