I was talking to a student today as he was finished making a print in the darkroom. He was standing back and looking at the line of test strips he had just laid out in order on the board next to the final print. He said he liked seeing all the different time and color changes together and that he really enjoys “progressions”. What he means is things like sweeping, dusting, sanding something, or in this case all the steps leading to a color corrected final print. That mostly makes sense to me; I know that feeling of satisfaction as you see something gradually become clean. But I don’t have quite the pleasure in it that would lead me to want to keep all my test strips or make a video of sanding away a piece of wood (something he mentioned as a project idea). I am, however, interested in how our creative impulse relates to how our brains work or how we think, and how there are ways of thinking or doing or being that are just simply enjoyable. How funny to enjoy brain function.
What I have noticed about myself is that I am very spatially oriented. This in a lot of ways just means I like to organize things but it also has to do with objects in space. For example, when I was a little kid and would go grocery shopping with my mom, I would fit every item perfectly into a spot in the cart so that twice as many groceries would fit in the cart. (I have memories of overflowing shopping carts, I’m not sure if maybe we only went grocery shopping every few weeks or what). I also loved and still do love, playing with matchbox cars and making structures just the right size for them to park in, or backing up the miniature boat trailer into the gutter full of water. I notice when I’m hanging out playing with kids nowadays and toy cars are involved I start parking them in a little imaginary parking lot. At times, there may be a bit of not being able to help myself to this, like when I find myself cleaning up friends houses or moving a shampoo bottle back where I wanted it after a housemate moved it. But it usually is useful; my house stays pretty clean and organized and I’m useful to my unorganized friends
Ultimately what I find interesting about all of this is that it seems to be visual. The motivation seems to be to satisfy my eyes; to put things in the world in a way that is pleasing to my eyes. This has got me thinking about how it might then relate to the photographs I make. The most obvious correlation is that making a photograph is about organizing the world in the frame of the camera – what you include or exclude and how it all fits together. In a way, it is a sort of documentation of this mental impulse about things in space and in their place that I have. I don’t know, maybe that is the only connection – that I am composing the world with or without the camera and that I can use the camera to explore my enjoyment of spaces. There may be more to it but for now that is as far as I have gotten with me and my brain. I am curious if other photographers or artist’s see this sort of thing in their work or their creative process.