What feeds creativity?

Whilst buzzing along in my Defender today, this question came to mind. “What feeds my creativity?” It’s not a new subject, I know. There’ve been tons of books written on the topic. Nonetheless, here’s what came to my mind.

1. ENERGY. First of all, creativity needs energy and energy comes from sleep and downtime. At least for me, that’s very much the case. On the other hand, if I feel tired and drained, I operate on auto-pilot and the engine for new ideas operates in slow-motion.  If there’s anything more non conducive to creativity, it’s falling back into old patterns of thinking or creating images. For me, a complete recharge of the batteries from time to time is super important to keep on delivering amazing work… hence my recent Project Pause. Power-naps are another powerful tool, I’m an early riser where most of my writing gets done early morning before the world wakes up, so to reenergise with a quick 15min head down does the trick for me.

2. FRESH HORIZON. What feeds new ideas aka creativity is seeking new environments. I love travelling, exploring new cities… walking the streets, seeing the people, checking out the billboards and bus ads, chilling at trendy cafes or bars, discovering trendy designer hotels and equally the backpackers districts… Travelling certainly gives you one big, fresh take on things but what when travel isn’t possible? What also works is buying new magazine titles. Personally, I don’t think I’ve actually purchased a single photo mag in the last decade. Rather, I always pick up travel, design, culture, interior design or architecture titles. I’m a big fan of Frame magazine although it’s hard to find in this part of the world. Over the years, I’ve built an impressive collection of books and magazines which I often return to for ideas.


3. WORLD OF ART. I’m a huge fan of visiting art shows, galleries and museums. There’s just so much amazing work out there. I also love looking at how work is presented, packaged and displayed. A really worthwhile visit is the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar which I visited earlier this year. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of historic artefacts but the way they’ve packaged and presented their collection is truly outstanding. So much about art appreciation for me is wondering how others got their ideas, what inspired them and how they sell it. I have a poster in my studio by Andy Warhol with the words, ‘ART IS WHAT YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH’. Love it! On the topic of art shows, I had the privilege recently of presenting a key note address at World Art Dubai.

4. ART DIRECTION. There’s always great value in working with an art director, either in the early creative stages of a project or on site at the actual shoot. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a few and have often found them to be great characters with lots of energy and ideas. With bigger productions, there’s such a large crew which can easily absorb more of my attention than is necessary so having an extra set of (art directors) eyes helps to push the envelope. Often art directors represent the brand and know it inside out so they can easily make instant decisions on the spot… I’m talking simple decisions like sunglasses on or off, socks yes or no. Simple things yes, but trying to discover the best answer at 5am can be a challenge otherwise and getting it wrong could have a negative impact on the whole shoot.

5. CREATIVITY FROM OTHERS. For many years, I’ve had a folder on my desktop named ‘Creativity by Others’, which is filled with inspirational work on a super wide range of subjects including photography, art, interior design, quotes, furniture, art installations and more. When I see something nice, I screen grab/photograph it and chuck it in this folder which, as you can imagine, now contains thousands of things. I guess the folder acts as a good summary of the person I am today, the work I do and the work I want to be doing. I tap into it regularly when working on a new gig or putting together proposals.

6. CREATE YOUR OWN SPACE. Finally, I believe we all need our own personal space to be at our best. With our recent move, I’ve had the opportunity to re-create my studio which is now my think-tank, editing suite, chill out zone and inspiration chamber all in one. Studio//73, check it out… it’s even cooler than you can imagine.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but rather the first thoughts that popped in my mind on this great topic. There a great quote by Ansell Adams that my copy editor Victoria Leckie once sent to me. It goes, “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, music you have heard and the people you have loved.”



The love for trail running

Photography and running… where my two greatest passions meet!  

When Stefan, a buddy who works for Nokia / Microsoft was raving about their new Nokia Lumia 1020 with a 41 megapixel camera phone, I looked at him and said… “Yeah right. You must be joking!” In my view, 41 megapixels is like working with a medium format camera like a Hasselblad or a Phase One… not with a 160 gram mobile phone! But he was adamant that the gear on hand was so worth it. “Just try it,” he urged, then just before we both set off on our annual summer sabbaticals, he dropped off a box with a brand new Lumia 1020. Naturally, I felt compelled to give it a good bash!

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As many of you know, the months of July and August are when I switch off, leave my gear and worries behind and head to Europe… to family, to friends, to a green horizon and to the Alps. This summer I had in tow my iPhone, a Canon G1X and the above mentioned Lumia 1020. The Lumia, I decided, would join me on my trail running journeys. A perfect slim fit inside my trail running pack.

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I pretty much managed to run every second day for the two months I was away and would have easily clocked around 300 km’s. I ran in Holland, France and Austria, mostly on forest trails, along shorelines, through mountains and up some serious cliff faces. It felt liberating… so fresh, so exploratory. With all the travelling we did, every run was different. On my more remote runs, I would take a picture of a portion of the map with an imaginary route and leave the map at the lodge. This works, provided you stay within the confines of the map! Once, I accidentally took a wrong turn at the base of Mt. Ventoux in France and ran off my picture, off the map. I was lost and loved it, thanks to the excuse to explore a little more and add an hour or so onto my run. I returned exhausted yet happy.

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For a few years now, I’ve run without a watch or any other tracking device. It feels awesome making the focus more about freedom and less about performance. And that, for me, is what trail running is all about… letting the route and trails dictate how the session pans out. Granted, I did get an occasional stern look when I got home later than planned but that’s all part of the package.

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I knew that I would be running in stunning places, the memories of which fade fast but with my little Lumia within reach, it was easy to capture the beautiful surroundings and at 40mp, these pictures could have the potential to feature on a massive billboard. The camera worked wonders and the images on the 4.5” screen looked amazing, nicely saturated in rich colours and with exceptional detail. I loved the simplicity of taking pictures, the movable focus point. It would need to operate a little quicker, in terms of frames per second, if I were to use it for pro assignments but I can easily imagine this could be rectified in future models. It’s only when bringing the images into Photoshop, that you’re reminded that these are pictures taken on a mobile phone. Size matters only when a particular size is needed and 41mp is a lot of pixels. A lot! The top image here, my favourite, I plan to print as a massive 4x2m wall graphic in our new office as a sweet reminder of the joys of trail running in the Alps and as proof that the 1020 is serious piece of kit.