Collaboration: 1+1=3

I always enjoyed working with good art directors. They would bring fresh ideas to my techniques and new ways of looking at the images I was producing for them. Often I would see the flaws in an image only to be told that it was perfect, that they liked the “oop-arts” aspect of the work and loved the layered look. I was focusing on the technical problems and they were pointing out the aesthetic successes. Good art directors provide guidance yet allow room for experimentation. It is hard for an art director to embrace experimentation since they must answer to their bosses who are less visually sophisticated and wary of any variations from what was promised – it was too risky, no-one wanted to be responsible for disappointment or worse for a failure. If a client asked for a comp (a drawing of the proposed image) I was wary. If they wanted a digital comp I refused. As the proposed project became more and more planned out it died step by small step. My creative process would become more and more restricted – it was impossible to recreate a comp exactly using different techniques and tools from the comp. A great art director understands this and gives guidance while allowing room for creativity. It was always a thrill to work with a good art director and the final work reflected it.

Collaboration can really fuel creativity. Art making tends to be a solitary venture and I find that mixing collaborative projects with other solitary projects keeps me grounded. But I really enjoy being alone, listening to music and making things. Whether in the darkroom or woodworking shop, being alone allows me to concentrate and focus on what I am doing and how to come up with the best results. In woodworking, absolute concentration is essential since you work with sharp and powerful tools that can inflict major damage in the blink of an eye. No daydreaming there. But the darkroom is another story. I turn on music and let my mind wander. After so many years of darkroom work much of the process is muscle memory allowing me to free my mind to be creative. I love this quote from Gustave Flaubert: “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.”