Creative control : an oxymoron?

Jul 7, 2011   //   by Matt   //   Blog, Matt, Random Thoughts  //  No Comments

© Murat Harmanlikli

Murat Harmanlikli is evidently a photographer, poet and lyricist to the music of the soul. Uncovered on the popular site, his photographic images have continued to inspire me to look further and accept more in terms of subject matter, awareness to possibilities and technique. It is this last point that I feel inclined to note in this blog: his common use of blur, grain, contrast and kismet, an appropriate term for the Turkish artist.

He includes many elements that suggest freedom of movement, camera shake, slow shutters and blurred subject matter such as panned shots. His is a form of image creation where the happenstance of ‘mistakes’ and the unplanned can lift a composition to a great photo. Thinking through the visually rich selection that he permits the world to enjoy, these traits in many of his images requires me to step back and reassess my processes, my measures of success and my tolerance towards the unknown.

To comprehend the hows and wheres in his prints and to emulate or interpret them is to allow space for mistakes to enter the process. I have to release control to allow a portion of the image to take form through exactly the parts of the process that I have relinquished. There has to be a tolerance and wilful neglect towards the capture of the moments  - the many instances that are implied by his images. I can think of it in practical terms: a fast shutter speed limits the window of time for uncontrolled elements to affect the image: longer speeds would permit a person to blink, a smile to fade, a light to streak and rain to fall.

For me, the act of lessening my conformist and entrenched learning that sharpness of subject is important, that balanced exposure is important, that camera shake is to be avoided, etc…. is brave. Just as my young son has recently taken his first steps without holding a hand – brave. Harmanlikli shows how one can step away from the safety of the edges and shallows and experience the flowing, swirling middle where boundaries are no longer literal containers of the resulting image. Rather, they are now merely points of reference from which to depart, from where one can grow knowing that one is not safely at home but on some darkened path through another neighbourhood where things are different.

© Murat Harmanlikli

This relaxing of control is liberating and seductive, provided it remains productive. The line between creative control and creative uncontrol is blurred – how apt. The regimented thinking I have inherited from my closed world has led me to think I see and control all when forming a photograph: previsualisations, tonal studies, spot meters, zoom lenses, juxtapositions and poigniant decisive moments. Outcomes are set before the shutter is tripped, indeed before it is thought about being tripped and the image’s fate is sealed. These confining rules towards image making as a photographer contrast with sublime genius: let the conformists define the boundaries whilst you consciously move away from their choices, towards the deep, exotic centres of creative uncontrol, careful to include carelessness.

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