Improvisation

20090918 CHS100 Aculux 1-19 Burnbridge tes14mgs

I confess that I don’t know very much about Eddie Izzard, other than he’s a comedian who sometimes wears a dress and has just completed 43 marathons in 51 days – no mean feat. But apart from this recent news, I also heard him interviewed the other night by Frank Skinner (about whom I also know very little…) and during the interview he discussed his early approach to including improvisation in his act. At first, because it can sound very forced, he suggested that he had had material prepared – the safe stuff –  and then just included a small space for improv. This allowed relatively safe practice, as not much improv was needed to fill the gap, and avoided the lurches into a slow and ponderous delivery that characterises early improv attempts.

He also explained that when material is new it is exciting and he enjoys it for the first few weeks, but then it becomes bedded down and the life of it can be lost. He uses improv to break this up – both creating new work and extending the life of the remainder by allowing it to continue to evolve and change.

It struck me that it is very relevant to photography as well as any other art. It is very easy to become stuck in the rut of what we know and do well. But, striking out and doing something new and unknown is difficult, and often unrewarding whilst we are doing brand new things very badly. Perhaps making spaces where we can or are forced to do things differently could help the ongoing creative process and help avoid the staleness that results from a lack of change.

Fear is often what stops us in these endeavours, I think – we are afraid to lose the safety cushion of the familiar. We know we can go out and come back with some ‘nice’ images of x, but if we know that then they must become stale and uninteresting – to us at least. We need a bit of danger and the risk of getting things wrong to alert us to new possibilities. A few days without using the meter, for example, would probably give not a few drastically over or underexposed pictures, but it might also give us a new appreciation for a different way of rendering a scene. It might even give a whole new direction. A few days with only one lens, or a different lens, could have a similar result.

Mike

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