Rules? There Are Rules?

On creativity and innovation stifled by The Rules...

Although I learned elements of composition in photography, art and writing along with other rules such as theme, perspective, point of view, balance, development as they applied to each genre there's a point where is seems to me once the basics are learned they're simply guidelines. Yes, yes, yes, I know many photographers, artists and writers will argue with me on the fine head of a pin over that concept but they miss the point. My real message is they become restrictive to the truly creative person and unless the rules are bent, reshaped, molded and played around with nothing new is discovered.

Photography is a great example of too many people going to the workshop and learning techniques, going out and perfecting them to a fault. The result is the vast majority of photography is dull and boring and it is omnipresent and all looks alike. Let me state to prevent being misunderstood that I think there is value in learning the basics and for many hobbyists they're a necessity but to move into being a visual artist my view is you have to and must experiment. How many black and white photographs of birds in flight or sitting on the wire are there? The cliche is replicated by the millions and you would think the standard way it's been done wouldn't be seen anymore yet I see it enough that it makes me want to do it differently...just because.

Here's another cliche for you: it's a metaphor for life in general. Personally I'm quite alright with the majority of people following the rules in all sorts of things whether it's artistic or the mundane details of daily living. It gives me the opportunity to stand up to do something different and stand out when I do. Which is rather odd for a somewhat anti-social person such as myself and perhaps there is some complex psychology there I don't want to bother delving into. There are enough people without artistic talent who like to study why anti-social behavior and creative expression seem to go hand in hand. Make that three cliches in this writing.

So here are three photographs I snapped in classic black and white following rules when I originally took them. They would have been good stock photos I suppose for a collection or I could have edited them in the usual workshop way. Instead I processed them with fairly simple techniques and I won't go so far as to say they're spectacularly unique or different and quite possibly they've been done similarly before. The purpose of my divergence in their creation was to renovate and metamorphose images that originally followed rules and see if bending them would lead to innovation either now or as progress in developing my own distinctive visual art.


  1. I think rules (or the adherence to them, anyway) have no place in the creative world. I don't mean technique, and I sure don't mean form (form is fun to push against...the sonnet comes to mind but there are many others I've fought with in my life). But rules? No, thanks.

    I think creative people put themselves in position to record some of the magic of the universe. I think they write a poem or a story or a song or take a picture or paint or whatever they do, and somehow they sense upon review (and maybe during the process) that something else is involved. What that something else actually is, I can't explain. But it's there and wants itself to be shown in the picture or the poem, etc. And it is.

    Creativity isn't hard, except for the headaches and sleepless mind-whirling hours and waking nonconformity. Anyone who can deal with that can be creative. It's a good gig, with benefits including wonder and happy surprises.

    (And no rules, except the ones you wish to follow.)

    This is a great post, JR!

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head in the second paragraph, the third paragraph speaks real truth about nonconformity.

    Just remember:
    "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
    Jiddu Krishnamurti

    Thanks for commenting Mike, I'm glad you're still around to check out my stuff!