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Investigating the Creative Process in Photography

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Kevin D. Liles


Photo above by Fernando Decillis
By Kevin D. Liles
I am continually fascinated with the creative process. How do artists get in the creative mood, priming themselves to do their best work? What tactics do they employ to get the desired work, time and time again? It’s questions like these that I find myself thinking about often.
It’s this obsession that lead me and my friend Ray Jones to found ATL Photo Night, a monthly artist talk where we pose these questions to photographers. We wanted a space where artists could show work, get feedback, and talk about their process. And we’ve been blown away at how many people are interested in learning about these same processes — we regularly attract 30-50 people to our free talks.

Photo by ATL Photo Night guest Matt Miller


Our aim is simple: investigate the creative process through conversation. No lecture-style talks, just a one-on-one interview in front a group of like-minded people. We want to take a look behind the proverbial curtain and see how the art is made. The technical aspects of the work — the pixels and ISO’s and color spaces — are nowhere near as important as the creative forces used in its creation.
In a short time, we’ve had some amazing photographers talk at our events — from a National Geographic contributor (Peter Essick) and Braves team photographer/Beam Imagination managing director (Pouya Dianat) to an outstanding wedding photographer (Matt Miller) and an artist documenting social activism (Sheila Pree Bright). These are just a few, and we are continually trying to diversify the types of work we showcase.

Photo by ATL Photo Night guest Lynsey Weatherspoon


I’ve learned so many things from these conversations. For one, nearly every artist we’ve spoken to has insecurities about their work, and questions whether it’s good enough. That’s such a relief to myself and I imagine to our attendees, many of whom are artists themselves. There’s always such pressure to produce outstanding work, especially when social media feeds, particularly Instagram, can overwhelm us with highly curated perfection.
Many artists we’ve interviewed have talked about the massive amounts of bad work they produced before hitting their stride, before finding their voice. I think this resonates with so many of our attendees because we’ve been there and know that struggle. It’s only in pushing through those phases and trying and trying again that we achieve success.
And it’s our mission to keep asking these questions, to keep discovering what the creative process is all about. Check us out on the web and come join us for our next talk: atlphotonight.com


Kevin D. Liles is a documentary and commercial photographer based in Atlanta with a special interest in covering issues, politics, and sports in the South.
 

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