Peering deeply into the soul of creativity

Can you guess the subject of this photo? This is a predawn picture of Australia’s Lake Eyre salt flat taken by the extraordinary photographer Murray Fredericks.

Every winter for eight years, Fredericks rode his bike into the heart of the most featureless place on earth and camped for five weeks — to take photographs.  I have become obsessed with his pictures of “nothing.”  He peers into nature to translate the beauty of extreme desolation.

I have played the same mind tricks with my own photography for years. I’ll sit in one place in a forest or on a pier and see how many different photos I can take within a three-square foot area. I am always surprised by the results when I block out the world and concentrate on pure creativity.  I have not done this exercise for a couple of years but was inspired by the “Salt” series.

While on vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, MA, I found the most extraordinary beauty in the eroded clay sea cliffs.  The photos below are of dirt … but look deeply and I think you’ll agree the natural elements of our world can produce results as stunning as anything from the hand of our favorite modern artists …

You might be wondering what this has to do with blogging or social media marketing.  Everything.

Stop for a little while.

Plant your feet.

Look deeply.

Now, find the beautiful things that nobody else sees.

Top illustration: Salt 8 – 120cm X 150cm Digital Pigment Print on Cotton Rag, Edition of 7 by Murray Fredericks 

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  • Anonymous

    I love love love these photos, Mark – I’ve done similar sorts of things on my art blog, looking at the very edge of what most folks think of as “nothing” and being delighted by the intense “somethings” all around. Here’s three for you and your readers’ your viewing pleasure:
    http://chatoyance.blogspot.com/2011/11/troy.html
    http://chatoyance.blogspot.com/2011/03/rattlebox.html
    http://chatoyance.blogspot.com/2010/07/glyphs.html

    What does this have to do with social media?
    1. Social media hungers for fresh content. In the case of my art blog, the demand of a blog for content drove me to photography – drawings were too labor-intensive, poetry too infrequent.
    2. Social media collapses boundaries. Those images I caught with a camera, much to my surprise, spoke to others (in some cases, beyond language barriers – I have inexplicably attracted a few commenters whose first language is Portuguese.) The wide world became a neighborhood.
    3. Stillness can overpower shrillness. The “still small voice” has a value and power that the shrill, shilling voice can’t have – I think it comes from something true in one’s small self intersecting something mysterious and full of grace.

    The hard part? Clearing out the space and time needed to listen for those still small voices (whether of self, or of one’s audiences, or of some about-to-be-born idea) while the whirling engines of commerce clank and rattle their distractions.

  • Awesome observations, awesome content (as always).  I also think you have identified the “quiet” challenge precisely.  I took a bit of a risk with a post like this, but you know I think we should all reach for new kinds of interesting ways to present ideas, right?  Thanks! 

  • Love this share, Mark. 
    I have recently become addicted to the iPhone app Instagram. At first, I thought it was simply because it reawakened my latent love of photography, but I soon figured out that participating in the community was helping me to slow down (which sounds insane because adding yet ANOTHER community into my social media mix hardly seems like a recipe for slowing down). 

    I’ve found that having a place to share my images has inspired me to be more aware of the world around me – to see things in a new way. 

    Most mornings I start my day with a 40 min walk. The route is usually the same and I’m often listening to an audio book or chatting on the phone with my mom. However, I’m also always on the lookout for my next image. I used to fly through my walk in a sort of “blind” state. (You know like when you drive a familiar route so often that one day you arrive at your destination and can’t remember having driven there? Like that.) But now, the whole world is full of possibilities simply because I’ve opened my eyes (and my mind) to see them. Now, a turning leaf or a heart-shaped rock or a beached rowboat stop me in my tracks – literally. 

    Though these roads and paths are ones I’ve traveled over and over again, I never cease to find something new – something worth stopping for – something worth sharing. Social media can be like that, too. I may play in the same spaces with many of the same people, but because I’ve “planted my feet,” as you put it, there is always something new to discover … and share. 

    P.S. Love the images. Love to see you on Instagram … and can totally get you addicted to some fun & creative photo editing with apps like Snapseed, Colortouch, and FilterMania. Great creative outlet. 🙂  

  • Nancy A. locke

    Lovely post, lovely pictures. Thank you for sharing, Mark, a zen beginning to the week.

  • A couple of years ago, I rekindled my interest in photography by buying my first DSLR camera to celebrate the upcoming birth of my first grandchild. Having a camera reminded me of how many things around us are beautiful and can renew, refresh and inspire us. I now find myself looking for light wherever I happen to be. Sunrise, sunsets, clouds, or just the way something commonplace tends to gleam a certain way becoming striking in a certain light.

    This also tends to remind me to look for the light in the people around me. Find that certain glow, or remove some of the impediments that prohibit the light from shining through. When I have put some of my own photos on my blog, I tend to get more visits. Photos of light have been particularly popular. 

    Thanks for sharing your ideas and your images. We can all learn a lot when we actually see what is around us.

  • If you and i went on a walk together we may never make it home : )  Yes, I’m messing around with Instagram.  Thanks! 

  • Always a good thing. Thanks Nancy : ) 

  • A lovely comment Alice. Thanks! 

  • When we peer deeply into nature we just may find a bit more of our own soul. Thanks for sharing Mark. 
    Peace bro!

  • This post is one of my favourites of all time Mark, because it reminds us to pause, breathe, reflect and live fully. Love the photos. Love the message. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Billy

    I remember reading online somewhere about tribes in Africa upon greeting someone they would say ” I see you!” Literally meaning that they recognized that they where there and they saw them with more than their eyes.  We too often look without seeing and I think this post addresses that in the soul of social media.
    I am reminded of Van Morrison and his lifelong quest for ‘innocence captures again’ where he is looking for a particular state of mind and awareness, when I read this post. For me all creative expression is found in an outward expression of inner states.
    This is an unusual post, but I think it goes into where you are at, and I see you!
    Billy

  • Peace back!

  • I’m so glad you had that reaction Kaarina!  I tried something different here!

  • An unusual post indeed : )   Thanks! 

  • “Take time to smell the roses.” 

    I’ve always liked this phrase, and I think it speaks to the focus of your post.  

    With so much visual and audio ‘clutter’ around us now, it’s nice to stop for a moment and reflect… take in the beauty around us.  

    Nice post to start the week, Mark.  Thank you.

  • Those are the best kinds of walks. I look forward to seeing you on Instragram. Look me up – I’m there as “suddenlyjamie” (aka Jamie Lee Wallace). Happy creating! 

  • Thanks Susan! 

  • Mark,
    What an incredible inspiration. (Not ONLY the photos, although they certainly touch my soul.) Thank you for this one. ~Amber-Lee

  • This may sound corny, but your beautiful sentiment brought tears to my eyes. So…thanks for that, darn you 🙂 

    I have been trying to build my blog around the concept of looking at the online world in ways that other people don’t tend do and then bringing those aspects out. It helps that I’m really pretty nutty. But sometimes I think it’s good, as you say, to talk about stuff that seem like meaningless details until you really start looking at them.

    Did I just say my blog is based on meaningless details?

    I need a mulligan! 🙂

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  • Mark W Schaefer

    Thanks for your insight and your humor Margie.  Sounds like you and I have the same view of the world on blogging.  I hate being the same : )

  • You’re welcome. Glad you made it back out of the woods from your summer trip!

  • Jennifer

    Absolutely love this post. The best photography happens when you get lost in it, and what a great reminder to tie the practice of “seeing” and slowing down to other aspects of our lives, including social media where the instinct is often the opposite.

    Oh, and love the photos, too!

  • I love this! I’m often fascinated by close-ups of otherwise mundane things that look completely different when removed from their context. It’s also why I enjoy the many smart phone photography apps like Instagram etc. Thanks for sharing this perspective along with the great photos!

  • Everything indeed Mark, you’ve touched one of my passions today! 

    For me, creativity and soul are one, inseparable, and united.  Only with creativity there is soul; only with soul there is creativity. 

    I’m reminded of Modigliani’s position statement: “I ‘ll paint your eyes only when I see your soul.” 

    You’ve found, and shared “beautiful things” by looking deeply my friend,..

  • Terrific post Mark. In this technology laden world we are so often in hyper-drive trying to keep up with all the latest and greatest and miss the simplest and most precious things. One of my goals this year is to be present at all times and stop thinking about the next thing before I get there. Thanks for the reminder. 

  • Thanks.  I fell in love with this dirt!

  • I share your passion on that one.  Thanks for commenting Mitch!

  • We are really connected in this way.  Perhaps a gift that is forged through time?

  • That is such a great goal Sue! Good luck with that!

  • I agree Mark, our connection works for me… 
    Perhaps…  Unfortunately at this time, and space there is no way of knowing 😉 

  • Neill

    Hi Mark really great photo’s
    I’ll bet they look stunning in really high resolution.
    I knew the Lake Eyre one straight away strangely?
    The distinct colours and diminishing line made me instantly think of it.   
    This was never a risk.
    Creativity, marketing and social media are always interelated and work seemingly best with relatable topics. 

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