When we were little, we were all singing and drawing at much the same level. Compare most five-year-olds’ drawings of a house and there is little to distinguish one from another.
Ask them to sing songs and they all spurt out tunes with the gusto of Adele. Children pick up toys and use their imaginations to embellish tales. They are naturally creative.
Then, along comes our sausage-machine education system. It beats the imagination and innovation out of our kids, trying to force them to all learn and develop in the same way and achieve the same ends, disregarding their individuality.
That way is poorly suited to most learners.
Consequently, we end up with relatively few artists, story tellers and musicians.
There are exceptions that prove the rule. My son attends Gateshead College. It’s truly “outstanding”; the best performing sixth form college in the UK.
Exam results are not the driving force behind getting it to the top of its game, but the joy of creative discovery. Students are encouraged to experiment, make mistakes and work co-operatively.
Just like singing along to the radio or doodling, photography helps satisfy our creative demands. A beginner can pick up a camera, press the shutter button and instantly make rudimentary art.
When others praise the photos, it feels good. Fantastic! It is little wonder photography has become so popular.
However, it is also sometimes warped into something pernicious. People compete to get more ‘Likes’ on Instagram than their rivals, often repeating comfortable images that don’t challenge the mind. Creativity becomes repressed.
Those who are true artists in their hearts don’t create with the intention of outdoing others.
The French "l'art pour l'art" and Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s motto “ars gratia artis” suggest that creating art is not driven by any such vulgar motivation as competition, only the desire to create.
Six times this year people said to me that they cannot create anything new; what they produced has been done before.
In fact, one of them did not want to look at a photography book for fear of him being influenced by it.
But this isn’t how creativity works. Being creative is about adopting existing ideas then melding and evolving them into something new. Our minds need external influences to inspire us.
Look at any of the great creative achievements. They all evolved from what came before.
So, celebrate others’ photos, learn from them. Then experiment, letting own your ideas evolve. Be creative!