The stuff of dreams

I have a page of links on my website entitled: Photographers You Should Know About.

It’s a list of friends, acquaintances, and people I’ve never met. All photographers, of course. The list could be longer, but at the moment, it is what it is.

I recently added the name of Raphael Shevelev. I came across him via a link on Facebook (by another photographer), and was particularly struck by his articles.  I’ve exchanged emails with him, and he is a gracious gentleman.  He gave me permission to reference his work.

Specifically, I recommend reading the article on creativity: The (Dis)Comfort of Creation.

In it, Shevelev begins by saying this:

“In the beginning we were given light and cameras and film, and we wandered around the Vale of Cameraclubville and made lovely images, and we saw that they were good. And on the seventh day we rested. On the morning of the eighth day we awoke, a little disturbed by our dreams, but, as they were only dreams, we dismissed them and went about our business of making more lovely images.

“The practice made us better and better; we became virtuosi, technically excellent. Yet our souls seemed somehow to get hungrier and hungrier, so we had fantasies, but we dismissed them for being only fantasies.

“We are the descendants of logicians and scientists, secure in the knowledge that advancement stems from the progression of associative thought, each step carefully constructed upon the foundation of all that has gone before, all that has been tested and proven and safe. The progress of the world, in science and in art, seems therefore to be a linear process drawing ever more expertise (virtuosity) from practitioners. It is, after all, only children and primitives who dream and fantasize, and weave those dreams and fantasies into the fabric of their daily lives.

“Not so!”

How not so? Read the whole article. It is enlightening.

I have made some lovely images. What I dream is different, however.

Just last week I went to my darkroom and printed a negative that is perfectly fine. It is exposed correctly, in focus, and technically correct in many objective ways. Subjectively, the composition is fine (if I may say so myself) and it makes a nice picture.

But it is intensely unsatisfying!


It required only skill and no creativity (except maybe for where to stand, as Ansel Adams once said). Even that could be argued to be skill based.

It’s hard to break away from what one has done all of their life, especially as an artist. I do not use that term lightly. Many photographers do not consider themselves artists. If so, then they likely are not artists. But I took a look at the body of work I have made over the last few decades and determined that I did not need to ever make those images again. Not that they were bad photographs, but I had been there, done that.

This was a while back, and since then, I’ve made many of those “same” images, including the negative I printed last week. While not needing to, I will still make them, because I will be in a place where that’s the photograph to make.

But the stuff of dreams (both sleeping and “day”) is much different. The problem is two-fold. Since I’ve come to the realization, I have been too busy with the same old types of images (making the book, for instance) to really be bold and creative. Also – and this is more important – I do not have the technical expertise to take the dream images and get them on film or onto a sensor. Well, not yet! That’s the scariest part.

I’ve done some experimenting, but nothing is ready for public consumption.

If one is going to be an artist, however, one has to make art. Even it it’s bad …


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