Creativity is Dying

Abstract Sandstone, Castle Valley, Utah
Which is Better - Image 1 © Jay Goodrich

That's right, I just read an article in Newsweek titled "The Creativity Crisis" and we (America) are facing a new issue. This issue is one that is not often thought of as a direct or easily recognizable problem because creativity is often thought of as an ideal pertaining only to artists and the like. Even when discussing the article with a close friend, who is in fact himself an artist, his first reaction was to say, "Well it makes sense, we don't teach art in school anymore." The crisis is in fact a little deeper than that though. I want you to think creatively about the problem and try to head outside of the box a little bit. The problem does not just lie in the fact that we aren't teaching our kids art in our schools as much as before, but lies also in the fact that we are not teaching them to think creatively in general.

Of course our society is educated to a higher level than ever before, but in the process, we have forgotten to teach about how to think outside the box. We teach rules, systems, and practicality, but what happens when problems occur that we have never witnessed before--a deep sea oil rig sinking into the gulf, and economic downturn that hits faster than the 30's depression. If all we study is the rule book, how can we go beyond it? There are essentially no rules written for a situation that has never occurred, wouldn't you agree?

I watched my five year old daughter create a book yesterday, she entitled it, "I Saw a Cat". Now realize that she is only five, and just began reading and writing in the last couple of months. Heather and I made the decision to do a few things with Jade that I think have pushed her into this creative mindset. We enrolled her in a duel-language school for kindergarten, we allow her to spend a ton of time at our neighbor's house-both of whom are artists, we read to her every night and have done so before birth. We also push her to do more than just watch cartoons on the TV every day, even though she would have no problem doing so. And now at 5 she creates a 10 page book about a cat. I was floored to say the least.

Abstract Sandstone, Castle Valley, Utah
Image 2 © Jay Goodrich

After reading the Newsweek article, I am hell bent on pushing both of my kids into thinking outside the preverbially box now as much as possible. The main reason is not because I want them to follow in their father's footsteps, although if they should choose to, I have no problem with that, but I want them to be creative in whatever discipline in life they should choose. Creativity does not have to reside on an artists' level, do you think of Donald Trump as a creative? If you don't you should. He didn't make all of those millions not being creative in his profession.

So this is all fine and good but what the heck does it have to do with nature photography? Well, that is pretty much the simple part. By thinking outside of the rule book with your photography you can turn just about anything you create in camera into possibly the next photo masterpiece. Now I am not saying that it will be automatic, or it will even come easy or without a price, but per this article, creativity exists in all of us, we just have to learn how to utilize it. To train it. And learn to focus it. It is not much different than any other life discilpline out there. There is no such thing as a professional athlete who doesn't practice or train, just as there are no great artists who do not paint. As you have seen through out this post, a single image of mine does not necessarily get one technique applied to it and then put in the archive. It may take on several looks before it is sent out into the world and it may even be saved in various formats and crops as well.

Abstract Sandstone, Castle Valley, Utah
Image 3 © Jay Goodrich

These images speak differently to me and each has its place. I am not saying that one over the other is right or wrong, they are just a different way of highlighting the same image. In addition, if I wasn't trying to obtain something different when I discovered this image, I truly do not think that I would have even seen it. For this image of sandstone rock was about the size of the palm of my hand and obscured along a roadside under some tamarisk. It was so delicate that if I stepped on it, that would have been the end of the composition.

With all this fresh in your mind, do you have something creative to share? An article, an image, a way or pursuit in life, or anything else for that matter? Put a link to it your comment. Also, read the article and tell me what your take on it is, good bad, or indifferent.


    Jay great read and very thought provoking.

    Funny I don’t need an article to drive this point home. I’ve thought about it every day since my wife and I found out she was pregnant. The irony about our society is that it seldom teaches or reinforces creative thought, yet those who utilize creative thought are held on a pedestal in art, industry, science, etc. I look forward to supporting creative thoughts and activities into the routine of my son.

    I heard/watched an interview of Jeff Bridges not that long ago and was blown away by one very small anecdotal part of the interview. As a child he and his siblings had 1 hour of their day devoted to pure make believe with their mother. As I recall this continued into their teens. I thought this was an amazing activity to do. 1 hour a day where no rules apply to how you have to think. I think that sets a great precedent for one to think freely. Creative thought does happen organically, but it also requires training…. or more so nurturing so that ones brain is allowed to be wired to facilitate creative thought. If time isn’t set aside for creative exploration how can one expect to be creative.

    Found the link… NPR interview. Take note at the 5:50 mark

    I like the first one Jay, something in my messed up brain likes vertical shots though 🙂

    I agree we’re pushing people to work inside a box and not think creatively, but I think it’s slowly changing, everyone is seeing how awful the corporate world has become and has lead us to where we are now, companies are thinking creatively and encouraging their employees to think different rather than just following orders.

    Art is an odd thing. I had plenty of art classes in school and performed miserably. I never thought I was an artist (not even close) until I picked up a camera. Now I’ve found ways to express myself and it’s great. Art class didn’t bring this out of me, it was my own passion and desire. One day I just found it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    I share my creativity on flickr with an awesome group of locals and others all around the world I’m obsessed with learning more about the craft and have a long way to go.

    Thanks for your inspirational writing Jay, writing is another area I hope to improve on because of photography. I hope to be at your level someday!


    I read your article and found it very fascinating, I have always thought that in order for anybody to become successful in any endeavor, they needed a couple of things, creativity and the wiliness to overcome rejection.

    I have a unique set of images, that I have created at called Toilygraphs. And an short video that was introduced on the local affiliate in Philadelphia


    Adrian Rodriguez

    Very good article. I think we all have a lot of creativity when we are young but, sadly, it seems to get tamped down until it is just gone. I applaud your efforts to encourage your children’s

    growth in that area.

    I really like your sandstone images! #2 is my favorite.

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