Creative DNA as Pointed Out by a Flower Photo Close-Up – Picture to Ponder – v6-issue6

by Sheila Finkelstein on February 11, 2010

In Session 2 of the current Through and from the Lens Point and Shoot Photo Course, I introduced the concept of Creative DNA and referenced my discussion to issues of Picture to Ponder five years ago.

When participant Deb Mallett commented on then-featured photo and imagery she had difficulty finding, I decided the article and photo were worth revisiting.

Thus Today’s Photo – (See below for a description of the imagery which I saw at that time.)

cropped pink bromeliad
An unidentified tropical flower from a local nursery

In 2005, I wrote: As I prepare the curriculum for the upcoming teleclasses, I’ve been reading THE CREATIVE HABIT: LEARN IT AND USE IT FOR LIFE by Twyla Tharp, dancer/choreographer. In it she speaks of “Creative DNA” which we may think of as our “creative hard-wiring or personality.”

She goes on to say, “When I apply a critic’s temperament to myself, to see if I’m being true to my DNA, I often think in terms of focal length, like that of a camera lens.

All of us find comfort in seeing the world either from a great distance, at arm’s length, or in close-up. We don’t consciously make that choice. Our DNA does, and we generally don’t waver from it. Rare is the painter who is equally adept at miniatures and epic series, or the writer who is at home in both historical sagas and finely observed short stories.

After reading this I had a “flash.” People have been asking me how I see and take photos the way I do. In attempting to find answers, I’m noticing that the pictures subscribers seem to be most responsive to are those where I’ve zoomed in and on some where I’ve gotten even closer by cropping.

My creative DNA IS that close-up focus. So I became “true to my DNA”, pulled up the picture and cropped it. I’m thinking you get the strongest response to my work when I am being “truest” to myself.

tropical pink flower

The long view of the above photo which I cropped

Puzzling Imagery

In 2005, I stated wrote: “I see a woman [top photo] with her head at a 3/4 angle toward the right cradled and protected by the petals, one of which caps her head. There is also a bulging-eyed, pink frog on the left protecting her, where her knees would be. I could continue with the some of the other petals and didn’t. I suspect that some of you will now probably start seeing images also.”

In response to this Deb Mallett wrote:
“It took me a long time to see the woman’s face and the bulging-eyed, pink frog in that flower, but I stared and stared and all of a sudden they both were there. And it’s not an abstract woman’s face, it’s actually quite realistic. Now that I’ve seen it, I can’t understand how I didn’t see it before.”

Now, five years later, I immediately see the frog and have yet to see the “realistic woman’s face.” I’ve marked the “frog” in the photo on FlickR (scroll over the PICTURE there and a box will pop up) and may or may not have identified the woman by the time you click on the picture link.

Self-Reflecting Queries
I invite you to become aware of your creative DNA. As a pattern, are you looking at the world, people, situations, “from a great distance, at arm’s length, or in close-up?”

If you find yourself in challenging situations, are you in the true mode for you? If not, would shifting it make a difference to you and to the people with whom you are interacting?

Does it help to be aware that a person with whom you are attempting communication may have a different creative DNA when viewing projects?

Also, in relation to looking for the “face” and the “frog”, if you “played” the game and could not find one or both of the images, how did you handle your possible frustrations? My first inclination is to attempt to figure it out myself and then walk away if I can’t find the answer. Ultimately, I might ask for help and I am getting better at it. What about you?

Lastly, if you’ve read all of the above, are pondering it and, then, find that what I’ve related has some impact for you, I’d appreciate your sharing that in the comments below. It doesn’t have to be the “what” or the “why.” Simply knowing a difference has been made would be helpful and sufficient for me. Thank you.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sandra Mindus February 11, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Last night I was challenged to fully express my creativity, and now I see that you are challenging me to discover my creative DNA. I hadn’t thought about creativity in quite that way before. Interesting perspective.

I realized that I see people and situations much the same way as I take pictures. I see through a wide angle lens at first, taking in the ‘whole picture’., then start playing with the zoom lens. I zoom in on various components of the picture or the situation, finding different angles and lighting that interest me, or not. When I find something interesting, I will zoom in very close finding things I couldn’t perceive at a distance. Sometimes the picture does look better at arm’s length, both metaphorically and in reality.

Also, I can take a picture at arm’s length, view it on my computer, then crop to suit my creative taste. I do the same with life situations. If I have choices to make, I take my time, sleep on it, then I look at them from a different perspective, before narrowing the focus to one or two subjects.

My favourit photos are macros. In my life, I prefer more intimate situations to large, impersonal institutions. I think my creative DNA leans towards getting very close to things, delighting in the minute details. Thank you for giving me that creative nudge.

Sandra Mindus


Sheila Finkelstein February 12, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Thank you so much for your in-depth response to this post. Given what your experience seems to be (my assumption from Googling your name), I am especially honored that my writing made a difference for you. I appreciate your sharing that you got a “creative nudge” from what I wrote. And, you are most welcome.

Lastly, what is, Color Sound Therapy, in which I see you are certified?

Thanks again.


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