Creative Research 101
Updated: Sep 18, 2020
Staying updated with the News
Photography at times can be a little demanding, the pressure to begin a new project can be daunting and often leaves you in a downward spiral of frantically looking at other Photographer's work on Instagram or flicking through tons of images on google. What many fail to realise though, is that there are other methods of researching for a project which does not have to be so tedious. Every great project starts from somewhere, whether it be with something that you saw which made you to ask certain questions, or an enlightening conversation that you had with someone, most breakthrough projects had a little beginning. How can someone research creatively for a project without feeling as if they are researching for a Thesis that they are about to write?
Photo: Entreprenuer Handbook
There are various ways to research for a project which does not necessarily have to include you spending hours on the internet (however during this lockdown period, that may be some people's only option). How about asking yourself this question; when last did I read a Newspaper? You’d be surprised how many issues and topics will come up that will get your creative juices flowing! Despite the amount of negative news featured (which may be a strain on people's mental health), keeping up with current affairs is a great way to stay active in your practice. Asking yourself questions on what you’ve just read in a newspaper and exploring answers to those questions visually, may transform from a creative exercise into a full blown project. Here is a list of a number of reputable and visually stimulating News publications which are available online.
Exhibitions and Artist Talks
Now before you say it, let me just give a heads up, I understand visiting exhibitions in spaces/galleries and attending Artists talks may not exactly be possible, considering that there is ongoing pandemic. However one of the joys of technology is that with it, virtually anything becomes possible! Due to everyone having to stay in doors, there has been increased use of virtual exhibitions to show creative work. One thing I love about exhibitions is that it offers a great way to consume art and be inspired by everything within the space. You can become inspired by the work of the exhibiting artist, the kind of frame that they used for their images or even the spotlight that was used to light up the images. There is just something about being in another space surrounded by art that is just about enough to get someone in a creative mode. Thankfully some organisations and individuals have made an effort to recreate this scene and feel online.
Artists talk is another great source of research. Hearing a creative speak about their practice and inspirations is a fantastic way to gain ideas on work to produce (like I said, gain ideas, not copy their work). Being in the presence of that creative also give you the opportunity to interact with them by asking questions or seeking for advice on how to go about a new series of work that you are planning. A lot of creatives and publications are doing artist talks online via Zoom and Instagram live so also get involved in those.
Talking to people
After doing some initial research by flicking through the news, checking out an exhibition and participating in an artist talk, you may have an idea in your mind of a project that you would like to explore, the next bit of primary research you should think about doing is conducting interviews ( this can be informal conversations) around the theme of your potential project. Have a chat with those who can help you with further information that would be useful, or maybe they could even give you ideas on different ways that you can approach it. Talking to people is a great way of pushing your potential project forward and adding a bit more context and depth to your research. Again, it is a great way of getting away from the Internet and interacting with other humans.
Keeping a Scrapbook
Despite how childish this may sound, I find that keeping a scrap book where I can write down all my ideas, printing out inspirations and sticking them inside, is a great way of crystalizing a potential project. Gathering all your research and information in one place with visuals of how you can go about it is an effective way of getting the ball rolling. Noting down various steps and progress is also a great source of motivation as you get see how far you have come from an initial idea to a developed project.
Photo: Paul McMahon
Hopefully you have seen that there are a variety of different ways which does not have to involve spending hours locked inside of your room on the internet. Your research process for your next series of work should be as fun, interactive and practical as possible. The creativity that you put into researching for it will show in the amount of creativity that comes out in the end result!