Got It
This website uses cookies. More details


Learn Photography


Back to You >

Fame, Guru-hood, Sales of Prints >

44.8 - Innovate

#8: Innovate



Nadar (Gaspar Félix Tournachon, 1820-1910), a French photographer, innovated.

Besides portraiture, he also took the first photographs from a balloon in 1858.

Nadar was among the first photographers who used artificial light, in 1860, when he photographed the catacombs and sewers of Paris.

John Perrault

Art critic John Perrault recounted ways to be innovative.

His remarks were aimed at those using pigments and the like.

You can adapt his thoughts to your way-of-working with photography.

Use a new methodology or way of making. Dripping, screen-printing, gnawing, lathering: Pollock, Warhol.

Use a new material. How about chocolate (Antoni) or toothpaste (Perreault)?

Copy something: Gorky copying Miró and Picasso, Pop artists copying comic strips, Malcolm Morley copying calendars or Vermeer; Mike Bidlo copying everybody. Copy yourself.

Put together two or more things that have not been joined before: obviously painting and sculpture (Robert Rauschenberg), art and theater(Rauschenberg), sound and vision, autobiography and abstraction.

Find a source outside art, or at least outside orthodox art. Cubism looked to African Art; Surrealism looked to South Pacific Art and North West Indian Art; Duchamp looked to alchemy and to the writing techniques of Raymond Roussel. Jean Dubuffet looked to the art of the insane, which he then called Art Brut.

Make it old. When painting is dead, surprise people by going back to painting; when abstract art is in the winning position, make realist art (Chuck Close).

Subtract something from art: representation, form, color, meaning. Is there anything else we can subtract? Conceptual art tried to remove even the physical, leaving only language (visible and in some cases oral). Can we then subtract language?

Add something to art: politics, feminism, personal narrative, objects. When it seemed as if art was just going to be empty colorless grids, a certain group of artists added color and decoration (Joyce Kozloff, Miriam Shapiro, Robert Zakanitch).

Redefine art. Duchamp said he was creating nonretinal art. Related to this is the following: try to make something that looks as little like art as possible.

Innovate out of ignorance. You can make something new simply because you don't know any better. Many Outsider Artists fall into this category. People such as Henry Darger don't break the rules; they don't even know the rules.

Break the rules, or create new rules.

But best of all, find a new way to innovate.1

Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Philip-Lorca diCorcia innovated within the genre of street photography.

For his Heads series, he set up a flash in the street scene before his camera.

The flash acts like a spotlight on one individual among the many on the street.

diCorcia's spotlight is subtle. The flash light stands out because, often, its color is different than, and its direction is not consistent with, the ambient light.

1 Perreault, J. (2005, February 2 & 3) How to Innovate. Lecture given at Cochise College, Sierra Vista, AZ, (Link no longer active).