Three Things I Learnt From Netflix’s Abstract: Art of Design – Episode 1

I recently came across a brilliant documentary, Abstract Art of Design on Netflix. In Netflix’s own words, the documentary series is, “a look beyond blueprints and computers into the art and science of design, showcasing great designers from every discipline whose work shapes our world.”

If you’ve never watched an episode, perhaps the trailer below will tempt you.

I have decided to follow this series on Netflix in a hope of picking out insights that apply to us photographers and I’ll be sharing these insights with you.

First episode is about Christoph Niemann, an illustrator and a graphics designer whose work has graced the cover of the New Yorker magazine more than 20 times.

Here are three things I learned from episode one that photographers can apply to what we do.

1. Show up to work every day.

This is a big one in any endeavour, not just photography. Showing up time after time, day after day. Even when we don’t feel like it. Even when we are sick, or haven’t slept enough, or not feeling the inspiration.

Chuck Close once famously said,

Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.

Creating art is not about waiting for inspiration. Inspiration comes from showing up and doing the work even when you are not inspired.

As I start to write more and more for this blog, I am finding this to be the key. I wake up every day (including weekends) between 4:30 – 5:00, make a cup of coffee and get to writing. There are days when I write absolute trite and then there are days when I can write a thousand words in one sitting. But the key is to show up and giving it a chance.

When the goal is to simply just show up, every day feels like a win – even when the output is not what we had hoped for.

2. Throw in something you might regret and that’s usually the most interesting part.

It is often the subjects that we are most afraid to shoot that we need to shoot the most. It’s the personal projects that scare us the most are the ones we need to take on.

If you are not scared, you are simply not pushing it enough.

Writers and bloggers have also said in time and again. Words that they are most afraid to write are the ones you need to write the most. Things that we are afraid of are the ones we need to do the most.

3. Creator and editor are two different people.

This one is about being a ruthless editor of your work. All photographs that you create feel precious and personal but we need to objectively look at them from a distance and check if they are successful or not in expressing your intent. Check if they say what you want to say. Listen to sources you respect and ask them for critique.

The ones that don’t say what you want to say, set them aside.

In Niemann’s own words from the episode, be a ruthless editor and a careless artist.


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