October 22, 2013

Photographers vs Writers - a battle of creativity

Dear M,

I had this interesting discussion (more like a friendly debate) with a photographer recently about our crafts. We both call ourselves creative people, of course. I said to him that photographers aren't really creative because all they do is capture or copy what they see.
He asked, And what do writers do?

Well, I said, we do not use a gadget to carbon-copy it. We have to play with words and twist and turn them and find the best suited one for the occasion. We have to learn grammar and spelling and metaphors and similes and what-not. One singe click and you have copied nature. For me it would take hours to find the right words, to write them so that the feeling is conveyed.

His reply was that they had to learn about composition and lighting and shadow and perspective and focal length and shutter speed and what-not. No one becomes a photographer just because he carries a camera around. It takes years of learning and experience to capture a snap that talks to the viewers. Different photographers can take different pictures of the same scene. Just as different writers can write about the same incident and give a different emotion to the reader.

I accused him of using Photoshop to beautify his pictures. The best photographer was the one who knew how to modify his pictures on the computer and remove unwanted elements and improve the brightness and contrast and everything. No one liked to see a raw picture, in most cases.

He accused me of using spell-check and grammar-check tools. The best writer knew how to use the thesaurus the best. Who liked to see a raw first draft right after it was written?

I didn't give up. I said photographers are like Batman - they are 'super' because of their gadgets, the best camera in the market with the most advanced features made them better photographers. Writers, painters, musicians and others were like Spiderman or Superman. They had talent in their blood, they had the power to crawl or fly or fight and did not have to depend on gadgets (yes, gadgets are the part that most annoys me).

He retorted that there was no basis to comparing Superman or Spiderman or Batman, they were just different. Let me give you my most modern camera, and you can access any amount of photo software you like, can you take a few pictures and show me?

I grimaced. Of course I am a terrible photographer, and no camera or Photoshop could make me a genius.

Likewise, he said, I have all writing tools at my disposal but I can never write like you do. You bring life alive with your words, I bring it alive with my pictures. Painters with their paintings, musicians with their music, and so forth. We're different even when we try to do the same thing.

We parted amicably and agreed to disagree on the topic. But I loved the discussion and the thoughts that came up.


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