Friday, July 28, 2006

creative process

These include some thoughts about the creative process.
I was asked to write some about my experience of creating 'for Harry'.

At first I was not sure where to start. I rattled ideas around in my head. When the class was asked about their project, I made the mistake of listening to their ideas when I still didn't have a clear one. I felt fairly discouraged in the beginning because of my troubles with the first assignment. (which I found out weeks later, was a software/equipment issue) I thought, 'I'm not getting this shit.'

I know from experience that my best work comes from subject matter that I have a passionate curiosity about. It is akin to pulling a string on a ball of yarn. Pull and you may continue to unravel an interesting story or pull until you get stuck and realize all you have are knots. If you do not have the interest to sit with the knots, unravel them through the discovery process until the truth of the matter (a story) is revealed then frustration and indifference will follow. Nothing will kill a project faster than indifference.

The storytelling process was not new to me as a photojournalist. I usually approach a topic/subject with the commitment and luxury of time. The time constraints on this project forced me to consider a subject that I have already photographically documented. A few projects came to mind. I would build on something already familiar to me.

Genealogy has always interested me. On a trip out to the prairie over ten years ago, I traveled to the 'town' of Insinger, Saskatchewan to see where my father was born and raised. The population is less than 20 people. It is a literal ghost town. My father and an uncle showed its churches and grave markers to me. They told me the story of my grandfather. Later that day we discovered pieces from the mold/form that was used to create the grave markers. My grandfather was an enigma and his story intrigued me.

I pieced as many images as I could find. Some chromes and some prints needed to be converted and stored digitally. Some images were found on the Internet. When I did a Google search for Ukrainian cemetery crosses, the first site listed had pictures of the churches from Insinger! I took this as a sign that I was barking up the right tree and would continue with new confidence.

My father served as my fact checker. I called him and reviewed what I knew and ask questions. He was helpful. Then I wrote and recorded (and re-recorded) the script on the video recorder. The audio was downloaded and extracted. I experimented with the sound effects in iMovie.

The audio portion of the story ran just under 3 minutes. Since we were asked to create a 1-2 minute piece I began to trim. The final narrative runs 2:16. Next, I placed the photos in order on the timeline and paced them to the narrative (still without transitions).

The placement of transition proved to be challenging since the iMovie software is new to me and I was not familiar with what was in my toolbox. I literally spent hours doing this. Which allowed me to learn tons about the software. My objective was to keep the visuals moving along so that the story would not drag. (it’s too swift in some places)

If I could do it again... I would have found/hired someone to do the voiceover. Also, I think I would have left the video at 3 min. so that some lost info would have remained and the speed of the narration would not have to be tightened too much.
Overall, I was very pleased with the results. It was my first attempt at iMovie. The personal subject matter kept me motivated enough to sit in front of the computer for the long hours necessary. There is more to the story itself and further development is possible/probable. It served as a vehicle to pay homage to my grandfather I never knew but had a great impact on his family’s lives and mine.

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