Just not there
It must have been about forty years ago, that I got painfully aware of my lack of creativity in handicraft and art. I think it was during the first drawing lesson in the secondary education phase.
The teacher – a bearded man with white foamy flakes in the corners of his mouth – had just given us our first assignment. My problem was that I had no idea what he was asking me to do. A composition of curved shapes. That was all he said.
The only restrictions were type and size of the paper – terrifyingly large – we had to use. We were completely free in the choice of drawing material. Pencils, wax crayon, watercolour, ink or boogers, all was fine by him, as long as we produced a composition on paper. An original composition of curved shapes.
There I sat. My face must have been one big question mark as I looked around to see the reactions of my fellow pupils. To my astonishment, most of them were already moving towards the room where the materials could be found. There were even a few kids that were creating sketches. All I had, was this big piece of white paper and exactly zero ideas.
Twenty or so minutes later I had managed to draw a few lines, hoping that my hands – or maybe even the pencil – would know what to do. Of course not… With the rubber I removed them and looked out of the window.
A magnificent view. According to the teacher a source of inspiration. I saw trees, a road and green grassy polderland. And my pencil did not move.
Over the years, such experiences remained part of my development and even as a photographer – whatever the hell that means nowadays – I find that I should be more creative in my work. When shooting a concert I am now able to put my own way of seeing things into the process aiming to go beyond simply capturing what is happening on stage. And when shooting a land- or seascape, I know what I’m looking for, but…
I am not creating. My work does not speak of anything important. There are no social issues that I have brought under the attention of a larger public, like how society deals with the homeless or the mentally disturbed that roam our streets. Nor was I there when people lost their homes to the wildfires to show the misery against wonderful flaming backdrops. (OK, for that one at least I had a valid reason) Once I had a great idea about a book. Travelling the country to make people aware of one specific type of illness, but after becoming aware of the money that I would need for that and letting myself get infected by the typical Portuguese mindset of oh-but-that-will-never-work while approaching people to help me get it done, and falling ill myself, the book only partially exists in my head. I still think it is a great idea.
Maybe next year.
A jealous man I am not, but when I look at the work of Bordalo II something inside is trembling that comes close to envy. Taking pictures at his exhibition I feel as far from creating as I can be. Each and every piece is a complaint about, an accusation against the society we have become. A society that seems to be obsessed with spending, consuming and hateful destruction. Us against them, tweeting for followers to feed our self-importance which is based upon absolute emptiness. Screaming our worthlessness into a cosmos that could not give less about us. And what do I do? I take pictures of an artist’s creations.
The answer to that question is the reason I publish this article. The reason I want to show Bordalo II’s work to, maybe a larger, public. To maybe reach a few people and maybe wake up that one more person who does bother. That one more person who also thinks we could and should do better. To eventually tip the scale and see intelligence prevail again in this age where stupidity seems to be the norm. To actually do better, as a group, and stop thinking that it will never work and change our destructive ways.
May the force be with us.