By William Jones, Manager of The Fine Arts and Music Department
Pratt 5X3 is a photography exhibit that is currently on display now through November 2nd in the Fine Arts and Music Department at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Maryland State Library Resource Center. Three Baltimore photographers, who are also Pratt Library staff members, present five photos each in a joint exhibit of their work. This blog post features work by Teresa Duggan.
It’s generally agreed that creativity is important to healthy workplaces and thriving economies, but artistic creativity, the kind on display in “Pratt 5X3” is something that’s a little more mysterious to many people.
Recently though, science has begun to shed new light on the phenomenon of creativity. Psychologist Robert Sternberg of Cornell University who has written extensively on the topic goes so far as to include it, along with the analytical and the practical, as one of three facets of human intelligence.
We asked the photographers in the show, Teresa Duggan, Patrick Joust, and Lynne Parks, to talk about what creativity is like for them. Following are some of Teresa Duggan’s comments on her own experience with creativity. It was fascinating to see how, without being prompted, Teresa’s responses reflected some key ideas that Dr. Sternberg outlines in his writing.
Firstly, according to Dr. Sternberg, creativity is a habit. Compare that statement with Teresa's comment. “I keep a camera with me most of the time, so I’m ready to capture any moment that piques my interest. Because I’ve gotten into that habit, I think it’s made me be on the lookout for interesting scenes wherever I may be.” Creative people, it seems, habitually prepare themselves to respond to life, in fresh and unexpected ways.
Then Dr. Sternberg says that creative people are able to "tolerate ambiguity". In other words, they’re OK with uncertainty and doubt in their work, and even seek it out as part of the creative process.
Teresa made a strikingly similar remark in response to one of the questions we asked her, saying, “I tend to like photos that have something a little strange or unresolved about them. Instead of having people see my photos and think, “Oh, that one’s pretty”, I’d rather have them say something that starts with “What...?” or “Why?” because I enjoy a little mystery in photo scenes myself. I like seeing things that make you wonder and get your imagination going a bit, even if it’s subtle and you can’t say exactly what mental connections you’re making when you look at that scene. Does it remind you of a movie, song, or person? A story or poem you once read? A memory from your childhood?”
Finally, and taking the long view, Dr. Sternberg says that creativity is an attitude toward life. Teresa Duggan also has some advice for would be creators, about both life and photography. “Keep your eyes and mind open and your camera on hand.”