The Magic Frame: Originality


I am almost through a book called “A Beautiful Anarchy: When the life creative becomes the life created” by David duChemin. It is a good book, and one well worth the read. Read it before you read “The Soul of The Camera”, which I will start to pontificate on two weeks from now.

So, I came across these four contradictory quotations on the idea of originality. David, the cunning devil that he is, put them in one after another, to provoke us to think ( I suppose)

So, here goes.

Lets start with Ansel Adams.

Millions of men have lived to fight, build palaces and boundaries, shape destinies and societies; but the compelling force of all times has been the force of originality and creation profoundly affecting the roots of human spirit.

When I read this, I though, ’nuff said. I cannot add anything to this.

Then, he followed this with  M.C Escher

Originality is merely an illusion.

So, I said, to myself, “Huh? This is interesting indeed”

To compound my misery, he followed it up with Herman Melville

It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.

Fair enough, I thought

Now, comes Ezra Pound

Utter originality is, of course, out of the question.

We cap it off with C.S. Lewis

Even in literature and art, no man bothers who about originality will ever be original; whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

To add to this, from my own country, is Mohandas Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) to the world)

The truth is as old as the hills.

So, here we have it

Yes, it is very hard to be original. As said, the great American photographer, Minor White

Everything has been photographed….

More of him later.

So, lets go back to CS Lewis, Melville and Ansel Adams.

I do indeed agree that it is impossible to be original, if that is all we seek. When we seek to be original, we look at the words of other people, and try and draw inspiration from them. In doing so, we create works that are derived.

However, for all those who believe in God will know that we are created as unique beings. This is, to me, one of the wonders of Nature. There are no two trees that are exactly the same.

There are no two human beings who are exactly the same. We grow. We evolve.

While indeed you cannot step into the same river twice, the river is yet the same. In the same manner, we are not the same person at 20 as we were at 10. Yet, like ‘my grandfather’s axe’, we are the same.

If we continue the journey of looking into ourselves, and aiming to communicate something that is inside us, something that is our truth then, we will be able to present our own unique vision to the world.

This, then becomes the foundation for creating an original work.

The search for originality lies within ourselves, and with our unique way of interacting with the world.

‘Nuff said!


  1. It sure makes you think, Rajiv. Perhaps the originality lies in the view of different eyes. You can paint or take a picture of the same thing but you may show a different aspect that is original?

      1. When you think about it, there are the same twelve notes and you can configure them is so many ways and come up with a new song. Same with photography. But as you say, ultimately it is the message you want to convey.

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