My creative path – part 1

What si your windy creative path?

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This is My creative path – part 1! Right now, I’m reading the book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein. In this book he is arguing and talks about how you will become better prepared for success by having a broader expertise and experience than if you deep dive into one subject. Meaning experience from many different areas that you can use.

In one chapter of the book he is describing his own windy path leading up to his job as a journalist.

When I was 17 and completely sure that I would attend the U.S. Air Force officer’s college to become a pilot and then an astronaut, would myself evaluation probably have placed me in the persistent scales absolute top. I came as far as Sidney Yates, congresswoman from the Chicago area, said yes to recommend my application. But I never did anything with it. Instead, I changed my mind in the last moment and started to political science.”

“… After that I went for geo- and environmental science as a major and astronomy as a minor, determined that I would become scientist. I worked in a lab during and after my time at college, and realized I wasn’t one of those who wanted to dedicate their life to get a grip of one or two things that the world didn’t knew about before – instead I wanted to know a lot of things that I didn’t knew about before and then share that knowledge. I left the academy for journalism, and my first job was as a nighttime reporter in New York.”

In the pages prior, he tells us how he, through high school and college, used to practice different sports, such as soccer and basket. He tells us how he in college competed in athletics as a middle distance (800 meters) runner and was, as he expressed it, by far the worst one. Through hard work and determination, to keep working uphill, he finaly achieved success.

“… I kept at it for two awful years of practice that made me puke and competitions that gave my confidence bruises, as other promising talents came and went…. During my last season I crushed the university historic top 10-best of list and was among the top 8 twice at a big competition for university teams from the east coast and ran in a relay race team that set university record.”

*I’m reading this book in Swedish, so the translations isn’t exact of the original book, but the same contents.

This made me start thinking about my own path and the choices I made. And, what experience and wisdom I have taken with me along the way. Because, it is so easy for us just to go full throttle through reality onwards tomorrow, without reflecting over what has happened and what we have learnt from it.

I start from, almost, the beginning. 

My creative path and journey

an image of a skier jumping of a cliff
My childhood friend Andreas Lundstam photographed (in slide film) in St Anton, Austria, on my first ever assignmnet.

Part 1 – the first photographs

Exactly when creativity came into my life for real is hard to say. Just as every other kid on the planet, I loved to draw, paint, build stuff play with LEGO and everything in between. I have always loved to take photographs. I remember I always stole the disposable cameras as soon as I got the chance and I always wanted my own one when traveling with my family.

The first real memory I have of using a camera with a purpose (other than play) was when I together with some friends was photographing ourselves skateboarding and riding inlines around Östersund, Sweden. Without having a clue about how a camera worked or what exposure theory nor composition was, I just wanted to capture my friends making cool tricks in the local vert ramp, jumped stairs and other things. I don’t believe these negatives (yes, I was 12 back then) or the prints are still in existence, and it wasn’t probably any talent hidden away back then, as well.

Fast forward 5 years. I am now a teenager, in high school, with buffalo plateau shoes and a Nick Carter haircut. By chance I discovered photography (without remembering my previous tries). 4 hours a week I spent my time head down, reading a photography magazine or trying to learn about lines and composition (that went slow!) or in the darkroom (Instagram on paper) and developing my negatives and photos, often nature or my friends as subject.

Teachings: Even if I didn’t learn anything that actually stuck, during what was called “student’s choice”, where I chose photography as a subject, it was extremely important for what to come. Despite considerable effort from my photography teachers, I never manage to understand what lines in a photograph was or how exposure theory worked.

It wasn’t until the second semester of my last year (second semester in photography) photography hit me like a sledgehammer. The outdoor photographer, now agency owner, Peder Sundström was teaching us about photography and showing us his images of skiers skiing down mountainsides. I was hooked. Raised in Östersund, Sweden, all my childhood years had been about skis, snowboards and snow. I always wanted to become a pro, competing in snowboarding, but despite some unsuccessful tries in local competitions, it didn’t get further than just a dream. But now, I realized I could work with winter and action sports and at the same time have fun doing what I loved – I was going to be an action sports photographer!

A skier covered in powder snow.
Jon Larsson photographed in October(!) 2007 in Åre Sweden in 2006.

It was the feeling of having fun and play around with the camera, just as I had done when I was a kid, but now with a purpose to make something out of it, was what got me hooked. If we instead of Peder and my other teacher (a very friendly and dedicated woman), would have had a grumpy old man, wearing a vest (as all old farts in photography does), trying to hammer us with knowledge, my relationship to photography and image creation would be different. But instead, we were allowed to play around, have fun and explore imagery, the darkroom in our own phase. Without any expectation on any outcome, beside attending class.

You should never, ever underestimate giving yourself room to create without demand on a certain outcome, especially in the beginning. Because, how many techniques, opportunities and amazing careers have come to life by playing?


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