I recently came to the shock realization that my website was hopelessly out of date. It started out well many years ago but it had recently suffered from neglect. Time had passed its once elegant design by and I had to admit it was...well...just embarrassing. My webmaster was not 12 years old anymore and he now had degrees in IT and Art History with his own YC backed tech start up company in San Francisco. There could be no possibility of bribing him with extra allowance or family trips. My son had grown up. Even if he had the time, I realized I probably couldn't afford him now anyway. In short, I feared the technical coding and geek voodoo needed to do an entire makeover of my site.
I need not have. When I finally lifted my head out of the sand, I came to realize that web site creation had undergone a massive change in recent years and that even non geeks like myself could put together elegant sites without knowing a line of code. Companies such as Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal were now offering pain free site building tools. Cutting edge design came easily from template supermarkets like ThemeForest and hosting was cheap and uncomplicated.
After wading through all the choices, my former web master son steered me towards Squarespace, a hot New York startup that promised to do it all with a minimum of fuss. From there I proceeded to follow the subsequent steps that I think could probably be applied to most creative activities whether it be building a website, taking a photograph or even publishing a book.
Step 1. Figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it. 2. Try to understand your audience and how they will perceive it. 3. Work out the simplest most elegant plan to get your message across. 4. Revise this plan. 5. Rework it. 6. Repeat until satisfied.
Planning for creativity (or travel or life for that matter) may seem counter intuitive, but I've found that having a proper framework in place beforehand often provides for a solid basis to allow spontaneity, serendipity and naturalness to happen to enhance creativity. With a roadmap in place you can afford to get lost, find new directions or even make a mistake. I personally believe that in the creative process, there are really no wrong turns or mistakes. Just more interesting pathways that need to be considered along with the overall plan.
But I digress. The point is, I spent about a week thinking about and planning my website and another week building and revising it. I had the end point in mind from the very beginning. What struck me most about this project was that like all good photography, the process was heavily influenced by editing. Rigorous editing. Ruthless editing.
I have always strived in my photography and taught in my workshops that knowing what to leave out is the basis for effective communication. It all comes down to a philosophy of less is more. Basically, editing out everything that is unnecessary helps immensely in getting a message or story across.
While working on my site I was reminded how important editing was for photographers and how often it is overlooked. In a world drowning in too much choice and flooded with images on massive hard drives, every frame you shoot can feel like a keeper - but it's often just clutter. Having run a photo library for many years I was frequenttly asked by photographers I represented to pass judgment on their photos. Which of their images did I think were best?
Therein lies the answer to the whole creative process. The editing starts the moment an idea is formed and continues throughout the whole process so that the final photo, website, book etc only contains only the best ideas and outcomes possible. It's tough to throw out your 'almost rans' and 'pretty close' darlings but I believe it's that ruthlessness in weeding out everything but the essential best, that brings all creative endeavors to a higher level.