Musings on Photography

Creative Authenticity

Posted in books by Paul Butzi on February 27, 2008


Yesterday the UPS man delivered my copy of Creative Authenticity, by Ian Roberts. It’s subtitled “16 principles to clarify and deepen your artistic vision.” As I am reading through the book, I’m rapidly becoming glad that I didn’t let the subtitle keep me from buying the book, and also coming to suspect that the subtitle is something of a disservice to the content.

It’s not some iteration of 16 fundamental principles. It’s more a collection of 16 essays, some of them closely related and some of them not, but all of them touching on the actual process of making art. Quoting from the introduction

A friend reading the book suggested that the principles should be more active: Search for Beauty instead of Searching for Beauty, for example. And that there should be an action step at the end of each section.

That as it happens is exactly what I don’t want this book to be. In raising questions and possibilities, a quick call to arms is probably going to be superficial and counterproductive.

I’m not sure this book is for people who want to create but don’t. It seems to me that in the end, you have to plunge in, fears and all. There’s something courageous about it. If a person is too timid to even start, I’m not sure what it would take to get that person started. I’m not a believer in the books and courses that advocate going into creativity rituals and altar making and mask making in order to get unstuck and get started. Maybe that stuff works. I don’t know. It just seems to me like more strategies to avoid getting on with it. This then is a book for people who are in the thick of it.

A quick call to arms this isn’t. So far I’ve read stuff that resonates strongly for me. The first essay touches on beauty, and it’s perhaps the best all around treatment of the subject of beauty and art that I’ve read. Enlightening without being pedantic. Useful for an artist in what I’l call a ‘Shut up and Play Yer’ Guitar’ sense – that sense that we’re discussing beauty in a context where if our discussion isn’t helping us when we sit down at the easel or put the camera on the tripod then perhaps we’re really discussing angels and the heads of pins. And, in the same essay, Roberts does a neat end run around the entire quagmire of creativity and originality by arguing that, as artists, we’d be better off not worrying about ‘creative’ or ‘original’ but instead aiming at producing art that is ‘authentic’ in the sense that it reflects us as individuals.

I’m only part way through, but I’m starting to suspect that this book will end up on the shelf next to Art and Fear and The View from the Studio Door.

[Side note: Unlike many of the books I’ve bought recently, this one is a beautiful book. Ok, not quite – the cover doesn’t float my boat. But the book itself is nicely designed – simple, but beautiful in a functional way. The typesetting is good. The margins are not stingy. The text is not set too tightly and the line spacing is generous. My only complaint is that it’s perfect bound, and as always, I find the binding frustrating because when held open at the bottom, the pages try to close at the top (and vice versa). What a delight to find a book on photography that’s not a horror, as so many of the books I’ve bought recently have been.]

4 Responses

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  1. mcananeya said, on February 27, 2008 at 4:31 pm


    That is really a beautiful picture. Don’t look now, but you may be coming out of “the Doldrums”!

    Keep it up,

  2. julie o'donnell said, on February 28, 2008 at 2:58 am


    I didn’t even know such books existed before reading your blog. How on earth do you find out about them? My Amazon searches leave me with a bewildering page full of intimidating philosophical tomes and I find it impossible to tell the genuine from the genuinely pretentious… anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed Art & Fear, the Education of a Photographer and now I’m looking forward to this one too. Thanks!

  3. Andreas Manessinger said, on March 1, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Just ordered, and “The View from the Studio Door” as well 🙂

    Thanks a lot.


  4. […] the recommendation of Paul Buzti, I picked up a copy of Creative Authenticity, by Ian Roberts. The book is a collection of essays […]

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