37: creativity (or attack of the giant Fiat 500)

I spent most of this morning standing watching a piece of derelict land next to Primark on Oxford Street being turned into something resembling a village fete that had been invaded by a giant Fiat 500. That is, there were balloons, a juggler, fake grass, stripey deckchairs, lollipops, cheerful people in t-shirts and a machine that takes your photograph, and in the middle of it all the huge installation of a Fiat 500. I was there to watch the photographer take some images for the magazine. The problem was, the giant car itself was really cool, but the fete around it wasn’t. It makes no odds to me particularly, but the photographer was vaguely offended when I asked him to make sure he covered all of the twee bits in his shoot as well as the cool bits. I know we’ll get asked at a later date to put the balloons and the juggler in with the weird and beautiful pictures of a 500 five times the size of a real one looming over the shoppers with Selfridges in the background, so I had to make sure we covered all the bases, even if it’s not ‘art’.

Fiat 500C model by Ed Callow [ torquespeak ].

This is where creativity is circumscribed by commerce and the demands of the client and the market. Unfortunately in my job, there’s no room to make something beautiful purely for the sake of it being beautiful, or unusual, or thoughtful or whatever the reason would be for you to take up the pen and write, pick up a camera and shoot, or sit in front of an easel and paint.

A while ago one photographer I was on a job with summed it up for me – this kind of work is bread and butter work. It pays the bills, it buys you food and it allows you to keep practising doing what you love, so that when there’s something you want to write about, photograph, paint, because you’re inspired by it, your skills have been honed and you’ve got the means to be able to do it without starving for your art.

This kind of philosophy has really helped me to put my job into its correct perspective the past few months – it’s bread and butter not heart and soul. But the existence of one doesn’t exclude the existence of the other. Just bread and butter would leave you soulless and fat. Just heart and soul would leave you melancholy and thin. Together, creativity gets the best of both worlds.

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