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Solving the creativity conundrum

Imposing limits on yourself leads to new ways of seeing and doing, and therefore more creative outcomes compared to if you didn’t impose the limitations. In his famous TED talk, artist Phil Hansen declared: “We need to first be limited in order to become limitless”. Patricia Stokes is an expert on the subject of creativity, adjunct professor of psychology at Barnard College at Columbia University, and the author of Creativity from Constraint: The Psychology of Breakthrough, and Creativity from Constraints in the Performing Arts. She explains that both limitations and creativity demand a change “in a current style or solution”. To move beyond a limitation you, need to use your creativity in order to come up with an alternative way to execute a task.

To further illuminate creativity, Stokes has framed an aspect of the phenomenon: The creativity problem, “which is the same in all contexts – do something new”. The solution to this problem, how to do something new, involves stopping something you’re doing and substituting it with something else, she says. “The something, for photographer, can be your motif (the subject constraint) or your materials and how you use them (the task constraints).”

Budget and technical constraints

Commercial and fine art photographer, Lilli Waters says that a small budget for personal projects is one of her greatest limitations. But Waters uses this limitation to her benefit. “Often having a lack of budget for a body of work can work in your favour, as you are left to use your imagination …” Limited funds has also led Waters to create her own props. “I like to incorporate nature into my photographs and use items that are a part of everyday life and all around us, whether it’s a lobster from a fish market, an old shotgun found in an

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