Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Limitations Improve Art

"Embracing the limitation can actually drive creativity. We need to first be limited in order to become limitless." --Phil Hansen
"If you treat the problems as possibilities, life will start to dance with you in the most amazing ways." --Martin Villeneuve
"Art lives only on the restraint it imposes on itself, and dies of all others." --Albert Camus
"Art often thrives on limitation." --Charles Bernstein
"The absence of limitations is the enemy of art." --Orson Welles
I'd put it this way: limitations are blessings. If you want to improve your art, limit what you can use or do to create that art. Force yourself to be creative and innovative. Don't ever let your limitations (whether natural or self-imposed) get in the way of what you want to accomplish. Instead, let limitations be what drives you forward.

Pablo Picasso said, "If you have five elements available use only four. If you have four elements use three."
Horse At Fence - Onyx, California
Captured using a cheap Holga film camera.
I currently own more cameras and lenses than I ever have before. I have more options than ever before. Film, digital, telephoto, wide angle, prime, zoom--whatever it is that I "need" I have. Yet I don't feel that these seemingly unlimited options are actually helpful.

It is as if too many choices stifles creativeness. I've created a process to decide what equipment to use when, yet the results are often disappointing (at least to me they're disappointing).

If I forced myself to use just one camera and one lens, I would have to figure out how to best use that to capture the scene. Would I be more creative? Would I be more inventive? Would I create better photographs?

I don't think it is an easy answer. But what I'm beginning to understand is that limitlessness can birth laziness and also birth formulas to deal with vast options. Laziness and formulas are the opposite of vision and creativity.

Limitlessness actually becomes a limitation. If you are going to give yourself all sorts of choices and options, you have to work hard at avoiding the pitfalls that come with that.

I'm currently in the process of simplifying my gear. I'm unloading everything that I don't need, and then some. I'm hoping that this will force me to be more creative. An inspiration has been photographer Paul Moore who creates great works of art using his cell phone camera. He has no need for any other camera.

Limitations improve art, just as long as you recognize them and embrace them.


  1. Good post, I totally agree. It's not easy to limit yourself, because then you have to put more effort into picture taking process, but in the end, I think it's worth it.

    1. Thanks, Barret! It goes against culture to say that less is more, but it is true. Limitations are indeed a good thing.