Why Curation Matters

Curation is so important.

And it’s not just me that thinks so:

Studies have shown that the wrong kind of groups can stifle creativity. A study at Carnegie Mellon University shows that even one noisy or judgemental contributor can throw off the intelligence and confidence of an entire team.

— Margaret Everton

We’ve all experienced that before. I mean, isn’t that why we all hated group projects in school? But I think this applies to art, too. On Instagram this past year, I began to follow a lot of new, super-talented photographers, and all of a sudden the accounts I had been following months before seemed almost cheap in comparison. So I unfollowed some of those accounts to make room for some newer, richer accounts. In that same time, I saw my own photography improve. I fell in love with a feed full of an aesthetic that I didn’t know existed. I became giddy and started imitating everything I saw.

It felt great. I would look at the photos I would post and ask myself, “if I saw this on my feed, would I ‘like’ it?” I found myself answering “yes” more and more often. But even though my skills and artistic ability were improving, there was something missing–my own artistic identity. Yes I was improving on the technical stuff, but I was only imitating great talent. Socality Barbie satirized people like me on Instagram–different people taking the same kinds of popular pictures to use on their own profile. 

So how do I learn to be creative again? I was listening to The Liturgist Podcast (11/10 would recommend, by the way) on which they defined creativity as the brain making connections between separate and otherwise dissimilar things. The way we make these connections are filtered through the lens of our unique experiences. That’s something that gets me excited about creativity–it’s personal. It’s intimate. It’s produced differently in each person because every one experiences the world just a little bit differently. So to create something that is truly and uniquely ours, we need to stop imitating and start collecting. Did you know that Pablo Picasso conceived Cubism while looking at African masks in a museum? I didn’t. But I did know that Picasso wasn’t known for his African art; but he studied it and explored infusing different aspects of what he saw into his own work. That process resulted in a style that became one of the most influential visual movements of the early twentieth century.

Today, we have a huge leg-up on Picasso–we don’t have to rely on museum curations to be inspired anymore. We can build our own. Using our Pinterest boards, or our VSCO collections, or our Instagram feeds, we are able to carefully select work–not for us to imitate, but to inspire us.

Just like Picasso, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to one style, one method, one medium.

A study in Scientific American shows that the kind of social and intellectual diversity we experience at work enhances creativity. Instead of surrounding ourselves with like-minded people who share similar intellectual and cultural backgrounds, being exposed to a variety of personalities and disciplines can change the way we think.

— Margaret Everton

I have found it so so important to include diversity in my curations. Being the son of an architect, I’ve found that I unconsciously tend to shoot organic objects in a more structural and linear way. Portrait and lifestyle photographer, Christian Gideon, uses his work experience to shoot sports in a radically different way. Celebrity photographer, Jeremy Cowart, mixes mediums and projects his fine art works onto his subjects and will even throw in some light distortion using a laser pointer to create a completely new kind of image on an iPhone.

I think there is a part of us that has a special appreciation to this kind of cross-pollination. Maybe that’s why we tend to partner with different personality types, or why we love to watch videos of dogs and cats snuggled up together, or look at pictures of old abandoned buildings ransacked by foliage. 

There is a special beauty to the fluidity and unexpected harmony of it all.

I hope you want to explore it as much as I do! What are you still doing here? Get curating!


See what I'm curating on Pinterest and on my VSCO Collection.