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Gratuitous creation

Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information.

An original is a creation motivated by desire. Any reproduction of an original is motivated be necessity. It is marvelous that we are the only species that creates gratuitous forms. To create is divine, to reproduce is human.

Man Ray

I came across these quotes on a site by photographer Akif Hakan Celebi, here at, here at his own site. Man Ray I hope does need no introduction.

I love photography and have looked at a lot of it. For me, in recent memory, Hakan’s work stands out for the way he conveys a story, and creates a set. The way he uses color, deliberately, to tell the story, really shook me up. There is no shortage today of “beautiful” photos. Digital technology has made it happen. So we are surrounded by beautiful wallpaper photography with near perfect technique and little meaning. Digitally generated content, say using fractal generation software, is the most extreme example of this. Always stunning, never touching. Hakan’s photography, however, tells a story. This relates to the first quote, about “why”¬† – there is a why in Hakan, or rather, there seem to be many. And he uses color as a vital part of the story instead of just having it as a pleasing add-on. Many fine art pictures, including some of my own, “work” better in black and white. The story is already there without color, colors are a distraction. Hakan uses color as part of the story – without color there would be much less of a story.

The second quote is why I post this here at Organic Development. It never occurred to me that gratuitous creation is uniquely human. I may have thought of art as a human thing, but restated as “the creation¬† of gratuitous forms” this concept takes on a whole new meaning. I also wonder if in a deeper sense the agency for gratuitous creation may be human, but the undirected, natural creation of new forms in Nature could just as well be called gratuitous too. Think Ernst Haeckel’s “Art Forms of Nature” (in German actually more to the point, as “Spielformen” = “Play forms”) or D’Arcy Thompson’s “On Growth and Form” or Darwin’s timeless “endless forms most beautiful”. In an case, in terms of deliberate gratuitousness, I suppose humans are rather unique. It is agency, which is about being alive, but without purpose, which is really not in the line of the utilitarian shadow of Darwinian theory.