A Guide to the Creative Process As Seen Through “Alone Together”

Does creativity strike like lightning, a blaze of inspiration? Or is it a process that draws from one’s experiences: a reaction to a collection of memories and situations?

As Martino Marangoni explained his approach to the creative process in an interview about his photography book Alone Together, I gathered that although inspiration is spontaneous -similar to a strike of lightning- creativity is a process that requires time, patience, and an innate curiosity for something.

Marangoni explained that creativity begins with an interest, curiosity in something, and that publishing a book is the culmination of that exploration: two separate steps that when combined form the creative process.

Marangoni said, “The book is a bit like building a puzzle. But, when I shoot, I don’t think of the puzzle so much. I just go out and I react to what’s happening, and it’s very natural.”

For Marangoni, it is important to be in the moment of what is happening and, later, to gather his thoughts and to form an idea from what he has already photographed. In this way, he captures the authenticity, as closely as possible, of his surroundings in his photographs.

Marangoni said, “I take pictures because it’s like pointing your finger at something. I do that by pointing my camera.”

Slowly, after pointing his camera in several directions, Marangoni formed the concept for his book: the paradox of people being alone in their own thoughts while being in public spaces. Yet, Marangoni says that Alone Together, as it is now, looks nothing like the first ‘book-dummy.’

Marangoni described that it took roughly five years since he first got the idea for his book for him to refine the concept for Alone Together and to choose the pictures that illustrate it. It was a long process that involved receiving feedback from colleagues and removing pictures from the ‘book-dummy’ and putting new ones in. In the end, the pictures chosen to be in the book are only a small selection of what he originally photographed.

Marangoni said, “The final result is like a distillation of several different grapes. Like a grappa.”

After Marangoni’s idea was set in place, the next phase in his creative process involved the technical aspect of getting his book published. Marangoni chose to publish his book through a small publishing company. Marangoni and his editor worked together to make stylistic decisions: choosing to omit captions from his pictures, varying the size and location of each picture from page to page, and using black and white pictures as hidden dividers between sections.

Marangoni reflected on the process of creating, saying, “You become like an activist once you’ve done your work. Doing the book is more like a deliberate step towards putting together a concept and work that is coherent and reflects my mental process.”

The creative process is something that happens over time. It is first triggered by curiosity in the things that interest us, which then turns into ideas, opinions, and ways of seeing. Once the idea is formulated, then we can go back to to what we’ve created and give it significance and meaning.  

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