Creative Advice from Carl Jung

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” -Carl Jung

I read this quote right about the same time I stumbled on Aaron Gustafson‘s work. Aaron, a recent MFA graduate from Parson’s, it seems has a love for skydiving. Aaron is creatively compelled to shoot with a 4×5. Aaron is letting his mind play with the objects he loves: photography, skydiving, and creative innovation.

When I think about my own personal experiences, the times I’ve fused my creativity with that which I loved and cared deeply about, I was always made better, more interesting pictures, videos, art. Yet, I’m boggled everyday when I learn about photographers who continually lose sight of that–or worse–never know it. I’d by lying if I said it didn’t take me years to figure this out, and lying again if I said I’d never gotten off track, but let’s take 5 minutes right here and make a concerted effort to refocus on this as a community.

Take pictures of what engages you and moves you. The world–and Carl Jung–will know it by the outstanding quality of the work you will produce.

Props to Aaron for doing just that. Some of Aaron’s photos, a clean shot of his 4×5 helmet-cam, and a full press release on his efforts if you click the ‘continue reading’ link below…

More of Aaron’s work here.

Press release from his recent body of work below:

Seattle artist Aaron Gustafson shot a series of large-format landscape photographs while skydiving using a custom-designed 4×5 helmet-camera.

Seattle, Washington, 8 February 2010 – Seattle-based artist Aaron Gustafson recently completed a series of large-format landscape photographs that he shot while freefalling through the skies of New York and Washington State. He became the first person to take large-format photographs while skydiving.

“I wanted to upend the norms by making a [large-format] camera to be used in a wildly different way,” Gustafson said. “This is what you’d get if you threw Ansel Adams out of a plane.”

Gustafson designed a helmet-mounted 4×5-inch film camera, and during the period of several months he made one photograph per jump while skydiving at speeds greater than 130 miles per hour.

“There is a long history between photography and adventure,” artist-photographer Arthur Ou said of the project. “Gustafson’s work … continues on this lineage, though not without a sense of wit and sincere irony.”

Artist Miranda Lichtenstein added, “Gustafson contemplates the sublime by jumping into it—literally … Picture [Dutch conceptual artist] Bas Jan Ader working for the [US] Geological Survey.”

Gustafson specially designed the camera that he used for the series. He made a prototype and then worked with a machinist and a plastics specialist to realize the final design. The camera is a cube-shaped acrylic and aluminum box that contains a wide-angle lens and houses a single sheet of 4×5-inch film at a time.

After learning to solo skydive, Gustafson made approximately 25 photo-dedicated jumps in New York and Washington State. The photographs show expansive aerial views of the Shawangunk Ridge in New York, and the Cascade Range and Puget Sound in Washington State. Subtle blur in the images alludes to how they were made.

“Photography is in a strange place now where everyone is taking camera-phone snapshots and posting them online,” Gustafson said. “But photography can still be grand and larger-than-life. This project came out of a desire for that. It’s a hybrid of new and old, calm and chaos.”

Aaron Gustafson is a 2009 MFA graduate of Parsons The New School for Design, New York. The freefall 4×5 project was a part of his final thesis, which was shown at Arnold & Sheila Aronson Galleries, New York, in 2009. Gustafson was born in Washington State and is currently based in Seattle. Much of his work deals with man in relation to nature and challenging conventions of photography.

Web site:
Video document:
High-resolution photos available upon request

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40 Responses to Creative Advice from Carl Jung

  1. Anonymous February 23, 2010 at 11:17 am #

    Very ingenious and creative! It's great to see that people are still being innovative with the old format. Thanks for bringing this inspirational photographer to our attention Chase.

  2. iamfuss February 23, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    I think thats what you call an action shot. Amazing stuff

  3. Javier Lovera February 23, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    How did you come out of the times when you found yourself off track, or without a clear north in sight? Sometimes when I feel like that it seems honesty with oneself is the most important thing. The hardest thing is to stop the inner dialogue, and just allow yourself to create without ulterior motives.

  4. Chase Jarvis February 23, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    @ javier: when your in a bind, or in a rut, go PLAY. go travel. get into adventures. shake your tree.

  5. Anonymous February 23, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    This reminds me of something I read in David duChemin's Within the Frame:

    While there is plenty of value in photographing the unusual, merely filling the frame with something exotic does not make it a good photograph; it makes it merely a photograph of the unusual or exotic. Whether it is a compelling photograph must be judged on other criteria.

    To me, the interesting part of what Gustafson has done is the process, not necessarily the photographs themselves.

    While I applaud his creative spirit and playful approach and wholeheartedly support the notion that these are integral to creating your best work, I can't help but think "gimmick" when I read the press release attached…

    Perhaps, I'm just too much of a cynic…


  6. Scott MacKenzie February 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    Well–I read this three times and got three different things out of it.

  7. bruceh February 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    Boy, did this event raise a stink with the large-format folks:

    I loved the comment about what you'd get if you threw Ansel Adams out of an airplane…

  8. gary February 23, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    I suppose I am biased as he is my brother's son, but in addition to the awesome playfulness of it, surely from a cultural perspective, it is an awesome take on the "best camera" philosophy

  9. Anonymous February 23, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    I get what Chase is trying to say here, however, comparing this guy to Ansel Adams is like comparing my 5 year old daughter to Chase Jarvis because she also uses a D3, just without any of the appropriate skill or vision.

    Fun belongs in photography, fun is good…

    However, for those of us making a living in photography, most AD's and CD's don't buy 'fun', they buy skill and vision. No one cares if a picture was taken with a 4×5 or a rebel when it looks like it was taken from an airplane window anyways.

    If this is the trash that art school students produce, then no wonder Chase recommends budding photographers don't go to art school.

  10. Ziv February 23, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

    A 4×5 helmet cam…. who'da thunk it.


  11. Ken Toney February 23, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    I eat, drink and breath photography but I am not jumping out of a perfectly health airplane. Great blog.

  12. Anonymous February 23, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    Way cool! Neat perspective –very creative. especially if those photos were blown up huge on a gallery wall or something.

  13. Daf February 24, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    Just a publicity stunt I think.
    IMHO the pictures aren't that good. I've seen FAR better results with SLRs

    May be the first medium format camera – but people have taken FAR bigger video cameras up.

    Check this guy with an IMAX camera!

  14. Daf February 24, 2010 at 1:54 am #

    Hmm that link didn't seem to work – trying again.

    (+appologies for saying FAR …. far to often ;)

    PS I don't knock the guy for trying something new, but surprised at the coverage its getting – seems to have been pushed to every photography news site going.

  15. marcus Grip February 24, 2010 at 2:38 am #

    The biggest thing for me right now wich makes me so super alive and happy for everything is when i create for others good. Like take wonderful portraits for them or like i did recently, bought 100 medium sized photos that i have shot on my friends, family and people i barely know and sent them the pictures for showing gratitude that they have been a part of my life.

    Just create and give and make others happy is making me happy aswell! It is my way of living and i love it. Like Help-portrait day is a thing i really like!

    Peace, i love your positive and interesting way of thinking.

  16. Brian Hirschy February 24, 2010 at 6:47 am #

    Awesome work. I wonder if he goes into each dive with specific shots in mind… how do you scout something like this?!

  17. jkeiffer February 24, 2010 at 7:30 pm #

    I think this is a cool idea, a lot of fun, and lackluster results. Just like most good photography it is in the light and what you see. I would think jumping in the day time and looking at clouds wouldn't be as cool as jumping in the morning or in the evening when the light is just right.

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