Who Gets The Credit? The Creator Or The Creation?
Arthur Conan Doyle the author of the Sherlock Holmes books once killed his fictional detective Sherlock Holmes by throwing him off the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. That he had to resurrect him later on because of public clamor is a different story. But right then, after the abrupt ending to the story The Final Problem, when asked why he had killed his most popular character Doyle reportedly said that the character was strangling him and preventing him from expanding his repertoire as a writer. After the Reichenbach falls story Doyle stopped witting detective fiction for a while and went on to write science fiction -the professor challenger series of books like the lost world etc.
When Thomas Harris wrote the Hannibal Lecter series of books he was widely reviled in the popular media (of USA) as the inventor of the vilest character in fiction- a psychiatrist turned serial killer, Hannibal the Cannibal. This media crucification of Harris was further reinforced by Anthony Hopkins playing the role of Dr.Hannibal with such chilling intensity in the movie version of the book “The Silence of the Lambs”. But despite all the hoopla Thomas Harris did not give a damn to the media crusade against him but went on to write more of the Hannibal Lecter series of books rounding up the stories with sequels and prequels.
Finally the creator of the most famous fictional character of this century Harry Potter’s writer Ms.J.K.Rowling has tried hard to publish her new books under different pseudonyms to avoid being judged on the harry Potter success scale. But she has not yet succeeded in avoiding comparisons between her earlier books which were in the children’s fiction/fantasy category and her later books involving hard-boiled adult characters. Her widespread earlier success has meant that even years later she is constantly being beseeched by ardent fans to revive the Harry Potter character.
The above incidents perfectly illustrate what I want to discus in this particular post – the moment when a creator is superseded by his creation and its popularity. It’s the dream of every creator or artistic person to create something which makes history and reminds the world of its creator even after death. But very few are actually prepared for such enduring popularity. The popularity they want is more for themselves than for their creation as such. They want the public to recognize their talent, their hard work, their vision in making such a creation possible. Some achieve it – like Shakespeare’s enduring popularity along with his books, Leonardo Da Vincis popularity with the Mona Lisa painting etc.
But other creators crave the recognition which their creation achieves and they resent the popularity of what in essence is their own creative offspring. This problem becomes acute when it involves a real life character, like say, just for example – a director of movie becoming jealous of the popularity of the hero of his hit movie or an even more common example- a photographer fazed by the popularity of the model who posed for his picture. If credit is divided equally between the natural beauty of the person who posed for the picture and the technical skills of the photographer than the equation between the two is balanced.
On the other hand the problem becomes stark when the picture is a candid and un-posed one captured suddenly by the photographer and the picture becomes so famous that the photographer himself becomes anonymous – like the famous “National Geographic” cover photograph of the Afghan girl with green eyes shot by photographer Steve Mccurry. In such cases even if the credit goes to the photographer for capturing that candid shot, it’s ultimately the subjects themselves who are responsible for the popularity of the picture. There is something there, some indefinable quality in those people which attracts not just the eye of the photographer who frames it perfectly but also the audience who views it with the photographer’s eye. Credit to be given where credit due- especially in such candid photos for unless the subject is riveting in their beauty or their pose- the photo would not have garnered such universal praise.
As a cosmetic surgeon who works mostly with beautiful women who come to me to make them more beautiful if possible I get to hang out with a lot of celebrities – models and actresses who talk to me about how they are always being judged as just a beautiful face. And I always keep reminding them that there are millions of us (including yours truly) who would kill to be in their place and they should be thankful to their genes for their beauty and never regret it – critics be damned. But it’s human nature never to be satisfied with what we have, right? So I get to pull out my hair in frustration (two handfuls at a time) trying to make impossibly perfect profiles even better because they are feeling insecure and driving me to early baldness in the process.
Anyway after we finish the treatment part (the surgery) and then when we take the post-operative pictures to compare the before/after treatment pictures there is always a bit of a controversy over how much processing (Photoshop) is required for the photograph. I, for one always prefer the candid natural shot and most of the time I get to have my own way- for the subjects themselves are naturally beautiful and it doesn’t need much to highlight their pretty faces- especially after they have benefited from my skills (pat/pat on my own back). But we almost always have someone or the other who thinks he can improve on what’s natural using artificial software.
The problem becomes acute when I have to convince the photographer that given my surgical skills and the native beauty of the patient, the technical aspects of the photo should be kept to a bare minimum. For after all if the photograph turns out well the credit is divided equally between the beautiful subject and the talented photographer for as a surgeon the only credit I look for is for people to mistake my work for a natural look. And as an involved bystander I understand both sides of the equation when credit for a job (or a photo) well done turns into a bit of tug-of-war between the subject and the creator.
As a creator of sorts (ok, ok don’t curse) – I believe that unlike a writer or a sculptor or a painter who creates something out of just his imagination we people (ha-ha, I am adding myself to this list) like directors, cameramen, photographers or cosmetic surgeons merely improve on what’s already there. We don’t work on a blank canvas; we trim and tailor the existing canvas to showcase its beauty. As such the creator (the photographer) should be happy that his picture has garnered such widespread appreciation. Any other feeling other than appreciation is not worthy of his talent. Let the girl in the photo bask in the fame of the picture for as a creator you have an equal share in it. Your attitude should be- You happy, She happy, ALL Happy – Ok, boss?
Disclaimer: This post is no way related to a recent Facebook status message about a photograph of a girl in my friends list.