Recently, I've been reading, in print and on various blogs/sites, a lot about the notion of imagination, re: picture making. IMO, some that writing is pure tripe, while some of it is good enough. However, again IMO, all of it misses a very pertinent point about the use of imagination in the employ of making good pictures.
Let's start first with a definition of the word itself:
1. the faculty of imagining, or of forming mental images or concepts of what is not actually present to the senses.
2. the action or process of forming such images or concepts.
3. the faculty of producing ideal creations consistent with reality, as in literature, as distinct from the power of creating illustrative or decorative imagery.
4. the product of imagining; a conception or mental creation, often a baseless or fanciful one.
A lot of picture making advice, re: using your imagination, tends to focus upon the idea of coming up with (imaging) a new way of seeing something, or, to reiterate the word of the day, an imaginative way of seeing something. In doing so, or so the conventional wisdom goes, one can find their voice, vision and style - the supposed Holy Grail of picture makers the world over.
While there is something in that idea, and some have to followed it to interesting and productive ends, what is more likely to result, "serious" amateur wise, are pictures which are little more than visually strained implementations of one overwrought photo effect or another. The pictures so produced have effect everywhere apparent, affect, not so much (see #4 above). A picture viewing reaction of "wow" is the most sought after intent amongst this picture making crowd, who, upon garnering such a reaction, chalk it up to their skill in using "artistic license" (if you listen carefully, you might actually hear me making a contemptuous sound [farting sound] made by vibrating my extended tongue and my lips while exhaling, aka: blowing a raspberry).
an aside: FYI, harking back to the aforementioned definition of imagination, in my picture making I most often engage in: # 1) the faculty of forming mental images of what is not actually present to the senses. That is to say, I form a mental image (an approximation) in my minds eye of what a 2D representation of the 3D referent before my camera's gaze will look like on a print - a print not actually present to my senses at the moment of picture making, and, # 3) the attempt to produce an ideal creation consistent with reality, as in literature (see yesterday's question), distinct from producing decorative imagery.
That said, IMO, the rarely mentioned aspect of using one's imagination, picture making wise, is using that faculty in deciding what to picture.
Most "serious" amateurs are locked into the "normal" repertoire / the standard list of referents which have deemed acceptable / suitable for picture making. Whether that situation is the result of fear of risk taking, a much diminished state of curiosity, or the utter lack of imagination is open to question but I suspect that all of those conditions are causal (in some relationship to one another) in most individuals so afflicted.
If only more picture makers were more attuned to the curiosity of Garry Winogrand - "I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed" and the openness of Robert Frank - "You can photograph anything now", because, when you get right down to brass tacks, those 2 attitudes, curiosity and openness, are all one needs to greatly expand one's picture making possibilities. And, IMO, one's imagination will get a kick in the ass as well.
*These are the the life in kitchen selects. Although, my desire is to have 20 pictures as opposed to the 21 presented above. So I guess 1 has to go.