1. How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?
Creativity is mankind’s talent to think and develop new things and ideas. All of us possess a creative ability but unfortunately due to economic circumstances or to a narrow view of the what life is about, some people never discover their talent. To me, life has to be more than acquiring material possessions.
2. How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
I am a nature lover first and a photographer after. I was born with the gift of being able to see and appreciate the beauty in the world. My desire to faithfully capture what I see led me to learning the techniques of photography.
As far as writing, I have written a short story titled The Return which came from my very being. While the story was based on a dream and a particular observance, when I started to write, I had no plan or a storyline but the words came and it ended up as quite a touching story based on the reviews it got.
3. When did you realise that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?
There was never a conscious decision to be creative. The development of my creativity is part of my overall spiritual development. More than anybody, my wife Donna is my source of encouragement and totally supports and encourages my endeavours.
4. What is your standard for evaluating your own creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are monetary rewards relevant to your own work?
As I mentioned before I am a nature lover first and a photographer after. I hold myself to high standards in relation to respecting the right of animals I am trying to photograph. I do not use flash photography on any animal nor do I distress an animal just to get to get that perfect shot. I would rather have a mediocre nature photograph than a superb one if it means causing undue disturbance.
No two people are exactly alike. Different forms of expression appeal to different people. The appreciation of creative work is subjective to what appeals to a particular viewer. Because of this I can't critically evaluate what someone else creates. Even if the form does not appeal to me, I appreciate the thought and effort which went into its creation.
I have never done any creative work, for which the main reason was monetary gain. While my relatives and friends love my nature images, it was only very recently when I had four photographs in a contest and exhibition, I realised how much my images are appreciated by a wider audience. I won cash prizes and two framed photos were sold. This was the icing on the cake for me because I really entered the contest for the experiences and I must say my experiences were great!
My short story, The Return is based upon a nightmare I had about a homeless man being terrorised by a demon. I pondered this for months, then after I witnessed a scene of a sleeping homeless man who was protected by a stray dog, the ideas started to flow. The story is based on an elderly homeless man who reached through the shroud of darkness which surrounded him, to rescue a tiny puppy. That selfless act paved the way to his eventual return from the darkness. The circumstances which brought about this story baffle me to this day. Sometimes I feel as if the words came from beyond my self and I was just the vessel used to put it onto paper. It did not feel right to profit from it and the proceeds of the sale of the few hundred copies I printed went to charity.
5. Do you think your own perception and evaluation of your creative endeavours are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you think the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?
Generally, people are appreciative of my photography and the little I’ve written and it encourages me to continue. However even if they didn’t, I don’t think I would stop. Expressing my creativity is a part of my very being and to suppress it would be not being true to myself.
6. What do you do when you experience a creative block?
As long as there are beautiful things in nature which I can try to capture, I will never have a creative block concerning my photography. As far as writing goes, I have written just that one story but I would not say I have a writing block. There was never a conscious decision to write so whenever the universe gives me another idea, maybe the words will come once more.
7. How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?
My photography is not artistic or conceptual. I try to faithfully reproduce what I see in nature but at the same time, create a nicely composed image. When I started photographing hummingbirds, I would rapid shoot any bird I saw. In the space of an hour I would have captured a hundred or more images, most of which would be no good. Now in the early morning, I first walk around the yard, look at the position of the flowers against their particular background and how the light works. When I get my spark and I see a pleasing composition, I then go for my camera and tripod. I may spend a long time waiting until a bird visits the flower. Sometime the birds cooperate, sometimes not but there's always tomorrow.
8. Do you have any special rituals that you do in order to achieve your creative goals?
When I was younger, my scientifically-thinking mind tried to explain everything with logic. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that everything is not easily explained, that life is not just black and white. I believe in a life force of this universe of which we are part. When I’m outdoors, before I start shooting, I take a minute to clear my mind, I breathe slowly and deeply. I can feel the energy of nature flow through me and it gives me peace.
9. Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If it has changed, please explain how?
This is a tough question. I would have to say no since both photography and writing have been recent endeavours. Maybe next ten years or so I can review my answer!
10. What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?
For photography…. Money! Equipment is expensive and as a non-professional, there always the consideration of justifying the high expense for something which does not bring financial returns.
11. Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
It pains me that the beauty and wonder of our country is lost on so many of our people. For such a small place, we have a wide diversity of flora and fauna. But also being a small place, pollution and destruction can have a devastating impact. It is my hope that photographing and sharing my nature images will bring a greater appreciation by the viewers. If I can change the complacent attitude of just a few people, my work would have been worthwhile.
12. Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.
I try to find balance in my life – to have a little bit of everything. In addition to work, I try to find the time for regular exercise and the time for leisurely activities. In addition to photography, I am an avid gardener of both horticultural and food plants. Even at this stage I’m trying to learn to play the acoustic guitar. All this I’ve done for my personal benefit and growth, but now I realise by the comments I’m receiving that the way I live my life is sort of inspirational to others. It makes me laugh when I think about it because I’ve have never seen myself in this light!
13. Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain.
I have submitted photos into various competitions over the years and for the most part, I have not been successful. When that happens I look critically at what I did, try to recognise the shortcomings and improve myself. If anything, rejection has helped me to grow.
14. Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?
I am now 54 years old and sometimes I wish I started photography earlier in my life but I don’t dwell on it. As a rule, I try not to live with any regrets. My total life experiences, both good and bad have brought to me to where I am today and it’s a pretty nice place.
15. Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
While I love what I do, I have never held myself in such high regard to doubt my abilities. I just went with my flow.
16. What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?
Out of all the photos I have taken, those of the hummingbirds at our home are my favourite and from the hundreds, perhaps thousands I’ve taken the one I’ve titled “Feeding Time” is the one of which I am most proud. The photo shows a mother Black Throated Mango hummingbird feeding one of her two fledglings. She is in the centre with a baby on either side and I captured it at the precise moment when her beak was in the mouth of one of them. They were on a branch in bright light with no leaves or twigs in the way and all three birds were in focus. A shot like that is once-in-a-lifetime! That photo won first prize in the Nature Category and Best Overall Photo at a recent competition held by the Trinidad and Tobago Photographic Society.
17. What is the best advice you've received that helped you move forward on your creative journey?
When I purchased my first DSLR camera, a Nikon D3100, it came with a basic lens. A close friend, Dave Surajdeen told me not to buy any more lenses immediately even though I really want to photograph nature. He told me to shoot any and everything, from nature to landscapes, to people to abstract images over the next few months, just in case another sphere of photography became more appealing. I did as he suggested but it showed me that nature photography was my passion. I then purchased an appropriate lens. Moving from a small point and shoot to a DSLR camera was daunting. There were so many unfamiliar terms and settings but I’ve learned a lot. Dave has been a great source of technical photographic advice to me over the past four years.
18. To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?
As a nature photographer, be true to what you see through your lens as far as possible. There are powerful image editing software which can do magic but overuse and abuse can make your images unreal. I have very basic knowledge of Adobe Photoshop Elements which I use to make minor light adjustments to my Raw images. Often there are courses advertised in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom but I’ve never participated. For what I do, I feel that too much of that knowledge can be a dangerous thing. My advice is that when you take a photograph, look at the image on the camera’s screen and then look at the actual object and try your best to have them look the same. After that only minor adjustments would be necessary. Also as a nature photographer, please respect the right of animals.
19. What would you most like to be remembered for?
I would most like to be remembered as a caring person. Someone who walked lightly through this world but left a deep impression on others.
20. If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?
As the colour of a crayon? Green of course! Perhaps Natural Green might be more specific.
Thanks to Larry for sharing with us his love for nature and his captivating images. You can see more of Larry's hummingbird photos on his Facebook page - Hummingbirds At Our Home. Follow him on Instagram @larry.khan.13