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  • Writer's pictureHannah E Greenwood

Expanding Frontiers: my 3 Actions for 2018

Photo by Dominic Nazeri

Each year around this time in December I create my 3 Actions for the following year. This is a ritual that first began many years ago when I was in the French Pyrenees with my then husband and my son. We walked in the beauty of the mountains, the ancestral home of my French grandmother, and as we walked, we reflected on the year ending and its quintessential flavour. As the New Year approached we began to formulate a new vision, each committing to 3 actions that would inspire a happily productive year. I wrote these 3 actions in my journal and this became my personal vision, guiding my choices and actions for that year. In December we reviewed these, what worked and what didn’t, and again created the following year’s theme and the 3 actions to secure it. This incremental visioning and its implementation evolved into ultimately finding my bigger personal vision and purpose.

One of my actions for 2016, two years ago, was: ‘I will continue to write and speak my 'voice' and be open to whatever forms this takes’. I used to be very shy about public speaking but over the last two years I have consciously been open to opportunities to speak and now ‘whatever forms this takes’ include public speaking, lectures, videos, writing and I’m now saying ‘yes’ excitedly to Podcasts!

This has been an astonishing year for exposing people who use power as their entitlement to abuse others. We have a window. It will not be open for long but for this moment in time, the bad men and women are giving pause, fearful of exposure. And now is what I call the ‘Chance meets Purpose’ moment for good men and women to push through any shyness, connect to their inner truth, their ‘voice’ and speak up.

This is the framework for creating your 3 Actions for 2018:

· Create a review of this year: what has worked and what needs changing and/or developing.  

· My 3 Actions for 2018: what 3 core Actions/Events/Experiences do you want from next year? These are the incremental goals to your bigger Personal Vision. If you don’t know what that is yet, then this is a great way to finding out!

· If you create Actions that are too easy then you’ll secure them but you might be settling for just good enough. If you are aiming to something greater: for passion and fulfilling your highest potential, then you have to be bold and hungry. Feeling shy about your Actions is the best indicator that you’re on the right track!

· Finally these Actions are not exclusively focused on material outcomes. They include physical, emotional and psychological well-being, flowing from that fundamental question: ‘What will make your heart sing? ‘

The following is an interview with Cascãd’s photographer, Dominic Nazeri. By day he is an advertising creative, by night he pursues his own passion projects mostly in film and photography. With an eye to eventually direct his own films, Dominic is a film lover through and through.

Dominic went to Iceland recently and his stunning photos inspired me to ask him about his creative process and what advice he would give to someone who needs to kick-start and maintain their creative and innovative mindset, a core condition for movers and shakers:

Hannah:Hi Dominic. Would you talk us through your beautiful photo?

Dominic: This one is of the Northern Lights. We knew we only had a 1/10 chance that they would be visible that night but we decided to go out anyway. How glad I am that we did! After noticing a strange cloud in the sky, I decided to shoot a long exposure of it to see what it was. Immediately it lit up green. We jumped in the car and sped down the road in total darkness. Several potential stops later - and after fumbling with my tripod, as well as some terrible shots - I found my rhythm and managed to take some clear photos of the lights. This photo was taken at f4, which means the shutter on my camera was open for 4 seconds. That’s 4 seconds of light hitting my sensor before the image is captured, which should give some indication of just how dark it was! By doing this it helped bring out anything with compromised light in the image.

Hannah. How do you choose and ‘see’ each shot? 

Dominic: What I love about photography and film is every time I pick up my camera I’m learning. Every time I shoot something I develop new ideas and ways of seeing things. And in doing that I surprise myself, pushing myself out of my comfort zone. That for me is incredibly rewarding; it’s why I keep going back. 

The more I shoot, the more I find that what drives me in visual imagery and ideas is the idea of what you don’t see. Sometimes this is quite literal; I love images that have parts removed, shadows that obscure something or reflections that show things from a new angle. However, this points to broader themes, like images that make me look twice, because I didn’t quite notice something the first time. Or images that on the surface look normal, but invite me to consider them closer, or sometimes even force their point of view on me. It’s not about always about trying to be illusive or twisty - it’s just presenting the same information in a new way, that feels right with my style. In order to fully answer this question, I have to explore two main interests of mine. 

I’ve always been fascinated with brutalist architecture. I love how striking the buildings are, and how they seem like they have just been dropped there, right in front of me. When I look at the straight lines and geometric shapes, it’s as if they are informing where I stand, where I walk, where I look. I love this because it’s so deliberate, it’s informed and constructed, but not in a way that feels artificial.

This is linked to another huge interest of mine - the idea of defining reality. I am continually fascinated with the exploration of how we define reality on a personal level, and how it fits or informs our identity. For example, we’ve all had a dream we can remember, where we likely were doing something that felt odd, or not possible in reality. When you wake up, you remember doing it, even though in actual fact you never did. It sparks off all sorts of thinking; where does our reality end, or even begin? Did something that happened today inform your dream, or was it the other way around? How do you know what feels real, when the very definition of real is under threat? Without getting too heady, the idea of reality needing constant exploring and defining, is where I tend to focus a lot of my thinking.

These two interests continue to inform my shooting and in some respects they are complete opposites smashing together. One is strict with a commitment to vision, the other is asking to be constantly defined and explored. And so visually, as one, they bring all sorts of imagery and ideas with them, whether it’s perfect lines and constructed geometric shapes, or more ethereal, visceral and outward looking images. Sometimes it can be both. This just a framework however; it’s an attempt for me to define the kind of images I end up choosing and liking. As I mentioned at the start, this is no doubt why the idea of what you don’t see ends up being my best definition of how I shoot and choose images. When I look through photos I’ve taken, I’m always looking for something that has an informed view, something that knows what it is, but that what it is informing me of is something different, perhaps something I haven’t seen or considered before. 

Hannah:Describe your creative process: what helps, what doesn’t?

Dominic:My creative process goes something like: have loads of ideas, realise the few that have potential, consider what I haven’t got, try and get what I think I need, get close, then try again, then refine, refine, refine…then get there. Not necessarily in that order. I continue to get truly astounded how the last thing on that list can often be the first, and I don’t realise it. I’m still figuring that one out, but if you recognise that similar feeling, I invite you with me to feel good in that it’s a shared one. 

I work as a creative in advertising, so my job is to come up with ideas. In having a career where I generate ideas most days, it’s not a surprise to find that I rigorously consider my creative process a lot! I start with the broad elements, but then I bring it into my own personal vision to define it more. And so what works for one person might not work for another. Strangely, I find that it is in fact the things that don’t help the creative process, that reveal what does (and what matters). 

Getting inspired helps to show me there are more ways into an idea than I had already considered. I like to get inspired by watching scenes from my two favourite filmmakers - Christopher Nolan and Richard Linklater. I watch scenes from each of their movies almost daily. I often sometimes just listen to scenes whilst I work because it helps to get me into a headspace that I associate with being creative - and it helps keep rhythm as well. Funnily enough they are almost complete opposites in terms of directors. And that’s perhaps the point, to remind myself that there is always another way into something, however much I bang your head against the wall!

Part of my creative process, at least initially, is considering all avenues of thinking. Consider all possible routes, however silly they may seem. Ideas can take me down unexpected paths that at first I think are useless, until suddenly it starts to make sense and become its own thing. It’s good to be naive and not know where something will go, as it can uncover ground that hasn’t yet been covered. Equally after adequate time, I think it helps to kill things that aren’t working. As soon as I get something that I like, I tend to hold onto it, and not see it for what it really is. When I clear out ideas that aren’t working, it makes space for new ideas that could be the answer. 

Hannah: What advice would you give to someone who needs to kick-start and maintain their creative and innovative mindset?

Dominic: I ask you to suspend any cheesy connotations as I attempt to redefine two words that are probably already defined as something else in your own head: ‘Hope’ and ‘Faith’. I find that embodying these two words in yourself unlocks a whole load of helpful insights for the creative process. When you have hope, you’re more positive, you’re more likely to develop something further and see the possibilities. What I’ve realised is some people are afraid of having hope. Probably because mainstream media has Americanised it and made it an abstract concept that feels too removed or something best left to be said in movies. Consider the definition of it: “A feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.” Not only does that sound great, but it also sounds very useful. It’s easier to see the flaws as they are definable and make sense.

This is where faith comes in. Consider the definition: “Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” I don’t doubt that I question ideas I come up with. But in order for something to move forward, you have to have some level of trust and confidence in it. You might not know what it is, or even what it is capable of, but you know that it’s worth pursuing. Obviously, the idea of faith and hope, in the way I have positioned it, is very much linked to the generation of ideas as I’ve used my job to define it. The initial seed of something. And so what happens to simply moving an idea forward that you already have?

As I look back on creative achievements I’ve had, all of them, every single one, has manifested itself due to a repeated habit. And when I investigate that further, the result is actually less attractive or creative than it may seem. It was the pure, repeated, unglamorous hard work that got me there. The kind of stuff that is simple, like actually doing two hours video editing and making the time to do it. When you repeat that over a long period, you go further than you knew you could. And you start to come across other creative insights, things start to grow in size and scale, and you expand your thinking more. In the movie ‘Moneyball’ this is described as ‘marginal gains’. It’s explored in the film how a team of baseball players, who are at the bottom of the league, come together to create one of the best teams. It’s when lots of little advances come together to create something bigger than the sum of its parts. It might feel odd to have the creative process boiled down to something that is quite logical, but I would argue otherwise. You can have the most creative ideas and insights, and have a vision that will change people’s lives, whether that’s on a grand scale or simply entertaining them in the advertising break. But increasingly, as Malcolm X said, ‘the future belongs to those who prepare for it today.’

Hannah: Thank you very much Dominic. And in this very special time as we begin to celebrate our festivals of light, hope and faith, I wish you all a magical time and a 2018 full of very happy and exciting adventures!


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