Creating is Like Breathing…

I met Jim when he served as a volunteer youth leader with a ministry my husband and I led what feels like a bazillion years ago; well, Teen was a toddler and we were in grad school, so everything might have been a bit blurry about the edges. Jim wasn’t. He was crystal clear, thoughtful and truthful, a straight shooter who preferred the creative fringe. He saw the boys in the back and found out-of-the-box ways to engage them, to love them, where they stood. He made a difference in their lives and, through his work, in the world; and I have all the respect in the world for him. Please welcome Jim Moriarty!

Create Challenge Guest Post #5 – Jim Moriarty

Creating is like breathing. I can’t imagine living without also creating.

God wired us as creators. He’s surrounded us with this crazy, endless pallet of colors, tools and inspiration. He’s sculpted us into infinite variations within the same human meme…and planted us with insatiable seeds of curiosity and endless imagination. How absolutely amazing is that?

I’ve come to the conclusion that I literally cannot go to sleep without the creation of something. That might be sewing a new bag for a surfboard or spray painting something that most people wouldn’t paint. Most of the time I hack photos.

I get a kick out of the tag #nofilter because we take photos with smart phones which are made up of hundreds of electronic components and run operating systems and apps that are executed from thousands of lines of code…and yet somehow we think what we’re doing is #nofilter. I think this is close to the root of why I take photos and then edit them the ways I do.

A photo to me is false, by definition. What is real is in front of us and whether we sketch that image, paint it or take a photo of it, all of those things deliver false representations of reality. So why not keep pushing those false limits as far as possible and create something else, something new?

This first photo is from my last day at a previous job. It was a party at San Onofre State Beach and we were watching the sunset. The truth is that all sunset photos miss the mark; reality is SO much more interesting. The colors of an actual sunset are lit from behind and change with every passing minute. With these things in mind I took another photo, motion blurred it until it became horizontal lines and then treated it as a transparent layer on top of the beach shot. In my mind this image comes closer to what I felt watching that night.JMsunset

Lowriders work for me on many levels. They define Southern California. They embody a cross-border existence. They make amazing use of what we’ve forgotten and sent to landfills and they (usually) embrace nutty-cool color schemes. That’s why I make images like this one.JMlowrider

The sky is as close to cobalt blue as I could make it. The vermillion, metal-flake car paint is overdone…pushed to a place where it’s no longer calm. It’s overly hot in every way. And to further push things, I’ve made everything that isn’t the car the same color as the sky.

When we take photos we are visually capturing assets. These are pieces to puzzles. They will never become the real thing, that’s impossible. So let’s create things that challenge our point of view and turn it into something else, something hopefully more emotionally interesting.

Creation should be pushed until it breaks…and then pushed a bit more. This is when we find something new.

That’s what I’m trying to do with this photo. JMsurfer

First, Southern California skies are simply magical in the winter. Many nights I’m out on the water looking at a sky-sized gorgeous fade that feels imaginary. So why not try and represent skies that way? Regarding the surfer, I see this image all the time. I love the simplicity of an isolated surfer and their board. I also like pushing that idea until it breaks and is on the edge of not making sense. That’s why I cut off the body and floated it up. I’m proactively trying to create something that makes me think differently about that surfer.

I love graffiti, especially smart graffiti. Any time I’m in an urban environment I’m that person off to the side, photographing interesting tags and walls. If I share those images I rarely present what actually exists and this wall is no different.JMgraffiti

The death to hipsters was a sticker in Brooklyn, the mail label came from San Francisco (I think) and the MP sticker doesn’t exist at all. It’s a photoshopped hack I made to round out the tags (and show a nod of respect to what I see as the best surf photo ever taken).

Life is this way. We take influences from various places and people, mix them up, interpret them, add in things that weren’t there before…and move ahead with a new take or new idea. This is what software development is about, what art is about, cooking, etc. Same with photos. It’s all innovation. All invention.

Creativity is about making something that wasn’t there before but doing so with the tools, influences and assets that existed prior. We’re all standing on the shoulders of those who created before us.

I dig old, outdated things. Look at this RV. The aerodynamics are…nonexistent. The color scheme is brilliantly simple (and perfectly ‘70s). This vehicle just works for me. I take photos like this all the time and always straight on like this one. I like the stark truth a profile delivers. Let’s face it, a photo of an RV is kinda boring, so I tried to make it less boring. I floated it on an ocean of an almost-complimentary color. The exact complimentary color is easy to identify…but less interesting.JMwinnie

Many of us have to make something and so the question becomes, What should we try to make? Images like these work for me because creating them can be done on a highly portable platform. We always have a smart phone in our pocket and tiny slices of available time as we progress through a day. And most of us also have powerful computers nearby for other touches. We create for selfish reasons; we create for ourselves. What I’ve noticed more and more is that we create because we have God-given curiosities, talents, restlessness and experiences.

Creation is how we understand who we are; creativity is how we understand who God made us.


Jim’s life has been defined by ideas larger than himself: punk rock, Christianity, fatherhood, software development, the internet, environmentalism and brand citizenship. He spent the last decade running Surfrider Foundation, the largest nonprofit focused on coastal environmental protection, and currently works at 72andSunny where he connects global brands with deeper purpose. He married the love of his life yesterday (almost 30 years ago), is father to twins and his favorite surfboard is a 6’ singlefin. 


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