Originators and Elaborators

I’ve been reading a book by the well-known photographer and author Tom Ang. In it, he prefaces a section on other famous photographers by comparing and contrasting originators and elaborators; terms defining, respectively, those who invent and pioneer, and those that improve and carry forward. Further, the vast majority of practitioners of whatever the field is, are elaborators.¹

I can’t help but make comparisons. Sometimes, I think that’s what I do best. Saying “This is like that” seems to be my first step in the process of understanding anything.

So it is with originators. In space exploration, we have Robert Goddard and Wernher von Braun among many others. In photography, there are pioneers such as Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White and Stephen Dalton. In Bluegrass and banjo, they are like Earl Scruggs, Joel Sweeney, Bill Monroe, Bill Keith and Don Reno.

And so it is with elaborators; they are like you and me.

To draw further analogy from Tom Ang’s work, he states:

“The vast majority of published and exhibited photography is in fact the work of elaborators – superlative artists who were often inspired to take up photography by the originators and who have themselves become great artists in their own right.” ²

To me, that’s very inspiring. To think that just because I didn’t invent anything doesn’t mean I can’t make contributions to banjo playing, photography, or whatever it is.

1Tom Ang, Photography: History, Art, Technique (New York: DK Publishing, 2019), p.21.

2 ibid, p21.

About Phill Gibson

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama where I work as a Software Engineer and part-time banjo instructor. My wife Miiko and I worship at Rivertree Downtown. I've been playing various instruments since my teen years. I started mandolin and dulcimer at about age 17 and banjo at 20. I love just about all kinds of music. In terms of banjo styles, I play and teach Scruggs, melodic, clawhammer, and 2-finger styles. I'm also very keen on theology, being a Trail Care Partner with the Land Trust of North Alabama, photography, urban planning, architecture, astronomy, ATM (amateur telescope making), birding, martial arts, and about 30 other distracting hobbies to a (mercifully) lesser extent.
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2 Responses to Originators and Elaborators

  1. Klausbernd says:

    For elaborators it’s important that don’t just repeat what the originators or other elaborators already did.
    All the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  2. Phill Gibson says:

    Yes, that’s true, Klausbernd! I delved into this topic on a deeper level some time back in another post – check out https://blog.phillgibson.com/2009/10/11/the-fence-we-all-straddle/

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