Theory & Practice

Cristina de Middel on Where to Find Ideas

Cristina de Middel shares a tip on where to find ideas for your next photography project from her home in Salvador, Brazil.

For Magnum president Cristina de Middel, each project that she embarks on is wildly different, treating topics as diverse as a fictionalized portrait of the people behind spam emails in Polyspam, or representations of the trickster Yoruba deity Esù in Midnight at the Crossroads, a collaboration with Bruno Morais.

In her online course, Stranger than Reality, De Middel opens the doors to her creative universe from her home, revealing the ins and outs of her practice — including what tools she uses to spark her imagination and unearth unique ideas for future projects.

In one chapter, titled Where Do Ideas Come From? she describes how her ideas tend to spawn from the intersection between the things that she understands and the things that she doesn’t understand. Photography, she describes, is for her a part of a visual language that she uses to express or explain topics, and the process of coming up with ideas is fueled by her curiosity to understand the world around her and translate these topics into a form that can be understood. 

"Many times reality is much more fictional than my own imagination."


In this clip from the chapter, shared above, she reveals one tip on how to find creative stimuli: collecting objects or texts that you find interesting or that spark your curiosity, whether a local newspaper with topics that intrigue you, or a collection of old photographs found at a yard sale or secondhand store. 

In this case, it’s a “Curiosities Scrapbook” that she once found that shows a collection of stories put together by an unknown author, but that reveals a lot about the person along the way. “We would have had very interesting conversations,” she laughs.

Another source of inspiration that she has collected over the years is the “Jornal do Incrivel” (Journal of the Incredible), a Portuguese newspaper full of stories of superstition, fun facts, and unbelievable news. From these kinds of sources or reference points, she is able to build up an “idea bank” of stories that are on the border between fiction and reality, which can inspire whole projects, or specific images in her practice. 

Stranger than Reality is one of the seven online courses featured in our Summer Sale, which runs from August 1 to midnight (EST) on August 31, 2023. For 20% off the course, use the code SUMMER20 at checkout.

Browse the full catalog of courses here

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