When trying to grasp what creative expression and the aesthetic experience mean to me an odd word comes to mind.  Grokking.

I first met the term “grokking” in author Robert A. Heinlein’s 1961 book “Stranger in a Strange Land”.   I started using it a lot when I was still in grade school because to me it communicated so much.   Unfortunately, in my small home town, there were few science fiction fans reading Heinlein’s books and no one knew what I was talking about. Go figure. In Heinlein’s view, “grocking” is the intermingling of intelligence that necessarily affects both the observer and the observed.  Wikipedia says “to grok is to share the same reality or line of thinking with another physical or conceptual entity”.

In using photography as a medium to unleash creativity, we seek to “grok” an image right from the first moment we perceive it.  More easily said than done, but a worthwhile goal nonetheless.  We begin by being respectful of the chance to enter into a delicate relationship with what is unfolding before us. An image is not ours to take. We cannot own it.  What we can do is to be playful with the light and shadow that is before us.  We can seek to create a rendering that combines one moment of reality with our creative interpretation of that one, fleeting, moment.  Our creative interpretation is that little bit of who and what we are which, in that moment, we give to the intermingling of the subject and ourselves.  With dedicated practice, the more seamlessly we carry this out, the more beauty is likely to be revealed within the image.  Within this beauty our personal creative expression emerges and our opportunity to introduce the world to our statement about something that matters to us is born.

How do you grok?


“The arts especially address the idea of aesthetic experience. An aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak; when you’re present in the current moment; when you’re resonating with the excitement of this thing that you’re experiencing; when you are fully alive.” – Ken Robinson