April 27, 2013

Chicago CreativeMornings #17 with Photographer Paul Octavious on The Future

April 2013: The fourth Chicago CreativeMornings of the year (and the seventeenth held in The City That Works) was held with Paul Octavious, a self-taught photographer, whose images possess a visual composition infused with warmth and wit.

Octavious seeks and seizes fascination with anything that piques his curiosity. He turns objects into set pieces, transforming ordinary scenes into extraordinary moments.


With energetic delight, Octavious shared his thoughts and stories on “The Future”—CreativeMorning’s global theme for April 2013.

Octavious’ gloriously blunt sentiments bring to mind a more tempered observation made about Albert Einstein’s ambition: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Of course, the popular Latin phrase “Carpe diem” is a cliché. But who cares? It’s long been a motivator. Clichés stick, because they offer a version of truth that is held dear, close to the chest. Octavious holds his work close to himself.

His iterative effort, with each photograph, incrementally steers forward. It’s a steady rally to a future that’s scary, yet with manageable fear, that makes achieving the beautiful worthwhile, every time, without loss of learning. As futurist and Worldchanging co-founder Alex Steffen put it: “The future starts now.”

Thrift stores, in particular, fascinate Octavious. They’re places that celebrate what is past, but not necessarily passé. He finds the present in things, writ large with past tense.

Raun Meyn, Chicago-based founder of custom framing gallery and furniture-making studio FoundRe, spoke at March 2013’s Chicago CreativeMornings anchored to the theme of “Reuse.” Raun proudly expressed, “I love the character of old stuff.” Turning a lens (in Octavious’ case, in more ways than one) to focus on what came before facilitates storytelling. Octavious bestows an intensive look upon objects from all sides and angles, whether his focus consumes books, cameras with wings, or vinyl records. To him, objects are not flat—he animates them. Octavious related a way to make art—to tell a story—in order to feel human: imbue objects with character.

This may sound counterintuitive or even controversial at first. But it’s not: it’s a direct and immediate way to make something. This is similar to Chicago-based Webapp maker 37signals’ stand of “We don’t make wireframes.” 37signals, whose co-founder Jason Fried spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #2, goes forward and codes their vision, for software, so that they can nimbly react and refine it. Though it doesn’t comply with the typical definition of marks on paper, Octavious is sketching. The sketching happens in his head: he envisions what he wants and makes it so. Octavious’ sensibility is akin to a writer-director who plays the story and the filming of it—all in her/his head. Whatever method is put into action from one’s creative toolkit, the intent is the goal: a beautiful result.


Face the fucking scary future and make it fucking beautiful.

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Octavious’s approach reminded me of Kenyan Lewis, featured by Michael Williams at his blog A Continuous Lean. Kenyan specializes in making signs and interior design, in addition to collecting props! I strongly feel that Octavious and Lewis would be fast friends.

I’m also reminded of a wonderful trip to Augusta, Georgia, which included a visit to an antique store.

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Big thanks: to SapientNitro for sponsoring and hosting Chicago CreativeMornings #17; to organizers Kim Knoll and Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative, who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7, videographer Erick De La Rosa, photographers Matt Soria and Neftali Morales, and all of the Chicago CreativeMornings crew for their great work on making CreativeMornings happen in Chicago.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008. The fifth chapter was launched in Chicago, June 2011—my write-up and photos.

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Typeface of quotes is Futura designed by Paul Renner in 1927.

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Photo by Nate Burgos. View more.

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Read more Chicago CreativeMornings coverage.

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2011 was Chicago CreativeMornings’ most excellent debut year. Download the collection of insights.

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