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Thinking Outside the Box

As soon as we start making images based on conventions, rules, guidelines or to conform to some societal standard, we are in a ‘box’. Is it time to break free from the ‘box’ mentality? Alister Benn offers some advice

I’m interested in words and origins; I’m also interested in accuracy and being specific. For some time I have been pondering the whole concept of ‘Thinking outside the box!’ Easy to say, harder to do – especially if you don’t recognise there is a box, what it’s defined by or how to identify its parameters.

I recall my first philosophical insight into it; I was trekking out of a very remote corner of the Everest Region co-leading a photo trip and had been discussing the whole ‘Box’ issue with one of the participants. He felt frustrated that his creativity was constrained by ‘the box’ and was struggling to see beyond it. As we were just about to embark on hiking out over the 17,500 ft Langma La, I said to him: ‘We all live in a box of our own design – you just need to redesign the box!’ At the time, in our mildly hypoxic state, it seemed quite profound, but it sowed a seed that has grown in my subconscious for the last two years.

A few months ago we were again in Tibet and one morning, when I was in a particularly thoughtful mood, we were walking around a monastery high on a mountain in Shangri La. It is traditional to do...

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Alister Benn

Alister Benn is a full-time landscape photographer, author and guide. Having lived for over a decade in the Himalaya of Tibet and SW China, he now lives and works on the Isle of Skye with his wife Juanli Sun.

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