These photos of Karl Lagerfeld’s Paris apartment help us understand why Tumblr is special.
Lagerfeld stands immaculate and polished in front of what can only be described as a mess of books. For someone who’s facade never breaks, whose brand is comically consistent, it’s surprising to glimpse behind the scenes and see how many different sources influence Lagerfeld’s creative work.
This collection, the magazines and books created by many different people, is strikingly similar to a Tumblr blog. But instead of ‘liking’ and ‘reblogging’, Lagerfeld buys pricey monographs and stashes them in his spacious Parisian apartment.
Tumblr is special because it makes creative spaces like Lagerfeld’s public, allowing audiences to explicitly connect the act of collection to the act of creation.
I use Lagerfeld as an example because the contrast between the messy collection and the polished output is so stark. But I could have chosen almost any creator’s space to illustrate the connection between collecting inspiration and creation, because artists tend to collect: Warhol was an obsessive collector, John Lennon lined his walls with filing cabinets, Keith Richard’s library fills me with envy, and even Steve Jobs, who obsessed over every detail of Apple’s stark products, had a wonderfully messy office.
Speaking of Steve Jobs, something he said to Wired in 2002 perhaps best explains why artists tend to collect:
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
This is why creative people tend to surround themselves with interesting work, ideas, and people. All of these are experiences, things they can connect.
So: collection and curation begets creation.
On Tumblr this holds: liking and reblogging leads to creation. The important difference is that, on Tumblr, these acts are public.
On Tumblr, the creative space - the messy assemblage of inspiration - is shared, allowing not just creators but their audiences to draw a line between the act of collection and creation. Polished works no longer just appear. Langerfeld’s library is open, Warhol’s Time Capsules can be pawed through, and Lennon’s filing cabinets are unlocked.
On Tumblr the process of collecting experiences, finding inspiration, and connecting two things to make something new is completely visible. And because its visible (not locked away in a Parisian apartment) audiences can play along at home.
First they’ll start collecting. Pretty soon, they’ll be creating.
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