Sitting on the tram going through my Twitter feed, I came across a curious post with a link to an article about the Helsinki Bus Station Theory. I had never heard this theory before and I was in intrigued, what theory could possibly be based on a bus station?
The Helsinki Bus station although is aimed at creatives I do feel there is something in it for everyone.
The theory was originally outlined by photographer Arno Minkkinen in 2004 while giving a graduation speech at the New England School of Photography.
The theory starts with the layout of the Helsinki Bus Station. The Station has about 12 platforms and from each several bus services depart. On leaving the Bus Station all busses follow the same one kilometre route, with several stops along the way that every bus stops at.
Using this station as a metaphor of the creative process, each bus is a different idea. As a creative person you jump on a bus (an idea) and progress it over time (we shal say over several years with each bus stop being a year). You have a body of work and take it to a gallery, editor or agent. The work you have created is of fine art nudes and the curator of the gallery says they have a similarity to Irving Penn’s Nudes. It appears that Penn also took the same route. Kicking yourself at the lack of originality you head back to the bus station and begin again. Riding a different bus after a few stops you show your work and something similar happens again. This continues for your creative life, all the time being compared to those who have taken the bus before.
What is the answer to this metaphor?
Stay on the bus!
Minkkinen goes on to explain that although all busses follow the same route for the first kilometre afterwards they separate to go on their own routes. It is at this point in the metaphor that, as a creative or a photographer you find your unique vision. All creatives follow similar plans ideas at the beginning but it is once this has been developed and they add their own personality and style, the work becomes something different evolving past the early similarities of the first stops.
On the Tram (not a metaphorical one) I sat thinking about this theory and it really did play on my mind. Why do we leave the ride early, why don’t we want to stay on the bus. Is it because we are constantly told to be different and original?
In thinking about this I was also reminded of something Bill Hicks used to say at the end of his later shows. Bill Hicks may have said more controversial things in his career buthe conclusion to his show.t this quote was
“The world is like a ride at an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it, you think it’s real, because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round and it has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly colored and it’s very loud. And it’s fun, for a while…….”
Hicks’s quote talks about enjoying the ride and the different ways we approach the ride; questioning the ride and the different experiences, the ups (successes) and the downs (depression and self-doubt).
As a creative it can be hard having these ups and downs while trying to keep faith to an idea. The first step is what you need and in getting it you have to take the bus and remember not to get off. If you hit a dip, power through because when you start climbing the view will be great.
In thinking about ups and downs I was reminded of a song by Kimya Dawson that I listened to on repeat after I finished Uni to try and keep my head straight while things were not working out the way I thought they would.
“Life is a highway and I’m gonna ride it
Every day’s a winding road yeah
My roller coaster’s got the biggest ups and downs
As long as it keeps going’ round its unbelievable”
The song goes off on tangents following different trains of thought but the end is the same, life is a journey.
All three of these quotes, ideas and metaphors share a common idea; stay for the ride. In getting off the bus and returning to the bus station you are going to repeat yourself and never get to the point where you develop your idea or work past those first steps. Rides go up and down and this is part of life. When the bus has dipped into a valley this doesn’t mean you should get off, you should stay on and in doing so there will be a great journey.
For me I got off the bus about a year after finishing University, completely exhausted and in reality got back on and off over time but never went as far down the line.
I went back to the bus station last year, got on and plan to;
Stay on the bus!