Friday, October 29, 2010

Accidental Art?

One of the unique aspects of photography is that you can shoot a ton of images of the exact same thing.  You can really explore a subject.  I suppose in the world of a painter this might also be true in that you can always add another layer of paint and cover up anything that doesn't work.

But any good photographer will tell you sometimes an image was just a plain old accident.  So the question always comes up is there an value in this?  One of the key skills of being a photographer is editing your work very critically, only showing the stuff that really works.  This is true for just about any form of art, but maybe more so for photography.  One of my favorite quotes from a good friend of mine is: "The difference between a good photographer and a great one is a trash can".  Implied in that is that a great photographer only shows the images that really work.  It might be then said editing is what separates a photographer.

So this brings us back to can an accident be art.  I think the answer is of course it can.  One of the truths about photography is that you have to be in the right place at the right time to capture an image in the first place.  You have to press the shutter release to capture the image, even if by accident.  I think this thought makes photography a lesser form of art to some people, I think this is what makes photography a relatively unique artistic medium.  It is nearly impossible to be lucky all the time, you can't teach someone to have an eye, and while everyone who owns a camera has probably had one of those accidental captures where they have no idea how they did it, the "photographer" will have a higher hit rate in general and also be able to learn from those accidental captures and use that information in the future.

Here is a recent accident of mine that for some reason has stuck with me, let me know what you think.  This was captured on a Holga camera.  I have been shooting a lot of panos on the Holga recently working on a slightly new technique.  While I was walking around Coney Island I decided that I wanted to shoot single images.  Now my technique for creating the overlapping panos in the holga is to set the film counter window to 16 and remove the internal masks.  This way I am shooting images slightly bigger than 6x6, but using the 6x4.5 counter resulting in uniform overlapping.  Well on this day I swore that I had returned the film counter window slder back to 12 and was happily shooting away thinking I was creating single images.  What I ended up with was 3 distinct views of Coney Island that I wouldn't have intentionally overlapped, but I kind of think it works.  Here's to happy accidents!

"Coney Island"
Holga, Ilford HP5

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