The Happy Accident

More often than not, a mistake is just that... a mistake. It wasn't what was intended and as such, can be disappointing or frustrating. A worst case scenario is the passing moment that's just not repeatable; best case is you learn something from it. That's unless what you find is the elusive happy Accident. The unintentional fault, error or miscalculation turned into an unexpected stroke of luck.

As rare as this is, most photographers have in some way experienced this good fortune. Some time ago, I wound on a film past 38 frames and snapped it out of the can in the back of the camera. Believing I had safely retrieved it in my darkened bathroom, half the frames were, in fact, fogged. Amongst the negatives was this image, my very own 'happy accident'. I don't know what happened, but I was pleased with the result. It's an image that I could never reproduce and a reminder never to force the winding lever on a camera. When I first saw Ode to the Imperfection by my friend Nico Westlicht, I was struck by its striking composition and graphic arrangement, but the truth was a little more complicated:

‘You are in an evocative place with your camera, the tripod, the light meter, your wonderful muse posing for you, ready to shoot. The afternoon light is perfect, and you decide to finally use that expensive Fuji Provia roll you bought some time ago. Basically, I had all the ingredients for a perfect photo-shooting. But what happens, then? Well, what happens is under your eyes: either I was not able to fully turn the wind lever, or the camera is not that reliable. I still have to investigate the cause of the superimposing pictures, but you can easily imagine how the huge expectations crashed badly this morning. Well, film photography can be frustrating at times, but I still find it much more exciting than digital photography. Still, I swear to myself that every time I will shoot a nice picture I will look back at this one as a lesson for the future, to remind myself how easy it is to fail even though you don't expect to’. 

Fuji Provia 400X | Pentacon Six TL    © All Rights Reserved | Nico Westlicht 2014

I still simply love the central image; arresting the viewer to look at the picture as a whole, the fabulous colours and the graphic light and dark lines. It became for me one of the best triptychs I had seen in ages; a true happy accident if I ever saw one and as I said to Nico at the time 'You may have been disappointed but I can assure you I'm not'.  You can see more of Nico's great photos on his Flickr photostream here.

What's in a name?

What's in a name?  I had often been tempted by the idea that a photo should just speak for itself; that the artist need not influence the viewer with anything other than the image. No explanation is necessary 'make what you will of what you see'.  Some people even believe that a good photograph does not need written guidance. I reckon that's missing the point; of course, a photo does not need a title but when it has one, one that compliments it, an audience can derive understanding, benefit, insight, curiosity, enjoyment and sometimes even puzzlement. A title, like a name, makes sharing easier, telling others about a photo in conversation by referring to its title rather than 'the one with the man walking on the wet pavement' or 'that one with the girl standing in the snow wearing a red scarf'. 

I love this photo by Ellen Goodman of St. Louis, Missouri. A little girl looking into the distance, it's cute domesticity meets artistic storytelling at its best. But with its title 'Gunslinger Stance during Hopscotch Delay' everything comes together completely. Her hands become important elements, she looks like she means business and you wouldn't mess with her. In short, a memorable image becomes unforgettable and a perfect example of what's in a name.

© All Rights Reserved | Ellen Goodman 2014

You can see more of Ellen's excellent photography on her Flickr photostream Analog Girl in a Digital World