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Liberation by Failure

December 18th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars, and countless hours learning to succeed; to make better images more often. Now I am learning how to fail.

After posting my blog entry ‘Why I have a Camera’ my friend Andrew wrote to me: “What was it about that very first roll of film that allowed for such simplistic creativity? Some of my nicest looking shots to this day were taken on one roll of BW that was the second roll of film I’d ever exposed!’
I’m sure every photographer has a special appreciation for their first roll, the first negatives they developed. The moment when a person sees the product of their creativity, which is completely theirs.
What made the first roll so special? Was it only the fact it was the beginning of an obsession, or is there something else which made shooting those first pictures so invigorating?

Porteau Cove BC; My 3rd Picture Ever
3rd Picture I ever took
Taking photos now is a much different process for me than it was when I first shot with my father’s SLR in Porteau Cove BC. Most shots are preconceived, many are artificially lit, a lot are tweaked and reshot ad nauseam, they involve models and makeup artists or several athletes. The stakes are raised and there are more hopes and aspirations than my own riding on the success of those images.

When I shot my first roll of film I also had hopes and aspirations riding on the photographs, however I didn’t need to succeed. I was new, inexperienced, naive and unskilled if every frame was blurry and unfocussed i would sure be disappointed, but I was aloud to fail. No one would have looked at my pictures and have said to me; ‘I really expected more of you.’ or ‘Why didn’t you get that shot? I thought you would do better!’ My only concern when I first depressed the shutter button, was having fun, trying something new, and taking any photograph in any way I wanted.
I unknowingly granted myself the right to failure, which is the right to creative freedom. I opened myself to simplistic creativity by removing the necessity for success.

Shannon Falls, My 4th Picture
4th Picture I ever took

Brandywine Falls, My 8th Picture
9th Picture I ever took
I haven’t intentionally failed a shoot, or a picture for that matter. However I will go out shooting and consciously grant myself license to failure. I allow myself the possibility to attempt whatever I can possibly conceive.

I have failed this shoot twice, this is one of the more photogenic failures.
Self Portrait MTB
I have yet to succeed on the shoot; the creativity is quite simple but technically very difficult to execute. Twice I’ve failed, and I still may fail many times to come in pursuit of an image i really want to make. My openness to failure gives me not only a license to unharnessed experimentation, but also the ability to analyze the failures and gain knowledge to correct my shortcomings in the future.

Stop shooting in fear of failure, instead embrace the possibility of failure and open a gateway to complete freedom.

  1. December 18th, 2009 at 18:30 | #1

    That final photo. What are you looking for? A more ‘filled’ rider, less ghosting?

  2. December 20th, 2009 at 16:14 | #2

    Alex, i’m looking to capture a whole different concept which isn’t in the picture that you see here. I also need to work on some of the technical that you mentioned, and the riding is pretty weak. A lot to work on, and it’ll take a long time to make it all work.

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