The reason I put up that "Zen of Fishing" post yesterday was because of something Ken Tanaka said—he pointed out that if we were going to talk about "the ones that got away," we should also talk about the pictures we get because of serendipity—essentially, luck. In photography, you miss a lot—you have to—but you also get lucky sometimes, and that makes up for it. In the nice video of the truly great National Geographic photographer William Albert Allard that Joseph Brunjes contributed to the discussion, Bill Allard elaborates on the same theme. He knows what he's talking about, of course, as anyone who is familiar with his work knows.
So for this post, I tried to find some pictures of mine that came about by getting lucky—things I just happened to see because I was "out and about" with a camera and happened to come across them. But of course half my boxes are still in the barn from my move at the end of last summer, and I couldn't put my hands on the prints I needed. Don't know what I am going to do about that.
Everybody has different ways of practicing photography. Everybody has different aims and goals, and different ideas of success. That's okay, of course. And I never mean to dictate to anyone how they ought to work or how they ought to feel about things. A common leitmotif of writing about photography is that people jump to the assumption that we're asserting status-oriented claims about what's good and what's bad—as if, when we dispute it and settle it between ourselves, it would matter. It doesn't. You should have strong ideas about where you stand—I guarantee almost every artist does—but other people are going to go right on doing whatever it is they do. Even if their ideas are all wrong and they don't know a teakettle from a teacup. :-)
But if I can get back on topic, my idea of photographing really is that it's very much like fishing, if you can ignore the ethical and qualitative differences between "catching a prize fish" and "making a great photograph." It's not the metaphor of the end result but the metaphor of the process of getting to the end result that's rich. Photography essentially is serendipity. You put yourself in the middle of your story, in Bill Allard's fine phrase, but even then you really don't know what you're going to find, what pictures you're going to be able to come up with. The question of why some photographs work and other, similar photographs don't work seems simple enough, but only on a superficial level. Go to a deep enough level and it is profoundly a mystery.
Well, I've just taken ten times too many words to say what Ken and Bill said much more simply. Yeah, we miss a lot of shots sometimes—but then other times, we get something great that we didn't expect couldn't have foreseen. So it goes both ways.
Sorry I can't show you my modest examples.
(Thanks to Ken, Joseph and, indirectly, William Albert Allard)
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