Friday, May 25, 2018

Failure

I have been considering failure as of late.  Not in a negative sense (which is how most people immediately react to the word), but in a positive context.

Failure is an important part of the creative process.  Or, as Bram Stoker correctly observed: we learn from failure, not from success.

Do not be afraid of examining your failures.  It might be a composition that didn't work quite right.  Or maybe it was the "photographer's dance" of exposure, shutter speed, aperture, filtering, sensitivity, developer, film, or one of a myriad of other elements that fell short of the harmony you thought the image was crafted with.  Film, darkroom printing, large format cameras - they are not typically forgiving tools to work with.  But stopping and examining my unsatisfactory images, looking at my notes, and thinking back to when I made the image is how I continue learn and grow toward further mastering the craft.

Draft prints that still come up short.
The problem (a balance between the tree bark and leaves)
is very subtle.
Permission to fail is also a vital component when you are learning a new technique or trying something different.  Expecting perfection at the beginning is foolishness.  Embrace those mistakes and learn from them.  I recently started working with Amidol, a paper developer of old that can produce incredibly subtle images tones but is notoriously difficult to work with.  It has lived up to its reputation!  Even with 30 years experience in the darkroom my first attempts are disasters.  But I am learning a lot.  Stay tuned.

Classical photography demands learning from your mistakes because each image is such an investment of time and energy.

Digital photography can also provide such learnings, but it is incumbent on the photographer to make the extra effort to do so.  Making pictures with a digital camera requires so little effort and it is easy to make a flood of mages.  It is just too tempting to rush through a palithra of pictures, jump over the ones you do not like, and focus only on the ones that you think look good.  But what have you learned?  Damn little I might venture to guess.  Do not get caught in this trap!  I have seen it ruin many a fine photographer.

Take your time.  Learn from your mistakes.  They are gifts that will make you a better photographer!

Take Care,
Jeff

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