Curious Frame - Originality & Chance
Issue #46 - 5 February 2022
First of all, my apologies for my unannounced disappearance. I got lost in the end of the year activities and all of a sudden I was overwhelmed by it all.
There was an uptick in business in December that I didn’t anticipate. It was very welcome though. The pandemic continues to change the way everything works. My business included.
At any rate, I can’t just slap an issue of Curious Frame together. This is something that takes time to read, research and think about. I do it because it is something that is important to me.
I would like it to also be something that is meaningful to you. I don’t see much out in the social media world that has a meaningful look at how photography effects our lives as both photographers and people encountering millions of images on a daily basis.
I thank you for staying with me. There is still much more to come. It might take a little time for me to produce it though. I always look forward to your comments and even suggestions.
Curious Frame exists for you the readers. It is fabulous when people are involved in the dialogue and with so many different opinions about what photography means to us. Let the dialogue continue!
One of the biggest problems with social media is the lack of dialogue. So often it is more like a monologue. All you need to do is hit reply in your email! Easy.
Originality & Chance
I spend a lot of time reading. It never seems like enough. In fact I typically have to steal time to read. Perhaps this is a result of a combination of the digital age and attention deficit disorder. People don't often read the text that accompanies photos or images.
I read to try to understand what’s going on in the world of photography. I say try because I often don’t understand the new trends in photography. Maybe that's just an age thing.
If you can write an artist statement about your work, if you can convince the right people of the legitimacy of the purpose of your work, then people will buy it and galleries will display it. I guess that's not exactly a new practice.
I also don’t understand why so many people follow and like photographers whose work is either recipes that can be copied with the right conditions or merely eye candy.
It’s possible that that says as much about the viewer as about the photographer. Either way there’s nothing especially wrong with that. But why would we choose to imitate that?
Where is the originality? Any art form should reveal some of the artist that created it. What makes any art unique is/are these things that often seem slightly askew.
The angle of a photo is both literally and metaphorically different than every other photographer’s work. I hope that you’re not feeling excluded from finding your space in this group.
I’ve spent most of my life unlearning rules in writing and the arts. Not with the sole purpose of being different. But in being true to my self. To express myself in methods that accurately communicate how I see the world.
As I am known to frequently say, it's important to shoot often, experiment and not be afraid to make mistakes. I have adopted much of my so-called mistakes into my work.
One example of someone who challenged the status quo might be how the model Lauren Hutton was able to become very famous with a gap between her 2 front teeth.
She was told my modeling agencies that she would need to get the gap fixed to work. She proved the fashion industry wrong.
Sometimes the genius of a photo is the way that it shows us the everyday things that we take for granted. Revealing moments that we couldn’t have planned.
Originality is the opposite of what’s expected. Maybe it’s merely adding one unexpected ingredient in a standard recipe. There isn’t anything that I know of that’s 100% original. But I digress and that is who I am and maybe even why I chose to write Curious Frame.
Things usually don't develop quite as imagined, but that leads to the best work. Esther Teichmann
The little spontaneous events and actions that are often captured by mistake are the lasting photos for me. Have you ever discovered after-the-fact that you captured a photo that you really like and you don’t remember taking it?
Au hasard is the French expression for coincidence, chance or luck. It can be used in a negative or positive manner unlike the word hazard which stems from it.
What is street photography if not chance? I wrote about The Concept of Chance in Issue 30 of this newsletter and chance is a topic that continually arises in all aspects of creativity for me. I will likely write about chance again as there is still more ground to cover.
As the saying goes, you just can't make this up. No matter how hard we'd like to think that life is predictable, the unexpected or chance situations just happen.
That is perhaps the thrill of street photography, encounters with the unknown. Sometimes it would even appear that you can capture someone witnessing an alien like the above photo.
The portrait photographer seems like an easy photographic profession to choose. Not from the business side of things. The business side of photography is likely never easy.
But to be really good at portraits also takes some luck AND style. Style is always taking a personal approach to shooting. Those who imitate rarely get noticed.
The above photo by Peter Lindbergh (1944-2019) could be mistaken for street photography rather than a portrait if we didn't bother to take the time to look into his work.
In street photography it's never enough to capture a cool looking person. We of course are often fooled by this.
We are always scanning the environment for them. But sometimes it's the normal that really stands out more than anything.
If we keep shooting and stop trying to second guess what we want to capture, we are perhaps more likely to come home with little gems.
When I took the above photo, I had no idea that I would still like it 8 years later. I've always liked it. Many other photos that I've liked are no longer in the favorites group anymore.
Over the last number of years I've spent more and more time really focused on the element of chance in street photography. Sometimes chance leads to images that really stick. At least for me.
The planned photos, like those photogs that always post "perfect" photos, well, they don't really stick. Gimmicky photos also fall into that group.
I'm really quite tired of photos that utilize adverts or street art in gimmicky ways. Admittedly they are fun to capture. But they don't have much staying power.
For better or for worse, the destiny of the photographer is bound up with the destinies of a machine. Dorothea Lange
Why do we get hung up on trying to capture "perfect" or eye candy photos? I've often been known to say that street photography is first and foremost an activity for me.
The activity and the results are not necessarily the same thing. Perhaps part of that desire to take "perfect" photos can be written off as wanting to become a better photographer.
That is really about the the technical aspects of trying to master the tool that we use. After all, a camera is merely a tool for creating. Unlike a pen which will not determine the results of your writing.
The more conscious I am of why I'm taking it, the less successful the picture turns out to be. Fay Godwin.
We set up challenges for ourselves to accomplish. If I can do this, then I can be considered good at what I do. It really is kind of a silly thing. We are always trying to prove our worth and ability.
In reality, many times it is chance that allows us to capture photos that really stand out and that we are happy with. Recently I have set out to experiment with a few different techniques in which I've gone out of my way to work with the element of chance.
The first three photos in this issue of the newsletter are an example of that. Lift and shoot combined with multiple exposures. No time to look and see what's in the frame and also, intentionally using a low shutter speed.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the idea of finding your own style and the idea of perfect photos. This topic is not complete and it will be continued in the next issue!
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Leanne Staples is a lens-based artist, photographer and writer based in New York City. She specializes in abstract and street photography.
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