Friday, 08 March 2019
Often when we talk about a famous photographers work (more so a street photographers work), we talk about their hit rate and then we're placed into the privileged position of using their original unedited work and negatives that document their process to strength the argument for a high hit rate, and to then justify their success in a quantifiable way.
What we expect is to see a sequential set of one master piece after another, the greater the chain of master pieces without interval, the greater the master at work. This may have been true in an analogue word, with the cost of a click being measurable, it demanded a different style of working; a more reserved and conservative style where you couldn't use the camera like a machine gun, to increase the chances of success or just as a mechanism for experimentation and study. It would be just too expensive for a photographer to work this way.
if you start to make comparisons between photographic masters and masters of a more traditional art form, such as painting you realize something is missing from the work of the photographer, even when having access to the usually forbidden unedited work; the studies and the sketches. The experiments when they were playing with the camera, learning how to manipulate the light and gaining a sense of timing.
One could argue these experiments may exist in the artists early body of work, and as the work progresses there is a less and less need for one to study the environment and experiment but again if you refer back to the great masters of painting and their finest magnum opuses, that rule just doesn't apply apply, the truly great masters never stopped studying; along with the great master pieces along side usually comes test sketches, test pieces, studies of arrangement of people and poses long before a brush touches the paper.
With the gift of digital photography, we've inadvertently been granted the gift of below allowed to sketch and experiment, for the material expenses of less than the cost of a piece and a pencil. Now we can experiment as much as we like, without consequence, except one, shattering the myth of the high hit rate once viewed on a negative film.
As photographers we forbid ourselves experimentation the ability to sketch and let the mind run into absentminded wanderings, we set an impossibly high standard with a tainted ideal of a high hit rate; if you can only get 1 in 100 that's of any value, does that make you any worse a photographer? Do we judge a great master of painting by the number of sketches and studies they did before embarking on a great painting?
giving photographers the room to experiment and make errors, to sketch and roam with ideas that may lead nowhere, this may be the best gift photographers could ever have, regardless of whether than gift is coming from technology or from other photographers.