Contradictory but Hopefully Illuminating
A Brian Eno quote, which is quite relevant:
“The work starts to define you rather than you define it. It starts to tell you what you are doing”.
I’m interested in and enjoy process. This means that I spend more time thinking about ways of doing things than I spend thinking about outcomes. There’s an undeniable geekiness in this and to an outsider it might seem like I’m just dabbling but there are many joys to be found in discovering things this way. Starting with the end in mind is all very well for business gurus and bored artists scratching around for funding but finding yourself somewhere unexpected is much more enjoyable.
So the accident is important. Many of my best pictures have a large element of chance. But then it’s a photographer’s cliché that “you have to be there”. You have to be aware and on some level and in some way, prepared. This is also true of pictures that have little or no apparent accidental elements.
I used to say “projects are death”. The very idea of coming up with a concept for a project is stifling. Asking a question is one thing but proving a point is tedious. So, a project has to be arrived at, discovered lurking where you thought there was just mud. Then if you have the energy, you might refine and polish it. More recently I’ve managed to come up with project ideas that have worked for me before I got bored with the thought.
The single image is difficult. There are many more people who have one good picture than those that have one good book so how do you decide what’s worth looking at when you only have a single image? You can’t. You have to look at more single images and see if they add up to anything but they’re still single images so this is harder work than it would be if you were presented with, say, The Bollards Project (see some dabbling here and here) or even, Cornershops.
Intent is not everything. You don’t have to know what you meant when you said something before you said it. Accidents, wandering, observing, making random selections and using certain methods or attitudes developed over time can all be your hidden intention. Figure it out later. Or let other people figure it out for you, or better still, for themselves.
Here’s another quote I like:
“The mundane is not a substitute for the sublime. It’s just a secret passageway to it”.
- David Allen
Gary Alexander 2007