It’s better to be lucky than good

As I mentioned in my last post, while I have taken a few photos over the last year, I haven’t really felt that the process was particularly directed. Mostly it was just pointing the camera at something that momentarily caught my attention and taking the shot. Unsurprisingly, I found myself gravitating toward my least demanding cameras – the Minox 35ML got more use than any other. One could argue it was a very zen way of photographing, but that’s a big stretch, as it implies intent; this was zombie photography, driven by some primal urge toward something I vaguely knew I wanted, but didn’t know why, or how to get it. In case it wasn’t clear, I’m talking here about meaningful photos, not delicious brains.

Clearly, this process, or lack thereof, is not going to produce any sort of coherent result, unless of course your objective is to be incoherent (much as I admire the conceptual novelty of Dadaism, it is not something I have embraced). There is no overarching idea or purpose behind any of my photographs from this period. They are snapshots in the purest form of the word. Still, one might ask, doesn’t a group of images taken in similar circumstances or conditions take on a collective meaning, even if the individual photos have none? Perhaps, but I’m still too close to them to even begin to think about them that way. For now, it’s just a pile of pictures.

But this is the Internet, damn it, and by now most of you have either stopped reading and gone to look at Instagram, or if you’ve inexplicably stuck with me this far, are nonetheless growing frustrated and annoyed with the seemingly endless stream of boring words on what is ostensibly a photography blog. So here are a few of the photos I shot in the last year or so, more or less randomly chosen, all from the Minox that kept finding its way into my pocket. There’s no theme, no big idea – just pictures. Are they interesting? I’m not really sure, but if any of them are, it’s pure dumb luck. As the saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than good.

4 thoughts on “It’s better to be lucky than good

  1. I’m just gonna talk about me. Unless I have a specific project in mind, or have a job, I photograph what I see. That means I probably make a lot of pictures that have no real purpose other than to make art if I am lucky. That’s called photographers luck.

    When I photograph something like a second line or Mardi Gras Indians, I have a routine that gets me into the zone. Call it zen, because that’s how I learned it. I empty my mind of all preconceived notions and ideas. Then I make photographs. Of course, working this way is physically and mentally exhausting. After about three hours and I’m about done.

    Your pictures are fine. No, they don’t hang together but that doesn’t matter. They stand alone. Very few people are very good at storytelling. That takes a lot of work and culling and organizing. You will never see that collection in the same way twice.

    This is a good conversation. Keep it going.

    1. I have little interest in storytelling. It’s difficult to do so compellingly, as you say, and because it doesn’t matter much to me, I’m not willing to put in the effort. To your earlier comment, I adhere to the approach embodied in the Elliot Erwitt quote (though I thought it was from Garry Winogrand).

      I’ve done the physically demanding, go-capture-what-the-world-gives-you sort of photography, walking ten miles around Manhattan and Brooklyn in the summer heat more than once. Just the sheer exhaustion tends to clear the mind to a certain degree. I probably burned five or six rolls each time. It can turn up some unexpected results to be sure.

      1. Come down to New Orleans and i’ll show you summer heat. 95 degrees and 90% humidity will clear your mind and make your skin shine. There are days when we take 3 or 4 showers.

        I finally watched “Last Dance,” about the final year of Michael Jordan playing for the bulls. Of course the film takes you through his early days. Talent without work gets you nowhere. He practiced relentlessly. He was also sort of a jerk, but I understand why.

        I suppose if you don’t want to work at it, you won’t be happy photographing anything. I photograph something everyday. The picture may not be very good and nobody will ever see it, but it keeps my head in the game.

        1. NYC isn’t NO, but the heat gets pretty thick here in the summer from time to time. It’s really worst when it coincides with a garbage strike.

          I didn’t say that I didn’t want to work at photography; I said that storytelling was not my objective in practicing photography. I think if you read some of the more contemplative pieces here you’ll see that I’m fairly serious about it, and quite self-critical. But it’s not a vocation, it’s an avocation, and as such I define my own objectives as I see fit.

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