Week 7 CRJ: serendipity
This weeks task is to reflect on the above question, is chance a key part of photography? The reference material referred to Brassai and his Paris by Night series of images this set of street photographs in my opinion depend partially on good fortune. I realise that this belief may be controversial but Brassai, despite being an incredibly well versed and extremely proactive photographer was fortunate to capture the images that he did in the manner that he did.
This opinion is not a critique of Brassai’s fantastic imagery but more of a comment on the reality of street photography, as unless the scene is staged despite the photographer having control over the composition, framing, exposure and location the contents of the image are still not determined by the photographer, and so in my opinion chance and good fortune play a role. Even with this assertion a photographer must be in the location to take advantage of the opportunity and so contrarily if this decision to go out and take a photograph at this particular time was not made by the photographer then the image cannot be captured. And if the decision determines whether the image is captured can it truly be considered fortunate?
Documentary photography, street included, is partially dependent on luck, but studio photography differs from this in that the location, exposure, framing and subject are controlled entirely by the photographer conversely in order for an authentic street or documentary photography, it is essential that the photographer only photograph the scene and not control it.
The aim of documentary photography is ” To creatively inform an audience about another part of the population, whose life and experience may be unfamiliar to the.” [The Key Concepts Photography, David Bate, 2014, page 79], so with this definition taking a documentary image with staged elements becomes something other than a documentary photograph.
The above image Joe Rosenthal’s iconic raising the flag on Iwo Jima is an example of a ‘posed?’ documentary image. Raising the flag on Iwo Jima, is thought of by some to be the most perfectly composed news photo of all time. what is the likelihood that this opportunity arose by chance and the photographer just happened to be in the right location at the right time?
Response to this images was incredible, Joe Rosenthal won a pulitzer prize as a result of capturing this photo this motivated many to contribute to the military instilled a sense of hope in many and inspired many to believe that the opposing forces would be beaten and encouraged people to invest in the military. But was this image propaganda?
Chance plays a part in all documentary and some instances of completely posed photography, it is impacted by many things, The medium plays a huge part in chance shooting film does not allow the photographer to have an exact knowledge of the image and even shooting digital sometimes the small low res screen on the back of a DSLR allows for missed details.
I have discovered that shooting film is encouraging me to be more patient and deliberate with each of my shots and Chance plays an even larger part in much of my shooting as opposed to when I shoot digitally. (focus can be off, if I choose not to use my light meter exposure occasionally off also) I am not given the opportunity to check my images and retake the photograph if I am not happy with the final results.
I wanted to avoid using cliche’s but serendipity and good fortune exist in photography however we also make our own luck and so being out on location allows us to be in the correct location to capture that decisive moment.