The Beautiful Accident

About a week ago my mom and a number of our neighbors went for a day trip to Pacitan, visiting the tourist spots around the area. Just yesterday she handed me the files of the photos from the trip, asking me to print them out. This morning I checked the files, and surely enough there were the usual tourist pictures; general sceneries, group posing in front of said sceneries, etc... But then this one picture stopped me in my track:

I dunno who took it, but I actually quite like it. The composition, the placement of the lone lamp and how the spherical shape really pops, the scale of it compared with the surrounding cave walls, how it could really show that the lamp is something that isn't supposed to be there... Those of us who have seen lots of photographs with a good content could see the picture as a comment on how human is tampering with nature for our own (questionable) benefits and stuff like that, but for all we know, perhaps the person taking this picture just want to capture and remember how the interior of the cave looks like, with the lone lamp included unintentionally. Another weird thing is, all the other files are set in the highest resolution of the camera, except this one. It's actually set in the smallest resolution. It's as if whoever took the picture thought that the picture was unimportant but s/he took it anyway. Or perhaps it's just for the sake of saving memory space, who knows. Anyhow, it reminds of this particular quote:
"There are no accidental masterpieces in painting. But there are accidental masterpieces in photography." -Chuck Close
It is even observable in Facebook photo albums sometimes. When I browse the albums of my non-photographer friends, every now and again I would find some really interesting frames they took with simple point n shoot digicams or even their phone cameras, yet these people always seem to be oblivious and doubtful that their pictures are interesting at all. 

©Heni Octoriyani Wijaya

And that's what I like about it, how they don't think about photography and aren't really concerned with how their photos will be viewed and still be able to produce something good, albeit unknowingly. Even without the intent, you can make a good photograph. I wonder if this accidental gem also happens in other creative fields and if it does, how often? Obviously I don't have the numbers but I have a feeling it's a much more common occurrence in photography. After all, some vernacular photography sometimes can make their way into the art realm. So at least some people must think highly of these accidents.

But is it all accident, though? Of the friends I mentioned before, some have a noticeably better hit-miss ratio than the others, to which I guess we can attribute to this thing we call "talent". If so, then, will it be beneficial for them to learn photography? To supposedly nourish that talent they have? Or will they be better off not knowing photography at all? Because I feel that sometimes our photography knowledge can actually hinder us instead of helping us in taking photos. Is this composition good? Am I standing on the right spot? Should I wait a bit more? I know that famous guy have made great photo with this formula, can I get the same result? The considerations are endless. And you'll always be haunted by all those good chances you didn't get, knowing full well you could have nailed it. People like my friend Heni above, on the other hand, just see something they think interesting, click, and move on blissfully with their life. 

Perhaps that's where the problem lies, the knowledge required to spot a good photograph is the very same knowledge required to know a potential photograph in the first place. It's the same thing, it's all about choosing. Making a selection. This one is more interesting than that one. Without the knowledge, you can make a good photograph but you wouldn't know you have made one. And this, for me, makes those accidents even more beautiful. Knowing that the makers don't know that they've created something good. Because that would mean the same thing could happen to us. We could have made some good pictures without realizing and they're laying around somewhere, waiting to be found when we have the knowledge to know that they are, indeed, beautiful accidents.


Sebastian said...

"talent" is such a fuzzy word - it mystifies experience and hard work and gives the impression that you're born with the ability to do something. I do understand though, that people like to talk about it so much: In a time where nothing should take too much effort lack of "talent" is a good excuse to not be persistent and keep learning.

But ok, thats a bit offtopic .. I think people are not "talented", but that some are more visually literate than others, have more experience with (good) photographs, composition in general.

Nugroho Budianggoro said...

i wouldn't call it 'accident', because accidents i think by definition are random events. i prefer to see pictures like these as "bursts of visual sensitivity".

i don't recall having seen them in my non photographer friends, but i see them in pictures from my photographic illiterate past. and the difference between now and the is just i explored compositions that spark my sensitivity, and this increase the chance of getting good pictures..

even now though, i often find instances where images i took are beyond what i conceived when i pressed the shutter. you know, like, i didn't see this object before, or, i didn't consciously divide things with this proportion, etc. but it turned out good. i attribute this to that sharpened sense, when the subconcious is at work.

and contrary to what you said, i'm not really a conscious imitator, trying shoot like other photographers. but what depressed me a little (initially) is that eventhough i took liberty in shooting, i found that some my images are significantly similar to others. interestingly, some even look like pics i previously hadn't seen.

sorry if i posted too long..