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Zen And The Art Of The Random Photograph

September 12, 2009


On approach to Coronado

For me, this is one of my favorite things of all when it comes to photography. The random snap. Just walking, could be on a job, on my own, lost, wandering, traveling, doesn’t matter.

You see something, you shoot something.

You should see my negatives, even in the midst of a major shoot, if I see something I shoot it. I once did a wedding in Hawaii, then half way through a roll started a new documentary project, then when back to the wedding.

I had to tell the clients, “Ahh, there are going to be some images on there you might not understand or know why I shot, just ignore them.”

I once assisted for a photographer who said, “I’m not a guy who carries a camera around.” I knew what he was getting at. He was a successful commercial/editorial photographer, and for him, carrying a camera around on a daily basis was the sign of an amateur, and that he only picked up a camera when he was getting a shoot fee.

I’m the amateur. I’ve always got my camera. Always. And if for some odd reason I don’t have it, like I’ve been arrested, I feel lost, detached, naked, and not in a good way.

I can’t imagine not shooting, not doing this. Most of what I shoot on a daily basis doesn’t turn out. But, I can do whatever I want, in whatever way I want, whatever method I want, which is, often times, very unlike a commissioned job where the compromise and restrictions begin. Freedom. Is that what I’m getting at?

I think we all got into this endeavor because we had a simply love of making pictures. Whatever it was that hooked you. The sound of the shutter, the wind of the film, the pull of the Polaroid, the image emerging from the chemical bath, and for me, this daily barrage is just a continuation of that.

I also think this style of shooting can be far more difficult than a job, due to that same randomness, that same unknown factor which is missing in much assignment work. Typically, these random pictures are of moments and the real, which in modern photography is the endangered species. Thriving is the posed, the cropped, the controlled, the fabricated, the expected, the manipulated and the perfected.

The random photograph is perhaps the most personal of work. Completed for no other reason than it happened and you were there. No one asks for it. No one says, “Show me,” or “This is for so and so and such and such.”

Random photographs are our memories. As close to our experiences we can get with a camera.

It might be the most important work I do.

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