Planning vs. chance

In response to a recent OCA Forum post about “authenticity” (see here), Clive White wrote a paragraph which struck me as being particularly relevant to my situation:

“The paradigm which ultimately doesn’t work is pre-visualising work and the outcome; not picking up the camera till one has designed what one considers a cool idea to suit a brief and imagining the plaudits that are going to come from such a clever smooth professional execution. The surface might have a sheen but ultimately the communication is hollow and the further one goes up the Levels then the more that approach fails.”

This is exactly me. I come from an engineering background and therefore planning is 90% of the game. That approach has benefits, however there is also a big drawback: if I don’t come up with what I think is a good idea, I may get stuck for a long time. This happened with assignment 2.

While thinking about Clive’s words, I realised that I don’t experiment very much anymore. In fact, I don’t take many photos anymore which aren’t directly related to my course. In the past (i.e. pre-OCA), I’d play with ideas more much and what worked, worked. What didn’t, I’d try to use as the basis for new experiments or at least learn what to avoid.

After reading Clive’s comments a few times, I recalled a comment in my tutor’s feedback for assignment 2 (see here).

“My experience when faced with uncertainty in photography and underpinning ideas is that we tend to get around these problems proactively by engaging in the decision making process by stepping forward with creative processes. Engaging with the world of image making as a series of iterative stages is far more productive than trying to design images solely from our imagination”

When I join both of these comments together, I have to come to the conclusion that getting out and just doing has benefits and can be used to generate ideas. I don’t think that means pointing my camera randomly – it’s more about having an outline idea, or a few ideas, and playing with them.

Further on in the discussion, Clive wrote a follow-up which I found interesting because it extended his first paragraph (see here):

“Rationality is only one tool in the box and often not the best mode of thinking for our purposes. It’s about discovery through risk taking, not crafting reliable, repeatable solutions.”

I think I was better at this in EYV, so I need to think more about taking risks. I am very much aware that the “ding” I received during my assignment 1 feedback has made me very wary about stepping outside or extending the brief. I have no idea how to resolve this conflict.


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