Post from 338, October 2016

When You Think It’s a Failure But It Isn’t

Monday, 3. October 2016 2:40

Recently I have written a couple of posts about artistic failure, and here’s another one—but from a completely point of view. What occasioned those posts was a photo shoot that had virtually no yield in terms of useable pictures, at least immediately. So I thought the grown-up thing to do was write it off and move on.

Normally, this is no too difficult for me. Not every projects succeeds. I try to learn and go on to the next project. At least this is what I usually do. Something about this shoot, however, would not let go. So I decided to listen to the project or my inner voice or whatever was telling me not to leave it alone just yet and reconsider.

So I made a list of what I considered to be salvageable images. (Some say my standards are unreasonably high and that was the problem in the first place. I disagree.) I found about 20 that I thought might have potential, all very different from each other.  For a while, all I did was study them, trying to see how acceptable images could be made from them. Then I set out to repair. A Photoshop™ tweak here, an adjustment there, a re-crop to modify composition and acceptable images began to emerge.  At the same time, I edited the list.

Of the images that I originally identified, a dozen proved, with work, to be acceptable. A little more than half of those are actually worth showing.

The experience made me want to reexamine images from other shoots that failed for one reason or another. So I took a look at some of them. Some were just as bad as I remembered; others, however, caused a little tingle of “maybe…” Perhaps the time that I have spent away from those projects has allowed me to have a different perspective.

And all of that has caused me to reevaluate my thoughts on the nature of artistic failure—what it means and when to make the call. Maybe a project is never a failure—we always learn something. Maybe we shouldn’t label it a failure until we completely abandon it. Maybe the difference between a successful project and one that is not successful is simply a matter of perspective and viewpoint.

Because of all those maybes, I have learned that it is probably a mistake to declare a project a failure until every little piece has been examined, every possibility explored. The project may represent an unexpected kind of success and not be a failure at all.

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