An Ode to Failure


Okay, “Ode” is a little overblown, and failure is only in my mind probably. With those stipulations….

(This all revolves around the image at left of the dancer “flying”.)

I can’t find the quote unfortunately, even after much looking, but some well known photographer once made a comment about how it was better to have an interesting failure for an image, or when making an image, than a predictable success. Basically, screw-up, but take something cool away from your screw-up.

So, in this case, I ended up in theater much larger than I had been expecting to photograph Aloft Aerial Dance. (I’d love to desribe what they do, but I don’t know how. It’s all up high. It’s very cool to see. Very pretty, but that statement fails in terms of depth. Anyhow, see some aerial dance if you get a chance. Good stuff.) Back to photography…Actually not a theater but a church, no pews, (whew) but comfy seating, with 2 balconies, for 8000 (at least that’s what I think he said, at least 4000 otherwise.)

Fine, my life is about the unexpected, I like that. I worked with what I had, shot what I could, how I could, tried to make it work. Now, the other problem here, is that with a stage for a room that size, I really don’t have the glass I’d want for it. Again, make it work.

The bigger problem is I didn’t know the performance, I had never seen it before. I didn’t know where to be when, what was coming. See, I don’t care what has just happened unless it illuminates what is going to happen. The past is gone. I can’t make a photo of it. I need to know what is next so I can make a photo of that. With a stage that large, that means having to move, maybe 50 yards or more to get into position. This means planning, which I couldn’t do. Nature of the beast in this case. C’est la vie. I’m better prepared for next year.

So, take some chances and find a way to make it work. This is what I get paid for after all (though this was actually another of my happily pro-bono jobs. They are so much better.) I’m not a 100% on the “flying” photo, not even close. Given the choice, I want face, I always want face, this has been drilled into me for years, to my detriment. No face, I just don’t normally plan for someone to fly 30, maybe 40 feet over the audience. My bad. So, shoot from behind, the focus is a little off (ankles are in focus, the rear foot is just a hair out, we’re talking maybe a few hundredths of a second to traverse that distance, but I still want the rear foot in focus.)

The exposure is okay, background generally works. As a failure, I like it. It has some interesting ideas. I want to re-crop it to give a little more on the bottom now that I’ve had a day with it. I can play with the idea again in the future, better.

Maybe that’s what I like about failures though, “better in the future”. Success closes off the future to some degree. Been there, done that, next. I like that I can re-examine, learn and improve. Yeah, anyone can do that all the time, but I like having a new idea to play with to improve. It’s like having a new toy.

Hence, an interesting failure it is, better than the safe “successes”.

4 Responses to “An Ode to Failure”

  1. Ya Looblue says:

    we heart you. !!

  2. Josh Hawkins says:

    Thanks. Aloft rocked that show. I liked all the mentions about the Angels in the Trib on Monday.

  3. Shayna says:

    That flying photo is actually my favorite one of all…

  4. Josh Hawkins says:

    I rather like that image myself also. I’ve been meaning to post something for a while about the meaning of “failure” in my world. It’s very different, not stigmatized at all, in my world. I actually take failure as usually better than success, and I’d definitely rather fail than achieve mediocrity. So all and all, I’m good with it.

    Want a big print of it? I got a new toy, printer, and I’m using some of the imagery from that show to test with (the blues weren’t reproducing well on my old printer so I wanted to see how they did with the new one and they rock on my new one.) Something in the area of 24×36? It’s that or they go in the trash. 😉 Let me know.

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