Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Control vs. The Uncontrollable

Duck and Model. Nikon D3, 50mm f/1.8D, ISO 3200, 1/250th, f/2.8

I should apologize for the new layout because it's more difficult to navigate. I'm experimenting with this layout as I'm working on my website (www.lucima.com) because it is more uniform with my website design.

As I was looking for a specific quote by Richard Avedon, I stumbled across the following:

I think all art is about control - the encounter between control and the uncontrollable. - Richard Avedon

And it gave me the chills thinking about the process by which I walk that fine line between control and the uncontrollable.

If you've read this blog then you know that I've always preached a good technical foundation for every photographer. Learn the ratios, lighting setups, camera settings, etc. You'll need to know these things like the back of your hand so you can improvise.

But art is unpredictable and uncontrollable. When I step onto a shoot, I'm not 100% sure I'm going to get "art". I know for sure I'll get great images, but the magic that transcends ordinary images is transient and hard to create. You might have all the right ingredients and still not be able to create "art".

And it explains why I shoot a lot of frames. I don't hold down the shutter indiscriminately though. I'm looking for certain angles, certain looks, a certain feeling. When I see those stars align, I will burst fire many shots. So at the end of the day I can easily shoot thousand of frames because what I'm looking for is fleeting and instantaneous, totally magical, and impossible to reproduce. I'll throw away lots of frames if it means I can have that one single perfect instant in time.

It's like jazz. We've got all the basic pieces of the band, maybe a baseline, a tempo, a general structure to the song... but the in-between parts? It's a dance. No one really knows what is going to happen. It's impromptu and elementally alive. It's the baring of souls. It's consuming and rapturous and carnivorous.

And control is an illusion. We do our best though, set our lights, balance our exposure, choose a background, model, makeup, wardrobe, etc. but once the "dance" starts, all bets are off and you either come along for the ride or get left behind. Besides, if at any point in time you feel like you're totally in control, chances are you're getting sterile, flat, boring and predictable images.

It's why the greatest artists seem like raging lunatics. Only they're not completely crazy. They've got just enough sanity to keep a few toes on the ground to channel the visions, sight, and sounds of the heavens back down to Earth. They walk that fine line between control and the uncontrollable.It's the best part about what I do.

It reminds me of surfing on days that I am leery of the waves because they might be too big. After all, if "excitement" is the anticipation of the unexpected then I can't be excited if I know exactly what is going to happen. So I've got to push myself both as an athlete and an artist to explore the "scarier" parts of who I am and what I do. In photography that might mean trying things that scare me or make me uncomfortable because I feel like I'm not totally in control... like shooting angles, using lenses I don't like, ISO's above 3200, putting the model is strangle positions, and more. Hell, all of what I've described went into making the image above. As far as for surfing, it means paddling out on a day that could end my life.

But if I make it back alive. Oh the images I could make and the stories I could tell.


  1. You are an amazing writer. Very well said...

  2. Strangle positions? Typo? Didn't know you were into fetish. :)

  3. LOL Caleb. I'm not, but I can't speak for all the models... :)