The Ambiguous Book Project has certainly made me re-think. Re-think not just the powerful images that have been submitted but my whole approach to photography.
I've come from a place where words like serendipity, chance, observational, non-intervention are my maxims. I've shied away from putting myself in the picture, both figuratively and metaphorically. I confess, after a little scrutiny, that's certainly disingenuous. I was struck by a quote from Werner Herzog in a recent interview in the New York Times.
“I insist that even if you make documentaries, we are filmmakers, and we must never be flies on the wall, unobtrusive and just registering. As filmmakers we should be the hornets that go out and sting. The fly on the wall is a perspective that is suspicious to me per se. Every single camera angle is already a choice and a statement.”
One of the motivations behind the from the hip technique I've pursued is a dissatisfaction with my own overt efforts to control the composition of my pictures. Formally they were competent but the rational thought behind their construction drained the life from them. They rarely reflected how I felt. To retain that soul I gave up all control over the composition of the image to my old friends (the cop out twins?) serendipity and chance...
Granted it's not entirely random. In deference to Werner Herzog I am deliberately introducing the camera into a situation that I have determined is an opportunity. The moment of exposure, the sting if you will, is of my choosing. However, in this scenario, the target is not.
Introducing that ambiguity into my photography from the very moment of conception has always attracted me. As well as the essential originality of the image - the first time I see it is on a contact sheet - the images that I respond to most have an innate democracy. Each element has equal significance, an equal vote to win my attention.
So what's my problem? Well the images I see submitted to the project are deliberately composed yet still evocative, full of soul. The interpretations each photographer has offered enriches the experience further. Perhaps I just need to lighten up. Not worry about a composition that speaks directly of my experience. After all it's only supposed to be a representation, right?