My work incorporates socially engaged practice and community/informal learning, often encouraging people to try out creative techniques for themselves. When this is linked to digital strategies, it involves considerable pre-testing, to develop an advance understanding of what might go wrong (or at least not go to plan) in a non-studio working environment.
This “stress testing” process, while identifying more mundane modes of failure (such as hardware or software issues), can also result in unexpected visual outcomes that have on occasions developed into more strategic approaches. This has encouraged me to retain rather than delete what initially seems like an “error”. Returning to the images at a later date to consider if and how a process could be developed, sometimes results in overlapping cycles where new works emerge from the remains of older ones.
Sophie Cunningham Dawe
My best images are my better ‘accidents’ but sometimes, as in this one, something I couldn’t see that the camera could, is captured.
I shot this while walking through bluebell woods near Steventon, Hampshire, where Jane Austen would have walked in her younger years. Not until I uploaded the image did I notice an almost horizontal shaft of light, like a lintel, creating a kind of portal. This seemed particularly apt, an invitation, almost, while walking in Jane’s footsteps, to time travel.
There’s no in-camera movement however I preferred the compositional balance of tone when in negative form, done in post-production, and the ‘slowing down the seeing’ that this achieves. The image became part of an installation shown at Jane Austen’s House Museum in 2013 although the backstory, as here, remained untold. I hope to extend the series in bluebell season this year too.
I took this photograph somewhere in Venice, I was attracted by the fact that the term window dressing can almost be taken literally here. I often over expose my images, letting the light leave its own idiosyncratic marks; even though this is a deliberate act, I can never entirely control how it’s going to look; the chance element is both fun and important.
These images were taken whilst on holiday – due to the fact that I was moving whilst taking the photographs, they have come out extremely blurry and therefore are
classed as “mistakes”.
The error was an accident. I was visiting family at their beach house in Jacobsbaai in December, and as we gathered on the porch I tried to take a snapshot. As I positioned my phone, a moving magenta and dashed effect appeared in the lower part of the photo (perhaps the device was overheated).
I took the picture anyway, thinking that the glitch was probably screen-related only and the photo itself would come out normally. I was surprised to see the glitch included in the final photo. I did not want to delete it. It looks as if threads have been pulled in a weaving, dyed, and then reinserted out of line.
I carried out a project entitled ‘I thought it would last’ documenting what used to be a small market village near my hometown and how the village, Mitford, has lost its rural significance.
The photographs were shot on a Pentax ME Super and it was the first roll of film I had ever processed alone. It was very messy and I ended up with lots of fingerprints, scratches and chemical mishaps, initially I was disappointed but when it came to printing, I fell in love with the shots.
This photograph shows an apocalyptic looking sky which I absolutely love the effect created, where in reality it was a totally unintentionally chemical mishap during developing.
I had been photographing seascapes in the evening using relatively long exposures in order to capture movement in the sea. When removing the camera from the tripod, I accidentally triggered the shutter while a flock of birds were taking off from the rocks.
The slow shutter speed, combined with the movement of the birds and also the camera has created an ethereal image where the birds looks almost like angels or ghosts rising into the air.
This image, which is actually stapled to my studio wall, is of my partner in our old garden. It probably dates from around 2002/3. I had bought a Lubitel Universal twin lens medium format camera from a charity shop and was photographing everything, trying it out. This image looks to be at least a double exposure – possibly three, possibly more, with one slight movement on my part, and that of the subject.
Quite what caused the spiral markings, I don’t know. I developed and printed the film myself, and tend to use out of date paper (other people’s cast offs are a feature across my work) but this effect is on the negative, and no other image had this effect.
Blurred lights image – After shooting in a more lit up situation I found myself in a darker part of the square and to focus manually with a rangefinder in this situation was not easy, often I just set my lens to infinity focus in these types of situations but this time I moved the focus in the wrong direction and got this result. This was an accident.
Leica blue – While out on a street walk in Wetzlar Germany, I came stumbled upon the location where the first Leica image was taken, holding one in my hands I couldn’t resist but to capture the moment, only to discover that I forgot to change my white balance setting as well as loosing the control of the camera strap which also photobombs in the image. This was an accident.
Desert Image – While trying to capture the starlit sky in a desert base camp, I began to use the campfire and camp lighting as some foreground lighting for my shots, little did I realise that one of the man who worked there was going to wander into my shot. This was also an accident.