PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: It remains to be seen whether yesterday’s posting was a serendipity or just a clumsy mistake. The B&W image was inadvertently made from a seriously underexposed RAW file that had been previously developed for compositing the overly bright, windows. It was never intended to be the base of a finished interpretation, but I didn’t realize that when I worked on it this week - thought it was just poor lighting that kept it from working in color.
A story Freeman Patterson told near the start of a week-long workshop ten years ago has stuck with me. It was about a student who realized after a day of wonderful shooting, that her camera was set incorrectly, and all of her exposures were horribly over-exposed. She was in tears and was about to throw everything away although she knew it had been otherwise a sensational shoot. Fortunately, Freeman saw the images and persuaded her to show them to the group. They had been shooting in an old house, and when the group saw the overexposed images, they thought the effect a brilliant way of treating the ghostly, timeless features of the decayed dwelling. The mis-exposed images were a serendipitous discovery.
The group’s discovery bore fruit at the end of the workshop when we all presented a final project on topics drawn from a hat. The most memorable of these was a slideshow of images of a young girl posing in the abandoned house that Freeman’s workshops often used. The model was a frail thing, and the photographer had dressed her in lace and placed her where the light was streaming and had created a series of eerie, haunting high-key images amid the wreckage of the house and highlighting the phrase the photographer had pulled from the hat: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue."
Often we think photography is about getting it sharp and “properly” exposed, but it seems to me technique should be a means to an end, rarely an end in itself, and properly focused, properly exposed are not always what the finished photograph calls for. That said, I didn’t know yesterday when I struggled to render this image in color that I was working on a seriously underexposed original. No matter what I did, colors that should have been vivid would not come to life, and color relationships were off. The shoes, especially, were lost with their orange linings turned to dark rust. However, what was noisy, weak and unusable in color became a flattening gritty surface that led to the image produced. This morning while updating my catalogue, I discovered the mixup and found that if I used the right original, I could render the image as originally visualized in color.
I also made a new B&W version from the new color version. The new B&W rendering has more local depth than the posted version, more polish, and it lacks the scratchy noise that flattens the posted version, but it’s not entirely clear to me the scratchy flattening is bad and I’m undecided which B&W version is preferable.