The Surprising Perks of Accidental Photography

Photography is a lot more than point and click. Most professional photographers wince a little at the sight of amateurs waving around their iPhones to take pictures—using helpful features that tell them where the focal point should be and if anyone in the picture is blinking.  Usually, setting up a good shot requires ingenuity, knowledge of composition, and good quality of film.

[lquote]When you start out, you photograph without too much thinking. Sometimes we need to think less and go back to that beginning state. –Jason Eskenazi[/lquote]However, award-winning photographer Jason Eskenazi has a slightly different view. With his preferred 35 millimeter film, the first three frames on any roll come out partly fogged, so for every set of good pictures, there will be three “double zero” frames taken before the shot is lined up.

Eskenazi keeps these accidental, half-developed shots. Some are just of feet and have no particular composition, but others seem to have a composition of their own. Of course, taking random shots is the opposite of how a photographer such as Exkenazi usually works. But the beauty of these half-formed images has caused him to reevaluate what makes a good technique.

A fully developed photo from Eskenazi's collection "Russian Noir"

In a New York Times Article, Eskenazi is quoted as saying, “Maybe I shouldn’t look through the camera view finder anymore. When you start out, you photograph without too much thinking. Sometimes we need to think less and go back to that beginning state.”

As any tutorial on photography composition will show, taking an eye-catching shot involves a lot of thought. You need to balance the sides of the picture, create a path for the eye to follow, and include levels of depth to overcome the flat nature of the medium. The half-exposed shots are certainly not balanced, and instead of following a clear path, the eye is drawn to a disappointing blank space.

But that’s part of the charm of these “double zero” frames, which Eskenazi calls “half photos that want to become full photos.” The fact that they’re incomplete is unsettling, and as an audience you keep wondering what the rest of the picture is. Often life is incomplete, and we only see part of the story. In that sense Eskanazi’s collection captures what life is really like.

Have you ever taken a shot without much preparation that still managed to capture the moment? Add your story to the comment section.
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