I positioned myself with the family camera up against my face, standing by the railway tracks, waiting, my excitement growing as the train slowly approached. I took the photograph.
Months later when we had finally used up the roll of film, the prints came back from the chemist and I could not find the image but there was a strange picture of some empty tracks. I had pressed the button too early.
The train is millimetres out of frame on the left hand side.
This was the first of many clear memories of failure with a camera and only in hindsight have I come to understand that the root of my devastation was and still is a great passion for the experience of capturing a moment. Through my early teens I experimented more with ways to minimise the probabilities of missing events by setting up controlled scenes and waiting for events to occur within them. I started with a fixed tripod and shutter release set up by bird feeders, capturing very close up images of garden birds and this eventually led to spending hours in hides in the countryside. It is inescapable that this need to minimise loss had carried forward into years of creating deliberate scenes for the exploration of humans.
I feel that if there is one thing I share with anyone who is committed to photography as a medium is this sense of terrible loss when we feel we have failed and the equal and opposite 'petit mort' from the success of capturing a vital moment and holding it.
|The Miniature Train of Pedras del Rei © Richard Ansett 1974|