Chaos Photography

Photography is fun because it is random, chaotic, and unpredictable. Photography would be boring if everything were totally optimized and predictable #inpraiseofrandomness

Saigon abstract. Red and blue.

James Gleick wrote a pretty good pop book on Chaos, that my friend Alexander Amy put me onto. The basic concept is this:

Life is chaos, and chaos is what makes life so fun and interesting!

Green abstract Saigon

Furthermore, when I channel my inner Nassim Taleb, I love chaos, randomness, and uncertainty. This is the root of all fun and interest in life. No movie or video game would be fun if we already knew the outcome. It is only interesting because the chaos and randomness affords us the opportunity for us to exercise our strength, and gives us the opportunity to actually challenge ourselves!

Like the ancient saying,

Difficulty awakens [our inner] giant.

Selfie Ricoh Boston flash

I think this is why street photography and photography in general is so fun; because of the chaos and randomness! The fact that we don’t know what the photograph will look like, until we photograph it! (especially when using a flash).

As Garry Winogrand once said,

I photograph the world to see what the world looks like photographed.

Which means,

The real world and the world seen through photographs look different. By making photos, we fulfill our inner curiosity about what the world looks like as photographs.

Visual play and experimentation in photography

So the practical tip is this:

Make photos in situations where you’re uncertain what the final photo will look like.

For example:

  1. Shoot through reflections, mirrors, and textured surfaces.
  2. Use a flash, especially with reflective surfaces.
  3. Shoot film, because you’re not going to know how the scene will render on film.
  4. Shoot a bit randomly at times; experiment with super low angles, or take little risks of shooting photos that might be bad, but might be good!
  5. Shoot under different lighting situations; sunrise, sunset, incandescent lighting, indoor, outdoor, and see how the light looks different in your photos.
  6. Shoot blurry photos by moving your camera while shooting; you’ll never truly know what the final photo will look like.
  7. Experiment with double exposures, or other surreal photography techniques.
  8. See yourself like a visual scientist; when you make photos, treat them like small visual experiments. Experiment and have fun!
  9. Just shoot it: Don’t try to predict too much what your photos will look like before you shoot them. Allow randomness and chaos to positively influence your photos!
  10. Have fun: Allowing more chaos and craziness to permeate your life will make your life more fun and rewarding!


Eric kim red band

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