Documentary Photographers share their experiences

10 Photographers on the mistakes they’re happy to have made

I asked some of the photographers who have been interviewed on the Documentary Photography Review podcast to share their thoughts and experiences in response to a series of 12 questions.

In this article I ask:

What mistakes have you made or failures have you experienced that you’re happy to have made/experienced?

Lewis Bush

I once had a proper job which paid a decent wage and when the time came to renew my contract for another year I just left instead. Everyone told me I was an idiot, I thought I was an idiot, but it was the best thing I ever did.

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Cinzia D’Ambrosi

I’m not sure?!

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Jonathan Goldberg

I’m conscious that it’s often the mistakes that make the best pictures, so I try to be intuitive when on a shoot, therefore not necessarily using the rational part of my brain.

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Ingrid Guyon

This experience with the Dominican shipwreck (see previous question/response)! It helped me to understand that I would not be a photojournalist and that the people being photographed, in some cases, are the owner of the images and should be consulted before any usage. That one has to think about the impact that an image can have, and why we are taking it in the first place – ego or justice?

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Eduardo Leal

The loss of images because I didn’t back-up was one of them – I was not happy, but without that experience I would probably not be so careful with backing up as I am nowadays. I’ve lost images under different circumstances – once I took a really important image and I kept shooting. Unfortunately moments later I had the camera confiscated and I lost that precious image. Lesson learned, when I have a photo that I consider “the shot”, I swap cards and hide the precious one in my socks.

Another mistake I did a lot in the beginning was to not check if batteries are completely charged before leaving home. It is a major upset and a rookie mistake to not be able to shoot because you run out of battery, but it happened to me. So always, charge/check everything the night before.

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Claudia Leisinger

Really early on, on a trip to India I forgot to put a roll of 35mm film into my camera and started shooting. On that invisible roll is one image of four Indian women coming down a curved road backlit by the morning sun, carrying silver water jugs on their heads while chatting. Their different coloured saris were billowing in the wind. It was just beautiful. This image is still so vivid in my memory, because I missed capturing it, so I am grateful for that.

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Tim Mitchell

I’m happy to have continually failed to motivate myself as a purely commercial photographer. A few years ago I discovered through failure and mistake that I’m not primarily motivated by the money or by the prospect of producing some photography even, but by the subject.

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Hannah Mornement

Most projects/jobs/commissions have their elements of the unexpected, each one usually prepares you for the next.

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Lucy Piper

Forgetting to take a flash to the first wedding I ever did. We were in the darkest registry office ever.

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Roberto Zampino

I’ve made the mistake of being stuck in sentimental attachment to stories and people which prevented me from having a more detached point of view. Another mistake was to be with somebody who would not understand that photography is my life. This could really make the difference.

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