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 in the Documentary Photography Review podcasts to share their thoughts and experiences in response to a series of 12 questions. (You can read the responses to last week’s question, and sign up to the DPR newsletter to be kept informed of future articles.)

This week – the third week in this series of articles – I ask:

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

[divider]Lewis Bush [/divider]

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.

Lewis Bush
I shoot, write, talk, curate, and teach about photography, journalism, history and art. Lecturer at the London College of Communication and run the Disphotic blog

[divider]Cinzia D’Ambrosi [/divider]

I’m not sure?!

Cinzia D'Ambrosi
Photojournalist and documentary photographer. My photography work is motivated by my desire to investigate, expose and stimulate public response seeking the potentials to change a path, to modify a legislation, to tell a story otherwise untold.

[divider]Jonathan Goldberg [/divider]

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.

Jonathan Goldberg
I am a London-based portrait and documentary and documentary photographer with 20 years of experience. In between my regular portrait and documentary commissions I undertake personal projects relating to issues that I'm passionate about.

[divider]Ingrid Guyon [/divider]

This experience with the Dominican shipwreck (see last week’s 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?

Ingrid Guyon
I have lived and worked as a photographer, community worker and photography facilitator in London since 2001 and graduated at the London College of Communication and Social Anthropology in 2006.

[divider]Eduardo Leal [/divider]

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.

Eduardo Leal
Eduardo Leal is a Portuguese freelance documentary photographer focusing on Latin America social issues and politics and Portuguese traditions.

[divider]Claudia Leisinger [/divider]

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.

Claudia Leisinger
At present I work as freelance portrait and documentary photographer, based in London. I have had my photos published in the Guardian, the Telegraph Magazine, the Big Issue, the NZZ newspaper and the Foto8 website, amongst others.

[divider]Tim Mitchell [/divider]

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.

Tim Mitchell
Tim works as a photographer, artist and educator taking on photographic commissions, workshops and teaching within the UK. Often working collaboratively, his projects document our relationship with our surroundings.

[divider]Hannah Mornement[/divider]

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

Hannah Mornement
Originally a painter, Hannah Mornement is now a freelance documentary and reportage photographer, currently based in Brighton. Hannah has focused on people, places and humanitarian issues and has had over 10 years experience within the humanitarian and development sector.

[divider]Lucy Piper [/divider]

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

Lucy Piper
Editorial & Documentary Photographer based in South-west UK

[divider]Roberto Zampino [/divider]

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.

Roberto Zampino
I am a Sicilian photographer and filmmaker. I have been based in Italy, Cyprus and London working as a freelance photographer, commercial and photography teacher.

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