This week we’ve been looking at creative and technical choices we make and incorporate in our practice. How do we justify those choices and how they shape and influence the work we create?

This is an interesting subject. For me I’ve always been curious about the consideration of chance, improvisation, and happy accidents in photography and creativity in general.

But to begin this week’s reflection: we were asked to complete a micro-project commissioned by one of our course peers.


I was given the brief to produce 5 images all of which include a hand. And the three images you see here are some of the results with the full 5 images here:

In keeping with the theme of creative choices (and in this case deliberate limitations) I chose:

  1. Be completely led by chance and being led by what I found rather than pre-visualising outcomes and seeking to find images that fit. I have worked like that before in many instances, though not exclusively. In this way, I could liberate myself from trying to find ‘perfect’ images and be led by my discoveries.
  2. Use one camera and one lens (in my case I chose to shoot with a Fuji X100F APSC camera with a fixed 23mm lens). I chose this deliberately to limit my technical choices and because the camera is small and lightweight which, given the limited time for this project, would ensure I carried it with me across a weekend.
  3. Not to try and create a narrative or follow a theme, especially once I had taken the first couple of images for the brief.

This final choice I found quite hard and in the end it was this that left me feeling the final outcomes were unsatisfactory. Each individual image is ok – it fulfils the brief. But I often look for something that connects the images in ways that are more surprising than simple typology, which in this case is really what the project ended up being.

However, by the time I came to shoot the fifth and final image I was searching for a narrative reason to shoot it and this slowed my shooting down because I became less open about what to photograph. In the end I ditched the narrative I was attempting to justify and once again went back to simply shooting and ended up photographing myself during recordings for my Oral Presentation.

This experience does lead on to something else we considered this week:


I think I’ve made it clear above that I do see chance as a key part of photography. I love happy accidents being led by the unexpected. But it depends on what form of imagery I’m attempting to make and what I’m looking to communicate – this is because, as I’ve shown in the hands project above, we run the risk of simply becoming visual ‘collectors’ if we shoot without a WHY . I really believe there is room for instinct and improvisation in photography but I think the best photography (certainly that I’ve made) comes when I’m clear on why I’m shooting, but open to receive what is coming from what I’m photographing. So, I don’t necessarily consider the outcome completely fixed. There’s always room to discover. That’s not to deny planning. For example, on a client shoot, my eye is always on the brief and the expectations and requirements of the desired outcome. But this room to respond to the moment is what photography does so well, so I believe in making use of it whenever it is presented.

As part of this discussion we were asked to post an image that we considered to be a mistake or faux pax but which ended up working for whatever reason. I posted the following image:

My Faux Pas – Cambridge 2016. Copyright James Bellorini

This was shot whilst I was borrowing a Leica digital rangefinder camera and learning how to focus with it. The image is completely out-of-focus save a very tiny section. I was trying to focus on the lamp (the red blob) behind the condensation covered window. The image is also mistaken in another way: that is the slightly odd way early Leica digital cameras reproduced reds. But, in the end, the image is pretty striking as an abstraction and in that its errors make a whole that works.


I’ve touched on this above in the hand project. I do believe this is important to photography. And the restraints we can put on ourselves as photographers are many and often playful (I’m minded here to recommend The Photographer’s Playbook by Jason Fulford which is full of ways to creatively restrain ourselves ). For example, technical choices are pretty easy ones to facilitate (e.g. shoot with one focal length lens; make shots that contain a specific colour etc). I do think that imposed restraints often free us, move us away from our typical ways of approaching a project or shoot and can be especially useful when we are stumped for a way forward with a shoot or project. It’s easy to think that we need ‘more’ in this day and age, but perhaps the minimalist approach of limitation is more helpful than at first it might appear. After all, too many choices can be overwhelming.

On this subject, I’m discussed Orson Welles film The Magnificent Ambersons with some of my course peers. The film was lauded for it’s string shadows and moodiness which everyone assumed was an inspired choice by the director to reflect the drama unfolding in the story. In reality, the budget for the move was limited so the interior sets the film was shot on didn’t meet in the corners, which led to the film lot behind showing through the gaps. To get round this Welles and his director of photography basically had to ensure those areas weren’t lit. The result: those critically admired shadows and moodiness as a result of a restraint.


It’s probably worth noting here that a lot of time this week has been put over to creating my Oral Presentation (which you can view on this site here: ) as it makes up a sizeable chunk of marks for this first MA module. Head over there and have a look if you can, it’s a short movie presentation that looks at my practice and research project ideas.


Must make time to pay a visit to Foredown Tower which contains a camera obscura at Portslade:

‘Although we tend to associate Cartier-Bresson with photographs of historically significant events, the often humorous and profound combination of elements in Cartier-Bresson’s earlier photographs more transparently reflect his interest in surrealism, and his belief in the possibility for photography to render a subconscious expression of the maker, and give the viewer an expansive text into which we can read infinite metaphors.’

from M.A. course material