Serendipity: Have Better Accidents


It’s probably no accident that one of my favorite words in the English language is “serendipity.” It’s defined as a chance happening that works in a fortunate way, which is a longish way of saying that it’s a happy accident.

I bring this up because I know in many past posts, I’ve emphasized mindfulness and care in making your photos. I still stand by that on general principle, because a careless process¬†often leads to¬†careless photos. With that said, let me emphasize, often but by no means always. I’ve also mentioned, after all, that sometimes we need not to try so damn hard, and I’m reminded as I go back over some of my work that some of my favorite photos didn’t happen because I set up the perfect shot; they happened more or less in spite of me. They happened, in other words, by chance, as happy accidents.

This reminds me a bit of the Taoist idea of Wu Wei, variously defined as “action without purpose,” or even “action of no-action.” For practical purposes, it means not worrying about process or about control, and essentially getting the heck out of your own way. Photos like the one that accompany this post came about not because I’m such a skilled photographer. If I had a mind to, I could pick out several things wrong with this picture. The point, however, is that if I’d taken the time to think all of them through and fix even a fraction of them, I’d have missed the shot. Sometimes you just need to stop worrying, point your camera in the general direction of something interesting (or that has the potential to be interesting) and see what develops.

In a roundabout sort of way, that brings me to another point: if, like Woody Allen said, half of life is simply showing up, the same holds true for our best (and worst) photographic accidents. Just the same as it’s important to always have your camera, it’s important sometimes to just get the shot. True, if you pass up the shot, you can’t really screw it up. But you also pass up the chance of creating something that could be great, or at least a lot of fun.

Have any interesting accidents to share? Pass them along and we just might feature them here!

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