This image is from a roll with my first birthday party on it

If I were a betting person, I'd say this film was accidentally run through the washing machine before it was developed. It's a little extra crinkly, curls a little differently, and obviously, looks like it's been souped with detergent. As a photographer, I might think this is a fun photo if I'd done it intentionally. As the subject of this photo, I wish it hadn't been souped. There's a time and a place for experimental shooting, and it heavily depends on your audience.

My work's audience drives my experimental photography


When I am my own audience, I believe I can and should do whatever I want (convenient, huh?). I should have fun, test boundaries, create art, break some shit. For me, photography is a tool to synthesize, distill, and better understand my reality. Sometimes I make discoveries during the taking of images, and sometimes I make discoveries in reviewing my images. But if it's for me, I can self dev and scan double exposed souped cynofilm. Or whatever.

Extended Family

We don't live close enough for it to make sense to give them anything but a factual interpretation of my reality. They're getting the portraits with the blurry background in perfect light or they're getting some kind of random iPhone photo of us making s'mores in our backyard. Any experimental image would feel out of context. It would be like hearing "a dinosaur showed up to my birthday party." Without the "his name was Barney" you're like... uh huh. Sureee.... a dinosaur...

My Daughter

My daughter is the most interesting audience to me. She is invested in a documentarian's understanding of her childhood. iPhones make that more of a curation game than the true documentation challenge our parents had growing up. I want her to have regular portraits so if she has kids of her own, she can play the "she has my eyes, she has your nose" game. I think what I bring to the table beyond that lies in me carefully paying attention to and documenting what was actually important to HER during childhood and enjoying documenting what was important to me during her childhood. I want her to not only be able to compare her baby pictures with a future baby's. I want her to be able to compare parenthood journeys if she chooses to enter into it. I can embed experimental work into both of those, but only after the literal stuff is covered.

Circling back to that laundered roll of film from my first birthday...

I'm not as disappointed as you might think for one very important reason. My parents also videotaped it. As a present to me on my daughter's first birthday, they had my first birthday VHS converted to a digital file. With the context of the video, with the true colors of the dresses, how my best friend of 34 years was also celebrating hers, my childhood pet, the ancient cars, and proof of everyone interacting, it transforms the way I can enjoy these accidentally-experimental images. To me, that's the crux of experimental film for others. You have to first capture the literal goings-on, then editorialize however you see fit, and finally (truly most importantly) provide your audience with curated access to all of the above simultaneously.

Smart phones empower us to get weird, more

Circling back to smart phones, we're taking lots of photos. Most of these die an immediate, never looked at again but forever taking up space on our hard drive, death. I encourage you to curate in real time. Create a folder on your phone like my Happy Today album I describe on my home page. It's just a folder on my phone and every night I add a photo or video from the day that made me happy if I took one. This serves as my daily curation. I love it. And it means that I'm always free to hop right into that weird stuff because my documentary bases are covered.

Here's a piece of that video!

There are actually two more sections from this day, and by no means do I anticipate anyone ever watching them fully. However, I think it's important to reflect on what documentation was done of your own life and how it's been important to you so you can better document what's happening now for others in the future.