HONOR THY ERROR AS A HIDDEN INTENTION

 

4 July 2013

 

I went out for my morning run as I usually do, and later, when checking my phone, I noticed photos being uploaded to the cloud. Not having taken any photos, I was surprised. I explored the camera roll on my phone and saw a series of blurry images. My iPhone 5 at the time was running a beta of iOS7. There must have been a bug in the software that caused the phone to take photographs as it sat in my pocket while I ran. My first thought was to discard the images, but before doing so, I decided to explore them more thoroughly. To my surprise, they were quite interesting. The blurry quality of the images, the way the camera seemed to try and stitch parts of an image together and failed, the use of light and dark throughout each composition, were quite stimulating. As I examined them, I realized the images were shifting, undefined, unstable, and spatially ambiguous. They also created intrigue and mystery. I was reminded of an older project I had done, an art film, or painting with a video camera, called 6 minutes and 27 seconds. I instantly realized I should keep these photos and thought of the maxim, "Honor thy error as a hidden intention." The importance of recognizing errors, or chance opportunities, is an integral creative tool.

 

25 May 2015

 

Those original ten images had been loaded to the internet and left to their fate. While I enjoyed their uniqueness and the chance opportunity of their composition, I simply didn’t know what more to do with them. They were an anomaly. They could be presented and exhibited as a group, but their numbers were far too small in quantity for them to be considered their own project or series. I also understood that it would be impossible to expand the group and reproduce the experiment, which was predicated to a chance event. The beta of the software was quickly replaced by an update that fixed the “problem” that caused the phone to take photographs randomly.

 

Time passed. Almost two years later while going through files of various projects, I found myself once again examining those original photos and wondering what could be done with them. I wondered if I could reproduce the initial chance event and thereby expand the group into a project. Obviously, this was impossible. I was now using an iPhone 6 and running the latest software. But as I thought about the circumstances that enabled those original photos to be taken, I wondered if the core of that accident could be reproduced. It suddenly seemed possible. I still had the same running shorts, I had an iPhone, and I still ran. All I had to do was open the camera app, place the phone in my pocket, and go for a run. The jostling of the phone as I was running should trigger the camera to take photos randomly. That is, after all, the core of that initial chance event.

 

The same day I conceived of reproducing the event, I went out for my run and attempted to create circumstances that would allow this chance event to repeat itself. I opened the camera app on the phone and placed it in the pocket of my shorts and started to run. Of course, nothing happened. Even with the camera app open, and the phone jostling in its pocket as I ran, nothing would trigger the camera to take a photograph. I didn’t know what to do. As I continued to run, I removed the phone to check to make sure the app was still open, and the phone was ready to take a photo. It was. As I returned the phone to my pocket, it accidentally took a photo. I removed the phone and saw that the experiment could potentially be a success. I once again returned the phone to my pocket, but this time it did not take a photo. I understood what I needed to do. As I ran, I had to take the phone out of my pocket and then return it to my pocket, and hope the camera would be triggered. I did this repeatedly and throughout my run. Sometimes the setting on the camera would accidentally get changed to video or panorama or any of the other options. I always had to change it back to the basic camera setting. More times than not, the experiment failed, and a photograph was not taken. But sporadically, randomly, and by chance, the camera would, on occasion, take a photo.

 

Afterward, when I examined the photos, I saw that they appeared similar to the originals. The experiment, to recreate a specific random event, was successful. The photos could indeed be used to expand upon the initial group taken in 2013 and to create the project “Honor Thy Error As A Hidden Intention.”

 

The following are a few images from the series.

All Copyright Michael P. Toussaint 2017