The Bad Artist

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

— Samuel Beckett

Beckett’s quote is often read like a Sports-film and somehow made it onto motivational posters. Failing builds character, fail until you eventually succeed, the endless bitterness of lost games and obstacles to overcome, only making the win in the last image even sweeter.

Consider failure from the point of view of the bad photographer: paths leading nowhere, failures ending you in dead ends, the plane of the picture becomes muddy and opaque and teaches you nothing, the photo losing its ability to offer anything about the world, and if you show your pictures to other people, they just shrug and walk away; the numerous times you considered dropping the camera for good.

And of course, we’re talking about a highly subjective, personal experience of “bad.” Takuma Nakahira considered himself and photography-as-such a failure, burned (almost) all his negatives, and turned to drinking instead. But I still remember this video from a couple years later: He rode his bike by the sea with the camera in his hand, smiling, somehow having come back from this, but broken, twisted, weirdly happy like the brilliant fool that he was…

In this light, “failure” takes on a darker shade, as failure is not a means-to-an-end, but it is all we have and all we can hope for; Godot never arrives, your photos will never be “good”, but you still have to traverse the square and find ways to fail better.

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