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#8 From the archive


Photo by Ralph Gibson, from the collection of Harry Pennings

In the archive of Galerie Pennings we found a column by Hans Zoete with the title 'Failed photos'. A beautiful text that we didn't want to keep from our readers. A nice characteristic of its time, but the issue is also still current today.


The column was published in Beeldschrift Brabant no. 25 (7) 2000 (an edition of Centrum voor Amateur Kunst, fotobond BNAFV).



Failed photos


“What I find special about failed photos is that they do exist, apparently. Strange actually, when you consider that most things only exist because they did not fail, but succeeded. If they had failed, they simply would not be there. For example, do you hear people talking about failed shoes? Have you ever seen a failed toaster or a failed television?


Yet everyone knows what failed photos are and what is meant by this. Everyone also knows exactly what causes it. Actually, this makes sense. Failed photos are caused by the device. Because what do you take photos with? With a camera. You can therefore take good photos with a good device. And bad...? Obviously. Its has often been said.


Take my brother-in-law, who takes great photos. No, seriously. Moreover, the whole family thinks that it cannot be otherwise. He has a very expensive camera. What you can't do with that and what's on it! Lenses, auto focus, built-in flash, even spot measurement. Actually, it does everything himself... Nowadays there is no art anymore...


Everyone seems to know exactly when a photo failed. A photo has failed if the head or heads are off. That the feet are off is not bad. At the feet you cannot see what person it is. What also failed, if your son passing by on his new racing bike looks like a vague smudge. And what do you think of that special plant, nice and close, that has become completely out of focus, almost a dot of cotton wool, while you can see the rest clearly. Failed is: out of focus, heads off, too dark ...


A few years ago, when I was an active professional photographer, I once told someone how fantastic I had worked that day. I had shot at least five rolls of film and I thought for sure that there were maybe fifteen and otherwise certainly ten good photos. I felt fantastic, fifteen good photos in one day. I thought that person would fall from his chair with laughter. "Fifteen out of one hundred and eighty ... One hundred and sixty-five heads off, out of focus, too dark ... And you call yourself a professional photographer?"


Well, I have to say that I know a little less certain than most people do what failed photos are. I know beautiful, very impressive photos where a large part of the head is missing or even completely without a head. I know world famous photos that are largely or completely out of focus. And very dark, almost pitch-black photos in which you hardly see anything anymore, but that arouse all kinds of feelings.


Because, what has succeeded? Something to think about. Keeps you thinking. For example, I suddenly thought: the more photos that fail, the better and more special should be the photos that remain. Sharp, very sharp.


The more photos that fail, the better and more special should be the photos that remain.”


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