There was a time in the 1990's when everything was an experiment. It was a response to the conformity expected at work. When we did jobs for advertising agencies and corporate clients on medium and large format film everyone had financial skin in the game and we made sure no highlights were blown, the focus was were we (and the clients) intended it to be and everything conformed to the prevailing ideas of "high quality."
What that meant, though, was that on our own time we spent a lot of our own resources experimenting and trying new stuff. I went through a meticulous hand coloring phase using Marshall's transparent oil paints and acres of cotton swabs. We cross processed film to see how it would look. We distressed Polaroid in mid-development. We built our own lighting rigs. And we spent a fortune out of our own pockets on just trying stuff out. And messing up was part of the process of learning a new process, and by extension, translating a new look.
Funny, now that we all have digital cameras I see much less real experimentation and more just goofing around with lighting and post processing. I'm guilty of the same thing. It's almost like it's become an article of religious faith to grab something into the camera in a neutral way with the intention of having a good, solid file as a jumping off point for frilly and risk-less post processing.
Like always shooting in color even when you KNOW you want the image in black and white. Why? "Because (whiny intonation implied) it gives you more flexibility and options." That's so logical and so chicken shit. Sometimes you just have to fold up the safety net and get on the trapeze naked and with greasy hands. Why? Because we learn more from failure, and even more from near failure, than we ever learn from applying metaphoric goo over the top of a perfect file. If the safety net is too broad and too close to the trapeze the audience understands, in some informed way, that there's no real excitement to be had. We watch the high wire and the trapeze acts holding our breath because of the possibility that someone may fall to their death. If we don't have that in our work then it becomes lifeless and mundane. Without risk there is no joy. Only stale popcorn and tacky souvenirs.
I'm taking my old Kodak out tomorrow to see what I can really fuck up. I mean make art with.....