52 by 52 8:16am, 24 May 2012
Challenge #39: "Try again, fail again, fail better." (Samuel Beckett)
— Richard Mosse

Richard adds...

“That phrase was pretty much the conceptual genesis for my recent work in Africa, titled Infra. Failure was a foundational and very important aspect of Infra. It's hard to really risk everything as an artist, but I feel the best art comes when the artist is genuinely prepared to fail. So that's why I've cherished the Beckett quote over the last couple of years. Each time I returned to Congo, I was genuinely trying to fail even better than I had before.”



"Infra offers a radical rethinking of how to depict a conflict as complex and intractable as that of the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mosse photographs both the rich topography, inscribed with the traces of conflicting interests, as well as rebel groups of constantly shifting allegiances at war with the Congolese national army (itself a patchwork of recently integrated warlords and their militias). For centuries, the Congo has repeatedly compelled and defied the Western imagination. Mosse brings to this subject the use of a discontinued aerial surveillance film, a type of color infrared film called Kodak Aerochrome.

The film, originally developed for military reconnaissance, registers an invisible spectrum of infrared light, rendering the green landscape in vivid hues of lavender, crimson, and hot pink. The results offer a fevered inflation of the traditional reportage document, underlining the growing tension between art, fiction, and photojournalism. Mosse’s work highlights the ineffable nature of current events in today’s Congo. Infra initiates a dialogue with photography that begins as an intoxicating meditation on a broken genre, but ends as a haunting elegy for a vividly beautiful land touched by unspeakable tragedy."

View more of Richard's work >

As well as being a good place to connect with other members and share your initial reactions, thoughts about how to 'solve it' and any links you think might help the group, this can also be a good place to include any old photos you have that fit the challenge. We're looking forward to hearing your thoughts this week.

— 52 by 52 team
Emma Georgiou PRO 6 years ago
Ideas anyone?
bart1eby Posted 6 years ago. Edited by bart1eby (member) 6 years ago
I finally bought Mosse's Infra after picking it and and putting it down again a dozen times over the last couple of months. I'm glad I did (even if it was only out of a mild sense of guilt for ripping off his technique in the laziest possible way) - it's an excellent body of work and far more rewarding than my initial superficial glances suggested.

I'm also a huge Beckett fan so this instruction is a double bonus and for an additional photographic connection my first 'professional' commission was a Beckett double header -

I'm not sure what I'm going to shoot at this stage but I can't help thinking of all those superb portraits of Beckett's tremendous craggy face...
~ Meredith ~ 6 years ago
I've no ideas for this one yet but this challenge couldn't be more fortuitous. I'm heading to a polaroid meet up in London tomorrow and I can be pretty certain that I'll have more than a few fails. I'll certainly be trying again but I'm not so sure I'll get the fail better part right. Still working on that :)))
Larking About 6 years ago
Street photography by its very nature is full of realustic expectation of failures!!!
charming kettle [deleted] 6 years ago
The life lesson that never stuck with me.
johnpaddler PRO Posted 6 years ago. Edited by johnpaddler (member) 6 years ago
This isn't Groundhog Day, and failing better isn't about becoming court appointed photographer through dint of practice.

The old misanthrope Beckett, bless him, stretched grammar to fit what he was trying to say. And he tried the patience of reader and audience. His subject matter got more and more tedious and unpleasant for each work he published. He did not compromise.

Richard's work is uncompromising, and beautifully strange.

Maybe post a photo people might hate or dislike, but which you believe in.
Julia M Cameron PRO 6 years ago
My plan is to try some experiments with both shooting and processing photographs. Expecting to waste a lot of pixels.
bart1eby 6 years ago
Good luck Julia - I wasted pretty much a whole day for last week's brief trying to 'shop myself to look 12 yrs old again. I won't be failing better at that anytime soon...
Emma Georgiou PRO Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Emma Georgiou (member) 6 years ago
My thoughts are to go with Johns idea, posting a photo that I think most people will dislike due to technique/compostiotion etc, but something I feel captures the emotion or my feelings at the time. Tonight will be a good starter as I'm attending my nieces hen party and I offered to document the proceedings.
charming kettle [deleted] 6 years ago
I'm with John on how to interpret this brief.
Mark W Russell Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Mark W Russell (moderator) 6 years ago
I set out to try to push what I could with an old favourite of mine - using shop windows to show various realities.

I sat down for a moment and a guy in an electric wheel-chair pulled up right next to me - it was a sign - to record again people with disabilities. My mother has and grandfather had disabilities which did not constrain their participation in society. I have spent a fair proportion of my working with support groups and organisations.

Final shot:-
Leripix 6 years ago
Well I've been so slow off the mark over recent weeks that even to post a photograph within the 7 days of the instruction would be
"failing better". I have half a plan to try harder at something I shy away from, such as portaiture, the other half is getting something worthwhile on the bus - I take lots but they all end up in the bin and I have almost given up trying . .but the best laid plans ... I'm leaving it open for now. Exciting though.
david_gillett 6 years ago
Very much enjoyed your take on Infra Ben. Mosse talks about infra red film vs PS:

I really wanted to go down that route to as my street photography is so poor I'm almost guaranteed to fail! Rural Dorset didn't present a lot of SP opportunities though, I might try later in the week.

"Maybe post a photo people might hate or dislike, but which you believe in." I had this at the back of my mind when flicking through the results of a day's shoot:

#39 Durdle Door by david_gillett

It was really a mistake having bodged the exposure. I'm sure blown out highlights and white space aren't for everyone but there's something about the shot that appeals to me that I can't quite put my finger on. The composition does feels a little too contrived though.


Like lots of people I really struggle to take pictures of the brazenly picturesque. I'm fascinated and appalled in equal parts by the 'posing next to the famous thing' shot. Martin Parr's Small World comes to mind every time I see someone fix their smile and assume the holiday pose position.

With that in mind I thought I'd try to create something a bit different in the style of this peculiar genre. I'm not sure they're quite brave or different enough to suit the spirit of the challenge but I feel I've faced a photographic demon at least!

#39 Durdle Door by david_gillett
~ Meredith ~ 6 years ago
I've found myself leaning towards portraiture too. It's something I am interested in but which I consistently fail at in some way (be it comp, exposure, not close enough whatever). Most of my street photography has been candid work but I've now started to push myself into approaching strangers I find interesting in some way. I feel sick with nerves every time but very glad when I succeed in asking.

The other side of the coin is self portraiture. I loathe being in front of the camera and can feel myself tense up immediately. Consequently every time I've tried I've failed. But I feel like I need to push myself here. If nothing else it will give me a better understanding of how others feel when faced with a camera and how I can work with them to get the best image possible.
Julia M Cameron PRO Posted 6 years ago. Edited by Julia M Cameron (admin) 6 years ago

Have had a lot of fun with "Vanda" as model!

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
Winston Churchill

Defines photography!
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