The same reader who made the perspicacious comment about previsualization vs visualization also said:
…in my view, planning to do experimentation is as much visualization as planning to do a specific shot. You always (usually) have an idea what you can get and want to see if what you “visualized” will actually happen…and/or…what conditions are required to get the result you “see”.
I distinguish between two kinds of experimentation.
The first is testing to see what photographic result obtains under some set of conditions. In this type of experimentation, the result is what the photographer learns. Any images produced are discarded or filed away only to be looked at when there’s a “what if” question to be answered. The prototypical modern-era experimentation is the making and developing of negatives to calibrate film speed and determine development times for the various contrast steps: N, N-1, N+1, N-2, N+2, etc. The images that result, although they may have a vague feel of Mondrian paintings, will never hang on anyone’s walls. Their only utility is to teach the photographer how to get the effect she’s looking for when she makes “real” photographs. I’m sure that this kind of experimentation must have preceded the Zone System. I don’t call this experimenting previsualization; it’s just gathering data so you can previsualize the result when you’re making images in earnest.
The second variety of experimentation is less cold-blooded, and is performed while trying to make “real” images – art, in the context of this blog. The difference in intent results in a difference in the emotion of the photographer.
The non-previsualized imagemaking style can have two variants. I apologize for the less-than-felicitous names I’m about to give them.
A-previsualized photography is photography without expectations. Of course, it never really happens unless you count what goes on when you hand a camera to a two-year-old. However, I’ve made photographs in which I had no preconception of some important element of the result, and I have no reason to think I’m alone.
Anti-previsualized photography takes place when the imagemaker actually wants to be surprised by some aspect of the image captured during the exposure. It’s what Michael Kenna was talking about in the very first post of this previsualization series. It’s what Charlie Cramer spoke to in his comments on his wave photography. I do this all the time. I create photographic series that make surprises likely, even unavoidable. I love doing this. I’m excited about seeing what happened when I get to image editing. Over time, as – through the unavoidable process of learning – the results get more predictable, I start looking for a new project. I don’t do anti-previsualized photography exclusively; I can be as calculating as I need to be in some circumstances. However, if all my photographs were heavily previsualized, my photographic world would be a colder, sadder, less playful place.