Expecting the Unexpected is one of the articles I wrote for Photo.net in a series of columns about Becoming a More Creative Photographer a few years back. In the article, I noted that “the single most important trait of the creative photographer is that he or she has learned to put aside expectations and see ‘what is really there’ without preconceptions.”
Each of the columns in the series have a number of exercises to help readers internalize the points I make. I’m pleased over the years to find a number of photographers working their way through these. Recently Xavier Llora (his primary interests seem to be “data-intensive computing and genetics-based machine learning”) has been doing a particularly nice job of explaining his thought processes while doing the exercises (see Assignment 2: The Common Object and Assignment 3: Out of the Rut to get the idea of what I mean).
Good job on the thoughtful work, Xavier!
The other side of the “seeing what is really there” coin is when the artist intentionally misdirects. People looking at a photo expect to see “what is really there.” Of course, this is never actually true in a literal sense. But suppose something is added to the scene in a subtle way, as in the small-sized fractal-like view through the passage way in the Hotel de Sully in Paris, France (shown above).
If this is done without overt disturbing manipulation then, with luck, the unconscious mind of the viewer will respond to the expanded scene—and without knowing quite why will be ready to expect the unexpected, and maybe even to see what is not really there!