Photo: ADOLFO DORING, First Post Nettie Harris, Brooklyn (Posted 162 grams), 2016, silver gelatin print framed, 16 x 32 in.
The idea of leaving things to chance has been suggested as absurd by those inclined to control and assert them selves at will. Many adhere to the faith that there is a divine order within the chaos of life, and that their best efforts will produce better results than taking a hands off approach.
Yet, scientists like Francis Crick have observed, “Chance is the only source of true novelty.” It is in the very lack of intention that new possibilities can spring. This idea goes back to ancient times, to Democritus of Abdera, a pre-Socratic philosopher best known for his formulation of an atomic theory of the universe. He theorized, “Everything existing in the Universe is the fruit of chance and necessity,” and in doing so offered primal vision of creation and innovation.
American photographer Adolfo Doring (b. 1962) has combined the old with the new, using chance as the structure for his work currently on view in Posted 162 Grams at ART 3 Gallery, Brooklyn, through November 6, 2016. The exhibition features 81 diptychs taken from his self-published monograph of the same name, comprised of 162 images the artist posted on Instagram between August 2014 and September 2015.
The photographs selected for the diptychs come about by pure chance. After experiencing the pleasure of working through intuition, opportunity, and vague associations on a previous project, Doring discovered, “The random nature of the process has given me the unexpected pleasure of experiencing unexpected compositions.”
He decided to heighten this experience for his new project, entering 418 photographs into a database in the order in which they were originally posted. The images were given one layer of meta-data to distinguish portraits from environmental scenes and a second later that indicated the number of “likes” each photograph had received. The database selected 81 pairs chosen for the book. To determine which photograph would be placed on the left side and which on the right, Doring returned to the most basic form of random decision making: he flipped a coin.
“Heads I win, tails you lose,” Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in The Professor at the Breakfast-Table (1860), reminding us that faith in essential ourselves can be superior to the actions of free will. Sometimes it is only necessary to do the work and allow fate to take its course.
The prints presented in Posted 162 Grams are shown as small black and white silver gelatin prints, displayed in vintage frames slightly larger than an Instagram post. The intention is to reference the daguerreotypes of nineteenth-century photography, when regular people who might not be able to afford a portrait painting could have likenesses preserved—much in the same way digital photography has democratized the image making. By translating digital photographs back to film, Doring illustrates that progress is not necessarily a linear affair, just as randomness is a valuable tool in the creative process.
Though we may try to control aspects of our life, good fortune can be a matter of luck, and it behooves us to keep an open mind about the what lies beyond our immediate knowledge. As Luis Buñuel wrote in My Last Breath?, “Fortunately somewhere between chance and mystery lies imagination, the only thing that protects our freedom, despite the fact that people keep trying to reduce it or kill it off altogether. “
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.