'Be the bucket that catches the rain': Ed Morris on why creatives should embrace coincidence

Sometimes the most creative work comes from "harmonious accidents," says the director Ed Morris as he releases a new book of photographic diptychs.

'Be the bucket that catches the rain': Ed Morris on why creatives should embrace coincidence

"The whole project was an accident," says Ed Morris, the director, photographer and former agency creative, about his new book of photographic diptychs. Good As Gold Beyond Awesome juxtaposes images shot by Morris over the past five years, uncovering surprising connections between them. It was designed by agency founder and creative director Paul Belford and includes an introduction by David Kolbusz, the chief creative officer of Droga5 London.

Morris spoke to Campaign about how creatives should embrace "harmonious accidents" and surprise in their own work and unlearn what they know to get better.

How would you describe the theme of your book?

If there is a theme it’s around coincidence – the harmonious accident I suppose. David Kolbusz (Droga5 London’s chief creative officer) explores this well in his introduction. He’s going to read that live at the launch this week, and then Tony Kaye will sing. There’s a harmonious accident waiting to happen right there. 

What was your vision for it? Did you set out to create this project or did it come together by accident?

There was no vision. The whole project was an accident – a fortunate one I hope people think. I was looking through about five years worth of photographs, a lot of work, and I was looking for themes. A couple of shots fell together on the table, and then you can’t stop, it’s like playing pairs. 

Then of course you go about crafting the book, the presentation of the accident in a very deliberate way. That’s why I went to see Paul Belford with it; he’s precise, honed, a graphic beauty scientist. He’s a different thinker to me and combined I knew we’d be strong. You see everything’s about putting things together. 

We wanted the book to be worth having, something special. It’s a very well put together thing. Also there are 135 shots in this book. There’s a lot to look at.

What's the most surprising relationship you discovered from making the book? Do you have a favourite diptych?

My favourites are the ones that really surprised me when I found them. Icicles and flowerbed, carpet and leaves, wedding guest and ripped flysheet. All these shots were taken without any clue of the other in mind. It’s a real buzz when it happens. Some of these shots I took years ago. I was taking pictures all over the world with no agenda whatsoever. It’s bizarre for me to see them in the context they’re in now.  

What did you learn by looking for coincidences and these surprising connections?

What I learnt was that you don’t make it good by trying to do it. You take what you think are interesting or good photos in themselves and see if they match any other interesting or good photos you’ve got. I did deliberately take a few shots to match but I never liked the result. You can kind of feel it when you see it; it feels manufactured, over-worked, cropped too neatly, or sort of art directed. That’s not what this is about. These things, when they work, have an effortless sense of surprise about them.

Should creatives always be looking out for coincidences? 

Or be open to them happening, yes. Just to look out, stay loose. Coincidence can play a huge part in the creative process.

But you’ve got to match it with good craft. I like to think that the shots in the book have a certain quality to them and that there is a consistency in the approach. That they stand in their own right as good work. They are all shot on the same camera, same lens, same film. There is serious and clear method in there. 

How has your work in film influenced your photography, and vice versa? Which skill did you learn first?

I’m exploring everything at the same time always. It never stops. All influence is cross-pollinating and generating and re-influencing. I find myself trying to unlearn more than learn. I think being creative is much more about being receptive rather than knowing something or having any skillset in particular.

For me it’s more about encouraging or fostering a space within. You’re making yourself the bucket that catches the rain. The full bucket catches no rain. There, I think Confucius said that or maybe Busta Rhymes. There’s another thing I’ll have to un-learn. Come to the launch; you’ll see some big prints, Tony Kaye sing, and you can buy a copy.

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