Essay 490 • Dec 5th 2021

I had a professor in college that frequently referred to imperfections in photographs—light leaks, motion blur, what have you—as “gifts from the photo gods”. She wasn’t talking about mistakes that happen as a result of ineptitude but rather things that you just can’t control when a hunk of metal and a piece of plastic film are your tools.

As someone who is a meticulous planner with control freak tendencies, imperfections and deviations from my original plans have not always been met with…joy. But the further I journey into making pictures (and truly, like, being a human being), the more I realize that the whole joy of photography is that you never know how the work is going to look in the end. And that when it turns out differently than I thought it would, maybe it’s the photo gods pushing me in a new direction, artistically. It’s a good reminder that I’m not really in control.

These pictures are the best example of that I’ve experienced in a while- I went into this shoot with a killer team and an amazing subject, with a plan that seemed relatively simple: go to the beach before sunset, take beautiful film pictures at golden hour. Over two hours of Los Angeles rush hour traffic later (picture me white knuckling the steering wheel thinking about ISO for the duration of the drive, wondering if my film lab charged extra to push film), we were more or less in the dark, on the beach, with only film cameras. I shot a few rolls, pushing the ISO, making long exposures, hauling my tripod across the sand, and then legitimately prayed to the photo gods as we left the beach that I had something usable (mostly for the sake of my team, but also my ego, et cetera.)

The beauty of film photography is that it’s a gamble- you never actually know what you shot. When I got the film back from this shoot, I was struck by 1) how much I loved what we made and 2) how I never could’ve planned a shoot that looks like this one. It’s pretty outside of my typical wheelhouse- messy washes of color, dramatic hazy light, and inexplicably beautiful light leaks are not usually my aim, but I’m so happy that this idea took on a life of its own. It’s a nice reminder that the art knows what it wants and that I’m just a conduit for it. I’m consistently humbled by photography and I’m grateful to understand now that if you’re not so caught up in fighting the art, it’ll tell you where to go.


Savana Ogburn (she/they) is a photographer, collage artist, filmmaker, and set designer based in Atlanta, Georgia. Humor, beauty, and pop culture are frequently explored in Savana’s work through a campy, colorful, and textural lens. Her goal is to tell the most wacky and surreal stories possible.
Website | Instagram

Crew Credits:
Model: Blu Del Barrio
Stylist: Ivory Woods
Clothing: Zach Stahl
Makeup: Mimi Meyer