Chance Favors the Prepared Mind

One moment at Rifle House Cemetery, 2005.

Is it synchronicity? 

I cannot lay claim to the above mentioned words but took great interest in hearing this Louis Pasteur phrase used during a recent Ansel Adams documentary I was watching. The phrase, chance favours the prepared mind, apparently one of Mr. Adams’ favorites, was mentioned when showing his 1941 black and white photograph entitled Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. I enjoyed hearing the phrase in context of photography and how Mr. Adams’, discovering the chance opportunity, seized the day and captured that one moment for all time. Recognizing opportunity – seeing the edges, the content – bringing it all into the frame – there for all time.

I always seem to wander back to my travels overseas and once again chance favors the prepared mind allows me that opportunity yet again. One never knows what they are going to encounter as they bring those edges together – but recognizing it when it is there is so rewarding. I take a lot of pictures on my journeys – many for future reference – I see it – I capture it – I will have it for later. These pictures are often taken quickly – a chance encounter with something out of the ordinary or something that maybe over time can be connected to other things I see. Relating them together over time (sometimes years) is interesting – and how I enjoy these connections when they come together. That picture you take on the spur of the moment may not be of obvious use today – but when you listen and learn, observe and ponder, bringing knowledge and chance together at a later date that can be very magical.

However, there is another aspect I deeply enjoy and when you find it you know it, that one image that captures that day forever.  I recall walking through a forested area of Belgium towards Rifle House Cemetery many years ago and how the light streaming through the leaves cast rays from the canopy to the ground below. There was something in that wood as I walked about that path with my friends. Apart from the steady trudging of our footsteps, there was a gentle breeze, enough to create some sway amongst the limbs above – and silence. Then there was the unexpected, having watched All Quiet on the Western Front oh so many times and always wanting to see something to photograph in the present day that captures the spirit of that earlier film there it was before me – chance favors the prepared mind!

As we walked closer to these gardens of memory, (there is more than one cemetery at this location) how the Portland Stone markers tinged green with growth came into view, the gate opens and now wandering into the scene, quite unexpectedly masses of butterflies cast themselves adrift from their perches gently reaching upwards, fluttering about until they settle once again amongst the foliage next to these tablets of memory, a record of regeneration there for me to witness on this fine day.

Somehow that day completes All Quiet on the Western Front for me or perhaps in many ways provides a beginning, an act of regeneration unto itself. Is it synchronicity or chance favoring the prepared mind? I think about it often and can hardly wait to discover more chances – more opportunities to find those images in the frame that bring light into the day.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


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