Ugly and Boring. Please.

September 15, 2012

I watched a guy with a camera walk down the street I live on today and it was enough to really piss me off.  The guy: young, good looking, fashionable clothes, large sunglasses, high-end DSLR hung from a strap around his shoulders casually.  Like a fashion accessory.  This is wrong.  This is wrong not just because of this guy, about whom I know very little other than that he reminds me of a new strain of work I see in photographers generally because it oozes into their work, but this is wrong because the focus here is wrong.  And I’ve known photographers like this and some are good and some are bad and most seem to be fashionable, wealthy men between the ages of 20 and 40 and this is for them: your photographs are not about you.  You are not the subject of your photographs.  The photographs you take are at root only about two things and everything else is extra.  The two things are 1) the content of the image and 2) the photograph’s awareness of its own state as a photograph.  The person taking the photograph can be anyone, and is everyone, now, with cameraphones and cheap point-and-shoots, so you walking around pointing your fashion accessory at a few colorful, interesting things doesn’t cut it.  And where are your other lenses?  Your filters?  Your bag to hold your gear?  Your tripod?  Your flash?  No matter how expensive your camera is and how cool you look out being seen with it, what you’re doing is nothing different than any idiot with instagram.

End of screed.  More about this later in a more idea-driven way but just one thing, the words in the title of this post.  This is what you should be aiming for.  Interesting things are interesting so people look at them all the time.  They are their own photograph already.  Same goes for beautiful things.  And there’s nothing wrong with photographing interesting, beautiful things but your job is to look at the world in a different way from everybody else and to see things other people overlook.  And having the right haircut and wearing the right clothes does not, by itself, produce good photographs.  Anyone can take a great photograph if he or she knows not what to look for, but how to look.  Luck also has a lot to do with it.

Anyway.  It’s about time for the bar bands to start playing so I’m fleeing to the quietest corner of my apartment to stop stenciling, for Christ’s sake, and bake cookies or read a book or something.  Pardon my hostility but it’s not aimed at you, the three or four of you who read this, but those of you who do read it are going to know exactly the kind of person I’m describing.  And why it might irk a hardworking fat bald man with a 10mp digital Rebel on several levels.

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