I get the daily PetaPixel email roundup of photography related stories each evening. I enjoy it. PetaPixel is a slightly irreverent photography site that often features articles and links challenging the fashions and trends of the moment.
It’s needed. There are far too many humorless and technically obsessed photographers out there for whom the phrase ‘Get A Life’ is most definitely intended. They usually show up in the ‘Comments’ section, often completely missing the point of the more frivolous and satirical articles.
But boors are hardly restricted to the world of photography, turning up almost anywhere. In my earlier years when I was more actively interested in high fidelity, you would find the same types arguing over turntables and loudspeakers.
I often wonder whether it’s something about not feeling confident as an artist that lies behind these sentiments. A music lover is by nature a recipient of another’s artistry, but a photographer is supposed to be a creative individual. Yet it’s clear that many who indulge in the art are far more concerned with re-creation in ever more technically precise terms. Again and again you see the same scenes, colorful landscapes, artfully arranged naked women, macro close-ups of a spider’s eyes, birds of prey in full flight, a grizzled face of some extra-cultural ancient to mention just a sampling. Many done simply to boast of one camera’s higher and less noisy pixel count or another lens’ superior sharpness.
What’s the point? Do any of these images actually speak to anyone’s soul? How can they when we see them over and over again? It’s all technically perfect irrelevance.
However, an irrelevance that is most definitely fostered and encouraged by the Photoindustrial Art Complex. It’s the only way to really move equipment off the shelves and into people’s homes. Especially these days when a cell phone will do almost everything the casual photographer needs. No, to sell cameras these days you need to create and manage your consumer, and there is no better consumer than the individual seduced by technology into the never-ending cycle of upgrading.
Still, judging from still-declining camera sales, perhaps we are reaching something of a saturation point. At some point even the most avaricious collector of the newest must realise that a more advanced camera is not leading to better photographs. As in photographs that actually mean something.
I hope so. I cannot say that I was immune to these trends myself. I was not. I was completely caught up for much of the last decade, eagerly chasing the latest camera and lens and striving to produce precisely those types of images that appear on the front pages of popular photography sites. Every once in while, I would get close.
Until I realised that I wasn’t really photographing for myself at all. I was photographing to be liked, and yet when I was liked, I felt empty. It took a long time for me to understand that the only person a true artist works to please is his or herself, and whether ignored or celebrated by others, the result must achieve that sense of satisfaction.
So goodbye to all that. I am an infinitely more involved photographer these days, despite choosing to shoot with aging equipment using outdated technologies.
The only question that truly puzzles me about all this, is – why did it take so long?