There’s a rather spectacular noise song by The Jesus and Mary Chain called “I Hate Rock ‘n’ Roll” that is as fine as example of what they profess to hate as anything.
Of course, it’s tongue-in-cheek but I can sympathize with the overall sentiment. Much of what passes as popular music is indeed pretty soul-destroying.
Well, I have to say I feel much the same about photography.
Why should this be, considering it’s my all-encompassing hobby?
One reason is simple – there’s too much of it. Too many photographs, too many cameras, too many lenses and way too many articles and posts about it. Millions of people are more than slightly involved in photography and, people being people, millions of us tend to do pretty much exactly things. Buy the same types of cameras and lenses (even as we sort ourselves into brand loyalists), take the same kind of photographs, say the same kinds of things.
What’s wrong with that, you may argue, and you have a perfectly valid point. It’s pleasing that so many people enjoy photography taking the big view. But I’m not taking the big view. I’m simply conveying an emotional reaction, and it is one of dismay.
Maybe this is all because my email has been swamped by product announcement messages from all the online camera retailers that I habitually use. A new Canon camera, the tantalizing 5D Mark IV – tantalizing because if there is any camera I am likely to upgrade sooner or later, it is the Canon 5D. Yet irritating because I really don’t need any upgrade; my 5D Mark III serves me perfectly well and the new camera is not, in itself, going to improve my photography one little bit.
Which, of course, is a lesson the camera manufacturers don’t want you to learn. For if you do you are likely to throw a large impediment into their marketing strategies.
Well, I have learned it. Maybe that’s why I hate photography. I’m now acutely aware of the disconnect between the easy, glistening, fantasy world of photography that is the usual beginner’s outlook and the more arduous reality that lies ahead for anyone who takes the art seriously.
All this would seem to call out for a return to those early innocent days. The days when I went to Canada with a newly acquired Canon Rebel XT plus the ultra flimsy and barely optically adequate 18-55mm kit zoom lens. Not knowing remotely how to use that camera well yet feeling I was the bee’s knees for possessing and using such a cool piece of equipment. (And, in truth, I came back with a handful of excellent images.)
There was a strong sense of wonder in those early days. Now, it’s a different story. Craft and experience guide what I do. True, I’m much better at getting a well-composed and exposed photograph. So much so that I find even the vast majority of my film images, images that by the very mechanism of their capture cannot be chimped, deleted and repeated, to be good enough.
No reason to hate photography, really. Not from that point of view. And, significantly, when I do take that point of view, the wonder returns and I’m back in the world of artistic pleasure. One reason – one very important reason – why I continue to use film.
No, I don’t really hate photography at all. I only hate what can be built up around it. All I really need to do is ignore that.
O.K. – back to the camera. Or, as should I more accurately say these days, cameras.
(Below, one of those photos from that Canada trip.)