All posts filed under “photography

Pandering to the Mediocre

I recently shed my responsibilities of judging a photo of the day award and it got me thinking a lot about my experience learning photography a while back. I used to spend a hell of a lot of time on Flickr, actively discussing photos and moderating groups and there was always a constant battle over what was worthy of being discussed or allowed in certain pools. Photographers that were told their work was not good enough would demand to know why and would either take the criticism on-board or go away and post to another more forgiving group. In my mind there are two types of groups on Flickr, the mediocre and the amazing. Many will probably say thats an unfair comparison, but whatever.

There are the groups where everyone seems to pat everyone else on the back for taking part and with which I take great offence at. You would go through the photos and see the same recycled themes and junk over and over again, yet they would receive huge amounts of praise and congratulations. The photos would be simple and faceless, with no style, depth or story. You would look at individual’s photostreams and see that for years their skills had remained a constant. I’ve heard it said that to become a great photographer you need to find your “voice”. Those defining themes which means that somone could look at one of your photos and think “A-ha, I bet that was taken by X.”. But here were photographers receiving pats on the back, which were for lack of a better description “photographerless”. My dislike wasn’t at the photographers or there photos themselves, but mainly at the culture of “amateurism”. Learner photographers congratulating other learner photographers, which doesn’t lead to becoming a better photo. How am I to know that I need to improve if I never receive any criticism? How am I to know what I need to improve if I never receive any criticism?

Then there are the “elitist” groups, or rather that was how I viewed them as when I first came across them. I was stuck like many other photographers, unable to get my photos accepted by them, and while many others came and became angry that they too weren’t accepted, I stuck with it and finally made it. It was a stark contrast to the groups mentioned above. Criticism was at the heart and soul of every thread and topic. Moderators were constantly bashed and accused of not knowing what they were doing, yet they had the best photos of virtually any other group in their stream. People’s anger would flair because their own measure of a good photo was so different to what they judged to be good. This anger grew even more because they just didn’t “get it”. They would look at the photos in the stream and scream as to why something was allowed in over their submissions. 99% of the time, they would leave, mostly to the confines of the groups mentioned before, to never return, but some would stay. And as time went by, and as they took on what they were told they quickly got better. They saw the criticism not as an attack on themselves personally, but as an opportunity to grow and develop as a photographer. Then when they were accepted and you looked through their photostream, you would actually see this marked and steady rise in skill. These people truly did find their own voices. They began to “get it”.

It’s easy to pander to the mediocre, because that way you’ll probably never upset anyone. The mediocre like the status quo and like things to remain average. Which is fine if that is where we want to be and all you want to achieve. But if you want to grow and create something great you need to ignore the pats on the back and seek out the criticism, not be angered or put off by it, but take it as an opportunity to grow and become a better version of yourself.

Chasing the digital dragon

Over Christmas I read a post on Wirehead Arts which got me thinking about digital cameras again. I tend not to give the digital realm of photography much thought as I’m deeply in love with film. And while I’ve looked into the Canon 5DmkII and Leica M8 a bit, ask me about the rest of the Canon line, any of the Nikons or about any compact P&S and I’ll be a total blank. But after some thinking and research I thought that perhaps a small digital P&S wouldn’t be a bad addition. To begin with I looked into the Canon G10 and Leica D-LUX 4. With the D-LUX4 being a Leica, I couldn’t help being instantly lured in, but I was very surprised to find it’s basically a re-badged Panasonic Lumix LX3 which is £300 less. What do you get for your extra £300? a custom firmware and a leather strap, no thanks. The G10 is very highly regarded and use as the work horse or plenty of “pro-amateur” photographers, not to mention having the advantage a built in viewfinder. I’ve never been a fan of framing with a screen when I’ve tried it, personally I find it slow and cumbersome, so the G10 was instantly interesting, but the LX3 has a hotshoe onto which an external one can be fitted. In the end it was the combo of the hotshoe, wider and faster lens and HD video recording abilities of the LX3 that won me over. So now I have a digital P&S. I haven’t had a chance to test it outdoors, but immediately I’m highly impressed the breadth of functions and overall tweakability of it. I’ve uploaded a test HD video here.

I recently saw a great video showing Daido Moriyama shooing on the street so I’m going to try shooting without the viewfinder for a bit and see how I get on before deciding if I really want one or not.

One of my biggest flaws is I’m a complete gear head. If I see a great photo, I always have to know what equipment or what film it was shot with. My brain just seems hardwired to do it. There is this belief that somehow, if I had the same equipment I would capture the same beautiful moments, which is of course totally false. As said by Nobuyoshi Araki in the video. It doesn’t matter if you write a romantic love letter with a pencil or a ballpoint, and as Moriyama says himself, any camera is fine, it’s only a means of taking a photograph. Damn, it still hasn’t stopped me watching his video and the immediately checking the price of used Ricoh GR1s.

I also updated my personal photography site over the weekend:

No One

Now that Flickr lets you upload videos, I thought I’d try and create some slideshows of our Amsterdam trip. I uploaded the videos to Facebook as well and thought it was awesome that in the “In this video” section it just said “No one”. I think that sums up the photos perfectly.