8.05.2013

People don't read so good.

Photo Forums are going to the dogs. 
Let's shed some light on that.

I wrote a piece yesterday that attempted to explain what might be behind the recent metrics on camera sales. The fact  is that, worldwide, (and in N. America) camera sales are falling right off a cliff. Some readers assumed that I am cynical or bitter or upset at the apparent demise of the camera industry's recent prosperous sales cycles. Those readers assume that since I explained why many men are abandoning the hobby for greener pastures that I have pronounced the death of amateur or hobbyist photography.

And, of course, the astute reader will see that I said no such thing, am in love with the general practice of taking photographs and write about my own immersion into the warm pools of imaging ambrosia nearly every day. And I still make my living selling/licensing images to clients instead of trying to figure out why someone's password doesn't work for their Entourage account on a third rate network run for a boring corporation.

I stand by what I said. That many people adopt hobbies to master them. It's fun to master them when it's a challenge or technically difficult. Then your victories seem much more heroic. You seem more like a smart guy. But when the challenge is mitigated by fool proof machines or wizard-y software, and cameras are festooned with "Hello Kitty" logos and pink trim the mastery of the technical challenge is largely a forgone conclusion and therefore not very darn alluring. And when an industry reaches that point a certain part of its market becomes bored and moves on. There's no way to measure the value of the content so that can't be fun.....

The happy, positive, upside to all that is, perhaps, a return to the idea that the images matter and the content has value beyond proving a technical point. I'm just as happy to take images today as I was before the market (according to CIPA) fell on its face. I'm ecstatic to work with my various cameras, all of which seem adequate to make the images I desire. I'm happy that I don't have to concoct some sort of matrix of metrics to enjoy the craft. Happy, happy, happy. 

I also remarked on the overwhelming number of images put up on the web every hour, minute and second of every day and how hard that makes it to sort through and find things to like. But I didn't say that all the new images were crap. I said they became instantly homogenous. That's different, kinda.

So, to summarize: Reading good. Reading with comprehension, better. Reading well helps people think well. Sometimes, when you read, it's good not to try and read between the lines. If there was stuff to put between the lines my regular readers would quickly tell you that I am more than verbose enough to supply the needed content. 

And yes, I know that "People don't read so good." is incorrect. That was the point.


 I can explain this stuff to people but I can't understand it for them. (Apologies to Mayor Koch.)

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Our do everything hello kitty pinked out cell phone cameras talk to us so we don't need to read well

Michael

Richard Leacock said...

LOL! Well said. Oh, sorry...Speaked gooder you did! Too many words to read between them : )

Kirk Tuck said...

Richard, many's the time I've been raked over the coals for writing too many words... I just couldn't figure out which ones to leave out...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Robert Hudyma said...

You wrote: "Sometimes, when you read, it's good not to try and read between the lines."

Not sure I buy this, since often what is not said is more important than what is said.

I am reminded of the quote from the great Thelonius Monk (I know he was not a photographer! But a creative genius in his own Sphere).

“The spaces between the notes may be more important, because they help focus where the notes are. And that’s the cool thing. If there’s just a steady stream of notes, everything is all one color. But when you start to mix it up, let it ‘breathe,’ that’s when the magic comes into it.”

No-one ever talks about the magic of photography anymore: how come?

Kirk Tuck said...

Too much interpretation makes a whole new product.

Ash Crill said...

"No-one ever talks about the magic of photography anymore: how come?"

I think they do talk about this, they just don't talk about it as much in the gear-oriented photo forums.

People talk about magical photos all the time on facebook, etsy, etc. They talk about it offline when they look through old photo albums or printed portraits. They plug laptops into televisions and watch slideshows of vacation photos. They talk about pictures of their friends and of their families and of places they actually visited and saw with their own eyes.

Photographs taken by strangers on the internet can certainly be magical, but many times the magic is only felt when the photographs carry personal meaning.

Craig Yuill said...

It is frustrating, but some people will come to wrong assumptions or conclusions about what is said or written. You put out a question about the sudden drop in camera sales, and offered your thoughts on the subject, and invited people to discuss the issue. I am sure that most readers "got" what you wrote. Some, unfortunately, didn't. Either way, I hope that the comments submitted were generally respectful and not attacks on you and your thoughts.

Kirk Tuck said...

Dear Craig, the comments have been amazingly respectful and very intelligent, whether in agreement or not. My response today is a petulant mini-rant to all the responses I've read on forums from people who seem to have only read the headline and then proceeded to jump in with both feet. Things are calm and happy here on the blog. Thanks for your concern. I appreciate my regular crew beyond words.

Richard Rodgers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Rodgers said...

Craft and Content are both most important. Having something to convey/say -whether agreed with or not - is important. Craft - with enought personal energy can be improved. Something to share/say/convey is within a person and often difficult to master. Folks often "do their thing" and leave/move on to other interests. Having "done" photography, equipment is left behind. Interest changes and sales drop as other hobbies take over. Not good or bad, just the way our world works.

Craig Yuill said...

I regularly go to one of those sites, but only frequent one of the more-positive fora. I refused to go to one site for two years after I was attacked in a nasty fashion by someone responding to a comment I had made. Nowadays I go back to that site very infrequently. I don't know if this is possible for you, but perhaps a hiatus, brief or extended, from these sites is in order.

ChazL said...

While remarking that camera sales have "fallen off a cliff", you've also recognized the "overwhelming number of images put up on the web every hour, minute and second of every day." I'm not trying to start an argument... I'm genuinely curious... but is there any data that you know of to indicate if the number of web images posted each day is going up, down, or holding steady? (The answer may be different for casual snaps posted to Facebook vs. artistic efforts posted on "serious" photography sites).

It seems to me that this later metric would be more appropriate to determine the growth or decline of photography as a hobby. If postings are still on the rise even for "serious" work (as I suspect, but don't know) then the "people are moving on" argument becomes suspect. Large (and possibly growing) numbers of people might still be attempting "serious" work, but are simply doing it with older cameras. This would be consistent with the argument that enthusiast-level-and-above cameras have been "good enough" for quite a few years now (a sentiment that I strongly endorse), as well as the observation that year-over-year improvements are growing smaller as sensor technology matures. This year's dramatic decline in sales volume may simply reflect a tipping point based on smartphone-camera propagation added to these two factors.

Saul Molloy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Saul Molloy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Saul Molloy said...

think the difficulty in measuring this reflects the constantly shifting social media platforms; however it is commonly accepted, (I'm not saying it's right) that the amount of data uploaded, and images are a large proportion of that, is growing exponentially year on year. It's impossible (I suspect) to work out how much of that is 'serious' photography. For me at least, the crux of this whole sales drop is the ennui/homogeneity/consumerism issue, isn't it funny how some people get really irritated at the thought that their chosen pastime might not be cool any more?

Jlsalvignol said...

Doxa Vs Episteme

Jlsalvignol said...

Such a sharp drop in sales has quite the character of a cyclical phenomenon. That the sales curve straightens or continues to dive depends on many factors that nobody actually control. It is possible that the market is now experiencing a major paradigm shift, or not.

But potential buyers are facing an escalation of technological offering and a price war which can simply induce a cumulative wait and freeze decisons.

This is probably correlated to the confusion of buyers facing historical manufacturers (Canikon) themselves confused by the proliferation of new players from other types of industries. A typical outcome - in an ideal world - would be a movement of mergers and acquisitions that would restore market consistency and readability. A new photographic market segmentation is it underway or in the pipeline?

More questions than answers involve heated debates, which is banally predictable.

Dave said...

Kirk, I love the post and as someone who has to write policies for large groups of people understand your frustration. After many years of consideration I've concluded that some people WANT to interpret a certain way. Anything contrary to their view will be recast in a way that suits them. In a room full of people yelling who can discern sense from non-sense and forums are often that way.

With regard to camera sales. I find myself less thinking there's a similarity between the camera makers now and the American car makers in 1974. Both produce(d) products based on what they know, innovate very little and keep you buying more often then you need to. The backdrop for both are different but their moribund thinking seems very much in sync.

Case in point. I like my Nikon D7000 a great deal and use a variety of nice, prime lenses (35, 50, 85) but aside from the 35 the others are odd focal lengths for the DX sensor. I have a bad case of prime lens envy for micro four thirds and the 12mm, 14mm, 20mm, 45mm, 60mm, 75mm happyfest they've made. But I don't want to jump platforms and waited for more DX glass... and what do they drop but yet another wide to moderate tele. The camera world is eroding around their ears and the answer is... an 18-140mm lens. Yep, sounds like Oldsmobile in 74, and where are they in 2013?

Andre said...

Dave wrote: "After many years of consideration I've concluded that some people WANT to interpret a certain way. Anything contrary to their view will be recast in a way that suits them."

I couldn't agree more. I'm glad I don't have to feed them because there's millions -if not billions- of them. Some people are just plain horrible. Another reason why I stopped frequenting most photo fora many years ago. On the other hand, Kirk's intelligent and insightful writing and amazing images are what keeps me coming (and mostly lurking) here.

The current market trend will force the major players -in fact all players- to innovate. Surely there will be mergers and acquisitions as well. That's the nature of change. But I do think the most interesting times are still ahead.

.Mr Ebonics said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mr. Ebonics said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Christopher Hunt said...

Agree with all of it, this article and its predecessor. In fact, there was a ton of insight in the original to take away. Keep up the good work.

Old Gray Roy said...

Because we are spared the venom that either detracts from the discussion or attempts to discredit your comments and insights, the bulk of what we see here is a cut above normal blog fare. I read your blog every day and consider it to be 'good stuff'. Thanks for all you do. Since I am way into my "golden years", am still an avid photographer, and have finally been hammered into recognizing my wife's thoughts on photography, herein a little bit about her attitude.

She is adamant about the need to hold a photograph in her hand, or hang it on the wall, in order to enjoy it. To quote, "I don't want to look at something on the computer, I want to be able to look at it and enjoy it without it disappearing". Initially I thought this was the province of the non-photographer elderly but it is something that seems to be prevalent in our family and may explain the proliferation of images on the walls of our several households.

The computer and the internet certainly allow for rapid dissemination of information in its various forms. They have also created an aura of 'touch and go' impermanence to our lives. Perhaps a photograph in hand, and an actual book rather than a Kindle, create a more leisurely, contemplative atmosphere for enjoyment. I probably should pay more attention to my wife.

roscoepoet said...

What Andre said! I'm happy to lurk here for your thoughtful & passionate perspective on the art of making pictures...

Curt Hathaway said...

damn straight

Lanthus Clark said...

If there is one thing that internet forums have proved it's that there are an incredibly large amount of annoying people in the world!
:^)

Biro said...

Kirk, I don't know why you bother explaning yourself. To paraphrase an old saw, if you have to explain to someone, they'll probably never understand.

Raianerastha said...

Kirk, since a not inconsiderable body of camera owners gain a vicarious sense of self-worth via their gear, having people respond with knee-jerk reactions to any possible implication that their gear is no longer desirable by others threatens their egos.

Methinks the rumblings in the psyche of some people may be, "If people don't want my CaNikonSoPentOlyPansung kit, for which I paid hundreds or thousands of dollars, that must mean I'm no longer to be looked up to by the unwashed masses for being a photo-couture expert?" Imagine the insult to all the "gear gurus" who relish constantly being asked to recommend a camera when it's revealed that people are turning to the very device that they dismissed as "not for taking decent photos".

Annie Leibovitz should be ashamed for recommending, on national TV, that the best camera for most people is an iPhone. Sacreligious!!! LOL

auntipode said...

Is camera sales the right metric to judge *photographic* ennui? Or, does it really suggest gear ennui? Once you have adequate gear, why not wait a year or two or more for a camera that's significantly better?

Anton Wilhelm Stolzing said...

Art is what counts after you subtract the craft. Craft you can more and more replace with camera intelligence and file quality. In former times, advanced hobbyists and professionals could discern themselves easily from the masses with craft and expensive gear. This advantage has shrunk, what remains as discerning factor is essential creativity.
In my view, this is OK.