8.13.2013

Writing about writing.


I recently wrote a review of the Samsung NX300 and the review was generally well accepted. By that I mean the flying monkey boys of the various fora didn't rush in to question my morals, ethics, mental acuity, allegiances, ability to think beyond a first grade level, etc. When I realized that most of the comments attached in the next few days were positive I felt deflated. I must have done a poor job of peeling back the onion-esque parts of that camera because I didn't draw metaphoric blood from anyone. No one even blinked at my continued criticism of EVF-less cameras.

The one glancing complaint I got was that the article was longer than a typical article in a magazine known for running lengthy (and serious) articles. And that made me think about the basic differences between writing, as I practice it, and photography. 

When I sit down to write it's a process of having more than a one sided conversation. As I type I'm working through my arguments or my observations and after each point I pause for a second or two and wonder what one of my friends would say about what I've just written. As though we were sitting across the table from each other, jealously admiring whatever really cool camera each of us brought along, in a thinly veiled attempt to make each other envious, as we enjoy a coffee in cool weather or a nice glass of  beer in the warmer weather. The momentary "silence" sprinkled through my practice of writing acts as my own devil's advocate and most of the time he's either pressing me to defend my premise or to admit where the argument loses steam.

In the case of the review of the NX300 I was trying to be passionately objective, knowing my penchant for falling in love with cameras, racing through a delightful and torrid relationship with them and then succumbing to the wiles of the next one. I felt like I needed to walk my readers through the whole process of what I liked and didn't like about the camera rather than just resort to a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" approach because my prejudices are well known and at the same time the camera does some things incredibly well and a certain camp of users doesn't really care about my need for an EVF or my desire for microphone jacks. By supplying enough information I'm able to feel like I've provided a neutral spreadsheet of pluses and minuses but anyone who reads my stuff on a regular basis will be able to sniff around the nooks and crannies of the construction of the piece in order to separate my predilections from actual camera design foibles.

When I write I'm doing something that's one hundred and eighty degrees different from my picture taking. When I snap the shutter I'm trying to distill down to one quintessential expression combined with one natural feeling composition. The images are available to viewers as a snapshot, in the most positive meaning of the word "snapshot." While I'm happy if you linger on the image and savor it my intention is always to create locked up package that needs no intervention, captioning or fluffing to deliver it's more or less visceral message. And the message is nearly always the same: "Look! Isn't this cool? Look! isn't she beautiful? Look! Can you imagine that something can be so amazing?"

And I'm really not looking for insight or instruction or critiques when I post a photograph because who can really understand what it is you are trying to transmit to your audience? Who can have the same experiential resumé as me...or you?

But when I write I mean for it to be in the nature of a two way conversation. I know that ideas are never (in my mind) fully formed and perfect. A case in point is my recent take on the decline of the camera market. I gleaned a lot of value from the good comments that came flooding in. Most augmented my argument while others made me stop and think. Which is something I need to do more often.

People ask me why I write since the perception is that it's a time consuming habit and one with meager financial returns. The only answer I can give them is that I like the process. I genuinely like the process of trying to explain myself. I want to connect with people and tell them what it's like to think with my brain. And when I look out across the web I'm looking for that same connection from other writers.

I think that both writing and photography are archly solitary practices (or should be) but I think the sharing of the end product is where we are able to come out of our shells and experience the almost tactile feedback of the people we've attracted to our endeavors. I like the process of writing nearly as much as I like the process of wandering down an urban street with a ripe camera. And I like both of these processes as much as I like sitting in a cool cafe slowly sipping a perfectly made coffee.

One of my goals is to only do things I like. That's a hard target these days for artists and writers trying to keep food on the table. But if we don't make the attempt then what do we really have?


Studio Portrait Lighting


19 comments:

John Krumm said...

You would have more and more varied comments if you skipped the NX300 review and wrote an EP5 vs. Nex 7 smackdown. Or perhaps a long piece on why you are selling all your full frame gear for mirrorless. Or to counter that, a long piece on why you are selling all your mirrorless and full frame for medium format.

This last piece is well written by the way, and in my opinion a good length for computer reading. I really like the phrase "ripe camera." Sounds like a good blog name too, ripecamera.com .

MGO said...

Much better reading, than the camera reviews:) I like the direction you are heading, with your posts!

MGO said...

I like the picture to!

Richard Leacock said...

Like most of your readers we look forward to a good conversation. Wether it be with a coffee in hand at our favourite cafe, around the table at a barbecue gathering, reading a good book, we enjoy the "conversation". As we enjoy yours. It seems fewer people can or will distill an overflowing rant or commentary down to a more matter of fact and to the point observation. With or without "the flying monkey boys of the various fora" threatening the quiet discussion.

Perhaps it's only my feeling of how the overflowing scatter-gun instant news that lives in a 10 or 20 second sound bite makes a longer conversation a challenge for people who want/need/enjoy to learn, understand or live vicariously through a written commentary or story. Why do people write? Why do people read? Why did we sit around a campfire millennia ago and tell stories? The art and enjoyment of reading and listening? Partially. Communication. Writers and story tellers who connect with an audience or group are invaluable. For some, writing flows like water from a faucet. For others it's a struggle to turn on the tap. To put words to paper, to see the image in front of them and release the shutter. To say the least, we enjoy the conversation we have with each other. Pen to paper, word of mouth or visually we're communicating. Your ideas, my ideas. The gear fan boys can go screech, holler and play in their own sandbox. They have that right. Not a problem...I just want to have a good conversation.

That's my writing about your writing ; )

Cheers

Anonymous said...

I've not replied before, but this time would like to say, your writing is close to poetry for me and I enjoy reading your articles as much for their technical content as for the music in your prose. Thank you for doing what you do the way you do it.

Very best regards.

Dave Jenkins said...

You are now the second person I know (using the word "know" loosely, as I only know you through your writings)who enjoys the process of writing. I write for part of my living and am told I do it reasonably well, but it is a continual struggle. My son, Rob Jenkins, on the other hand, writes a weekly humor and commentary column for several Georgia newspapers, writes a monthly column for The Journal of Higher Education, and (shameless plug warning)is the author of "Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility" (available on Kindle). He says he enjoys it all.

Corwin Black said...

Well, I think lack of negative comments is simply cause of two things..

1) you wrote review as it should been written (much better than DPreview), I dont think review should create emotions.. its review :D
2) Samsung in general doesnt create too much emotions, there are no insane fanboys flying around, cause.. well nobody cares if Samsung makes cameras

And that criticism about lack of EVF, heh I dont know any photographers that would prefer LCD only cameras for work. I think general photographic public has same opinion like you.

Chris Malcolm said...

Your writing is a good example of the kind of writing that follows from the writing strategy you well describe. That's why I like your writing. Of course you also need to be a good enough thinker and observer to have original and interesting things to say. Which you do. Which is why I like both your philosophical articles and your gear reviews. In fact the gear reviews are philosophical too. You understand the technicalities much better than the number obsessed nerdy gear reviewers. That lets you step back and consider what they mean, and what handles on the practical process of image creation they give to the person with a photographic purpose. You don't get distracted by such things as the knob being on the right on this camera whereas you're used to it being on the left.

Greg Gauger said...

Kirk,
I did notice the criticism of the fact of no EVF. As an owner/user of a NEX-6, I would really miss an EVF if I owned another camera, including the Samsung. I remember emailing you a year ago about my camera yearnings. I couldn't afford the NEX-7, and when the -6 came out, bought that. It performs admirably, even with slow sports like baseball. I haven't tried it with basketball or football, because I have a D700 at work I could use. I could also use my wife's D3100, but why would I when I have a basketful of Nikkors and the D700? Nonetheless I love my -6. I would very much miss the viewfinder. If I didn't have one, I would get a DSLR in its place.

Greg Gauger said...

Kirk,
I did notice the criticism of the fact of no EVF. As an owner/user of a NEX-6, I would really miss an EVF if I owned another camera, including the Samsung. I remember emailing you a year ago about my camera yearnings. I couldn't afford the NEX-7, and when the -6 came out, bought that. It performs admirably, even with slow sports like baseball. I haven't tried it with basketball or football, because I have a D700 at work I could use. I could also use my wife's D3100, but why would I when I have a basketful of Nikkors and the D700? Nonetheless I love my -6. I would very much miss the viewfinder. If I didn't have one, I would get a DSLR in its place.

Anonymous said...

I got the impression that you were impressed by the Samsung. But you don't love it.

In contrast, you gushed over the Pentax.

With cameras, I much prefer the ones which just feel right for me, rather than ones which are technically flawless.

Anonymous said...

Kirk
I really enjoy your writing. It does not matter if the subject is a camera review, a comment on the human condition or a dose of introspection/philosophy.

The length of the article is not important because I appreciate the considered way you make your points leading to a sound and clear analysis of a subject.

Keep up the good writing (and photography).

Ash

Bob Dein said...

Every morning, Visual Science Lab is one of my first stops. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Kirk, I think the lack of outrage from people about the cameras with no viewfinder comes to the realization that there are a lot of 3rd party viewfinder accessories out there already. some are really good. some are retractable, folding, small, light, etc.... and not to mention really cheap and also better than the one that you used on the NX300. so the OEM EVF option in my opinion is not so much mandatory because of the availability of cheaper viewfinders. from my point of view, the outrage only comes from a purist point of view rather than practicality. one thing is for sure that changes are imminent and it's up to the person if they would or could adapt. I'm not saying that having a built-in EVF is not good. actually it's good. but I will be fine without that as well with a cheap accessory that let's you view a huge picture of what you are shooting. besides, one must ask one self it buying an expensive $500 OEM evf accessory is all worth it compared to a $20 dollar option.

auntipode said...

Why defend the NX300? I won't buy a camera without a proper view finder. The stinky diaper hold doesn't work for me.

David said...

Hello Kirk,

I am sorry but this piece on writing is way to short. I think you really need to dive deeper into the stylistic elements. Then move on into pages about why you selected a specific word and it context. :)

Really!! Some of your reader have too much time on their hands.

Kirk Tuck said...

I am looking forward to the Galaxy NX camera with the evf finder and the juicy sensor...

Kirk Tuck said...

It's a Goldilocks thing. This one is too long, this one is too short, this one is juuuuuuust right.

John said...

I have the Nex 5n, and it's taught me one thing: no EVF, no buy.