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?