Another prediction: People on the web will grow bored and tired of the techno savants. Audiences want to be entertained and enlightened; not lectured to.

In the field of photography there have always been "technical masters" who take it upon themselves to instruct all the unwashed masses of photographers in exactly how they should use their equipment to make photographs. Part of the faux pedagogical practice seems always to be the obsession that the students use the specific tools used by the "master." 

The Professional Photographers of America more or less codified what they passionately thought should constitute a "good portrait" and taught generations of people how to slavishly copy their lighting, their techniques, their posing and, of course, suggested the appropriate cameras and lenses with which to make these cookie cutter pictures. 

And in each generation the images that become iconic, and the images that are most appreciated, are the ones that break the rules, break convention and express a new way of looking at the external (and even internal) world. 

A number of self proclaimed "masters," "experts" and "technical geniuses" have figured out how to market to the enormous pool of less experienced photographers who come to the web to learn about making photographs, selling them on a program of technical exceptionalism that has nothing whatsoever to do with the creation of great (or even interesting) photography. The "masters" spend weeks shooting charts and test still lifes. They "field test" the equipment and then rush back to their computers to stare at the images and make cultish pronouncements about the presence or absence of a lens's nano-acuity or a camera sensor's asymmetrical noise assimilation overfill resistance and they push people to feel as though they can't enjoy photography, or even do it properly, unless the masses surrender to the regimen of looking at the craft through the uncomfortable lens of the master's shared obsessive compulsive disorder.

Perhaps 2016 will be the year in which the self-appointed technocratic elite of photography gets generally ignored and people relax a bit and become more interested in how to make images that are new and different. Images that thumb their collective noses at a play book of rules, preconceptions and gear fetishism that is generally unhelpful.

I just looked at a book I was given for the holidays. It's some of the work of Sheila Metzner. She was a wonderful art and fashion photographer who worked in the previous century. She used a printing and shooting technique that yielded color saturated, grainy images that were the antithesis of the teachings of our modern techno-masters but most of images were beautiful and emotionally immersive. 

The work of Deborah Turbeville also comes to mind as does the work of fashion photographer, Peter Lindbergh. 

There are so many great role models in photography who made their marks without being slaves to technology. Might it be time to reject the pursuit of metric measures and replace them with interesting subjects, shot in a new and interesting way?  Just a thought for the new year. 

Watch out for those third order harmonics, especially when they mix with the hemholtz patterns.


Eric Rose said...

Amen! Being a bit of a grumpy sort myself I take great delight in producing exceptional imagery with crap cameras and lenses. What the new kids consider crap anyway.

milldave said...

Thanks for making my day and, overall, the last 5 years!
Witty, sardonic comments I like, especially when they are made by one who knows what the game's all about.
May you go from strength to strength in 2016; please keep the blog running as it is entertaining and educating at the same time!
A very Happy New Year to you and yours!
Regards from the Great White North,

Anonymous said...

Interesting insight, Kirk. (As always). I've become bored with the task of photographing and recording pointless images and video clips just for the sake of "seeing how it comes out". Yes, the pursuit of capturing, lighting, framing and recording are all necessary skill-sets, but at the end of the day it's the content that matters. I've slowly evolved as a photographer and videographer, and though I still pursue proper techniques, I'm mostly interested in pursuing a good story. I've found that in so doing, my interest and passion come through, making for a far more engaging exercise.
This reminds me of something a friend once said. "I might not give a damn what your opinion is, but I'm fascinated why you think that way".

Anonymous said...

As I end the year with gratitude for how really good the conversation can be, I am pleased that you managed to work nano-acuity back into that conversation.
Happy New Year.

granitix said...

The rule of thirds is more like a guideline and not an actual rule? At last.
Happy 2016 Kirk, may images be passion and not work!

Thomas Rink said...

Dealing with technology is easy. Measurements yield a set of numbers which can be compared against each other - either smaller or bigger is "better". Esthetics or art, on the other hand, is hard. This is the realm of taste, of gut feelings, where we leave the safe world of numbers. The habit to stick to proven folklore (commenter "granitix" already mentioned the infamous "rule of thirds"), or to take advise by self-acclaimed gurus on how to do stuff provides a sort of security on this unsafe terrain. Doing your own stuff puts you out in the wild, requires you to discover and follow your heart and to take a stand in case you try to publish your work.

All the best to you and your family for 2016!

Bruce Rubenstein said...

You can buy gear, but not talent. Technical image quality can be quantified and measured. It's easier to become a skilled camera operator technician than a photographer. It also attracts males who are more comfortable with gizmos than people, which is reflected in the members and comments on internet forums. There are also vastly more hobbyists than professional photographers and, from my experience, pros spend little time on general, public, forums. One should also keep in mind that very few people who take pictures with cameras join internet photography forums. What one sees on the internet is the lunatic fringe of photography.

Richard Sandor said...

Your comment about "cookie cutter" photos reminded me of an a discussion with a techno master at a sports workshop. I had shown him some shots of a weight lifter performing the clean and jerk. He said the best way to capture this event was just before the lifter raised the weight above his head. I thought about that for a second and said then everyone's shot of that lifter would look the same. He agreed. Didn't learn much from that person.

Anonymous said...

"Part of the faux pedagogical practice seems always to be the obsession that the students use the specific tools used by the "master."

Which means the courses are advertisement in disguise.

G Alessi said...

Saw a wonderful chuck close show in nyc 6 years ago.....was taking a record shot of his painting of cindy sherman, when my 6 year old daughter turned the corner...right into the frame, with quite a surprized expression on her face....the resulting photo echos judy dater's image of imogene meeting twinka.......my shot is blurry,grainy,and one of my all time favorites....thanks for all your inspiring posts all these years...gary

Noons said...

For me at least, that is not a prediction. It's reality.
I've stopped wasting time with the "micro-contrast" crowd.
Instead I go out, take photos, try out new techniques and ideas (I get some from this blog!), push my knowledge and awareness of the gear I've got and have a great time!
And I still find time to use some of the film cameras, grain and all!
Never had so much fun with photography!

Jon M said...

Great post. I wish more pros would think this way. Personally, I've grown weary of all the 'workshops' people are pushing.