6.08.2016

Interesting shifts across the landscape of photography (as opposed to landscape photography...). What's driving the whole industry now?



I probably think about photography too much. It comes from having been around it for so long and for taking such a deep dive into the field as both a hobbyist and a working commercial photographer. I have to say though, for the first time every, I'm feeling as though we've just gone through a monumental shift that more or less makes everything we know about the joy of photography largely irrelevant. Now, before you trot out the ole "bitter old loser" trope I have to quickly say that business is fine, we're making the mortgage, paying our taxing and still scraping together enough to pay for a private college education for our kid. In fact, in the context of this article I have to say that the change is relatively neutral for working photographers who are ready to diversify into tightly related fields; like video. We're still moving the boulder up the hill and the projects are mostly satisfying.

I'm writing more about the public, passionate, highly engaged and fun side of photography. What old timers would call, pure photography. After a decade that saw a massive plunge, by everyday people, into the hobby, the art and exhilaration of making photographs, I think the wave has finally washed up on the beach, seeped into the sand and evaporated. The phone-encumbered cameras have won and, in the process, have sucked the excitement out of the craft, replacing it with a sense of doing social media chores on a subconscious and vaguely peer driven checklist. The camera is no longer separate from the normal run of life but is part of the conversation  enormous numbers of people carry on every minute of every day. Just as once cars were novel, fresh and exciting but now they are just a way to get somewhere while traffic and costs have sucked the remaining joy out of driving --- for the most part.

This seems to be how it goes for most people now:

See a sign with hours of operation on it. Snap sign, send to Bob. Get paper check. Take photograph of paper check, send to bank. Buy lunch. Snap lunch. Eat lunch. See wreck. Snap wreck. Share wreck on Facebook. Go to bar. Stand next to dorky guy with bad hat. Snap selfie. Share on Instagram. Go on vacation. Snap selfie at airport, at hotel, at monument, at powder room, at convenience store, at Target, at Burger King, etc. Dutifully upload into the humble brag section of Facebook so friends can pretend to burst with happiness for your circumstances. Go to work. Snap photo of cubicle. Upload with snarky message to Snapchat. Hope that conversations really do disappear. 

The process of photography has become the same as driving a car, in rush hour, to your company's crowded parking lot and then circling for ten minutes to find a parking space. Photography has become the fast food lunch. We (collectively) no longer engage in the craft of it. We no longer linger over lovely images but quickly mine them for their fleeting social messages. 

In one sense this is all an egalitarian delight. We've effectively brought the potential for self expression and global sharing to billions. If we could shake off the nationalist filters of Google, Facebook, et al and really look into the global stream we'd be able to look into the superficial constructs of other cultures. And, sadly, we might find that they are also just snapping selfies at lunch and documentation of the actuality of their vacations. In fact, the desire to endlessly share may actually be a cognitive virus that years ago went pandemic and curses us to an endless wave of nearly mindless uniformity. 

It may be depressing but it's not like there is a viable alternative. We are subject to and surrendered to the tides of progress and "innovation;" both technical and social. This may be the new and current estimation of what photography is for a new generation of "practitioners." 

I would say that this helps traditional photographers get a new grasp on markets for their wares because they are still the ones with cameras, lights and intention but the cameras on phone get relentlessly better and all of the foundational work that used to constitute "jobs" is gone. Replaced by a serviceable snap from the V.P. of Operation's cell phone. 

The top tier of pros survive because they aren't selling a brew of technical experience; they are bundling skills with a point of view. A different vision. An amalgam of taste and style that can be elusive specifically because it is completely subjective and a product of one's life, existence, experience and understanding. We grow as artists or we die as dinosaurs. 

And that brings into focus the fact that this blog is outliving it's usefulness. The number of people who care about gear is in decline and, frankly, if you need to look up a specification or comparison, this blog is a terrible place at which to do so. 

My experiences in the realm of commercial photography and videography are leaking away relevance to the remaining photo-as-hobby culture members because the process of doing the business is highly removed now from just doing the hands-on work. It's always been true that less than 10% of our time is spent with a camera in hand and 90% of the time is spent marketing, networking, thinking, conjecturing, testing, and the general fodder of trying to keep out of the middle of the road. Out of the spaces where progress for the sake of progress casually runs on over our past,  making it flatter than an armadillo that's met the unrelenting tires of an 18 wheeler. 

I've watched other blog sites move from using affiliate links to make money to trying direct merchandizing to make money. It's all so boring and mercenary to me because so few people do it well and balance great content with the sales side of existence. I wanted to do the blog to build a sense of community and sharing but it's not working out that way as our idea (generationally) of what photography means to culture changes. Over the past few months the engagement seems to have been withdrawn. We can all sense the shift in our collective appreciation and joy in doing photography. We get that our friends and family don't really see a difference between what we do with our cameras and what they do with their phones. We've seen the same photo/meme repeated ad infinitum on Flickr, or Google+, or (bundled as a political message) on Facebook. The whole thing (taking, sharing, enjoying individual vision in photography) has moved on and we're a demographic resistant to embracing the change or abandoning our seminal learning in the craft. 

I can't blame readers for the lack of engagement. The decline of interest is woven into the social subconscious at this point. Sharing information about gear, separated from its intended use, is silly. It's meaningless. Of course you can use a better camera for video than an RX10iii but that was never my point in writing about that camera. Of course you can figure out how to crop square after the fact but post processing into squares was not my goal in writing about the availability of different aspect ratios in cameras. 

When I wrote about EVFs six years ago it wasn't to make the point that they were technically superior to other finders it was to mark and recognize a shift toward a technology that is wholesale transforming the camera as tool, right now. But most people just wanted to chime in and say how much they like looking through glass. 

I'm not sure what I'll do going forward with the blog. I like the platform when I can use it to start discussions and poke holes in mindless convention. I like sharing my experiences with gear as a metaphor for embracing technical change. I'll think about it as I drive around Texas this week. 

If you want to move from content guzzler to mindful collaborator you could take a few minutes out of your busy life to tell me what you think. Are we watching the Fall of the Roman Empire as it relates to photography? Will it be followed by the Dark Ages? Where does hope lie? Is the priesthood of photography part of the problem or ....... ? Can we ever learn how to use the Force again?

In the future will all images move? How can we share stuff in a more meaningful way than across the lousy laptop screens of the first world? Should we even give a fuck or just go watch Kai do another video about his bum and today's "exciting" camera?

I sure don't know the answers or I wouldn't be asking you! 

67 comments:

Alan Fairley said...

I read the blog because it is a wonderfully readable tutorial in how to be an actually working/successful professional photographer. The gear stuff, not so much, except as it relates to specific assignments. Please keep it up!

Dan Higgins said...

Hey Kirk- I love reading your blog for your personal stories- even non-photo related. Your stories about travel, the flooded studio, noisy neighbor construction, great restaurants, boy home from school, and swimming keep me coming back. You have great insights and a nice narrative style of writing. How you manifest it is your business as I'm pretty sure a writer needs to write for themselves first. I happily skip over the gear posts looking for your interesting (to me) takes on what's going on around you.

George Beinhorn said...

Nah, Kurt, I heartily disagree. The thing about the Internet is it gives and equal voice to everybody - including the anencephalic (born without a brain). Back in 1972, a wonderful writer named Bil (correct) Gilbert wrote a piece for Sports Illustrated, "Gleanings From a Troubled Time." It was a heavy-hearted reflection on the sad Olympics of that year in Munich. Gilbert felt that it was time to reflect on the meaning of sports and perform an exploratory surgery of its various organs and meanings. He decided that sports fall into several broad categories in this day and age: Big Sport (exploding scoreboards, NFL, et al.), High Sport (sport as an art form that can uplift and inspire - exemplified by many moments at the Olympics), and True Sport (where the spirit of sport emerges most truly, most commonly in amateur events at the pre-professional levels).

I think it's a roughly accurate vision for photographers today. It really is no problem that everyone has a camera today. It's a false concern, an empty worry. My spiritual teacher wrote a book on the arts in which he argued passionately that the ultimate, human purpose of the arts is to serve as a carrier for expressions that expand the awareness of the artist and his audience. It's an idea that has very deep roots in Eastern philosophy (and, really, in all of the world's true spiritual paths East and West). That is, what people all want is happiness and freedom from suffering. And happiness increases as we expand our awareness, using the tools with which we were born: body, heart, will, mind, and soul.

For photographers, happiness grows as they make images that suggest the highest expressions of our common human tools: images that project vibrations of health, love, strength, wisdom, and joy.

At least, this is what I find as I pore through the 300-1000 images that I've taken in a school classroom, or a sports event, or a dress rehearsal for a children's play. I admit, I'm very lucky, because I'm the semi-official photographer and webmaster for a school where all of the teachers and administrators understand that the purpose of education is to give children the tools to find happiness and success - while not focusing obsessively on the mind but including the heart and soul. So I see lots of images that show the best in human beings.

Still, what happens if I'm not so fortunate - when I'm, say, out wandering on mountain trails with camera slung around my neck? At such times, I find that I can continue my search for happiness through photography by taking only those images that elicit expansive feelings in me. And when I do that, I find that people love those photos. Example: During a bird-viewing tour of Elkhorn Slough just north of Monterey, I took a photo of a big, ugly power plant. I was feeling happily expansive at the time, and the photo reflected my feelings, to the extent that my then-girlfriend asked for a print.

It's a small example, but I think it says something about why we prefer to look at some photos more than others. We love art that expands our awareness - that makes us feel joyful, happy, wiser, or that inspire compassion, inner strength, and a resolve to do, and be, better.

Let's face it, it's wonderful that everyone has a camera - because it gives them a tool to practice art, however humble. Among all the millions of images taken with camphones, you'll find very few that uplift and inspire; but you will find them. And that's a good thing in human and spiritual terms, I think. (comment continues below...exceeded max. 4,096 characters)

George Beinhorn said...

(comment continued)... High Sport has its obvious equivalents in photography. You'll always have geniuses in art, whatever the technical medium. There will be the Stephen Currys and Michael Jordans who remind us that stretching our own edges, in our own ways, is a very good thing because it can bring us joy. And that's what the really great photographers do, whether they're working in advertising, corporate communications, marketing, or blogging.

Kurt, I look forward eagerly to your articles because they always leave me feeling a little bit happier. And I think that what you've mainly got to share is your expansive attitude, the fact that you have fun in sharing, and that you're always looking for better instruments for sharing beauty and compassion and goodwill. That's a very worthwhile endeavor, and I hope you won't consider letting it go. After all, you do have thousands of subscribers...

rexdeaver said...

The thing we can still bring to the game is, as you say, vision. Gear doesn't matter, really never has. Gear is brushes and pigments. The think that people want -- often don't even know they want until they see it -- is what is behind the viewfinder, not what is in front of it.

Tom Passin said...

I wonder how different it is, really, except for quantity. Back before social media, even before digital cameras, we had Instamatics and the like. People took roll after roll of snaps on their vacations, and most of them were awful. Every once in a while they got the chance to inflict their snaps on someone else.

Meantime, photographers who were interested in good quality or "artistic" photography learned their craft and took their pictures. Once in a while, they showed them to friends, or sold a few at a fair, or maybe even got a few in a museum show or a gallery.

So there were always lots of crummy photos, but they couldn't get much exposure publicly. What's changed is 1) more quantity, and 2) much more exposure. But does that change things for, say, an "artistic" photographer? They still have a hard time getting good exposure, but now they see it as being lost in a sea of junk so no one can find them or care. In the past, it was hard to find them, and no one cared except for those few who cared about good pictures.

So have things really changed that much, deep down?

Ramon Pertierra said...

Kirk,

I confess I have been lurking for years without commenting; Partly because it seems like you are sharing your life & work experiences without need for a response but also since I do no video work (as of yet) I feel lacking in being able to comment.

I need to say that your blog is one I read daily without fail as it is one of the few that bring real value as it is based on real world everyday life as a photographer/videographer.

You stated your blog is not about hardware reviews as it doesn't dwell on the specs but I find them overwhelmingly valuable as you focus more on how well the gear helps you get the job done! I can read blogs that state or compare specs all day long but few focus on how well the gear helps get the job done. I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate this aspect of your writings.

As to the where the business of photography is going I can only speculate. I am 66, have had a part time photography business for 38 years. We moved from being a full life cycle photography business to volume work, photographing dance studios, private schools and yearbooks. So we share a love for the stage and it's performers.

Change is constant with the customer changing the most. We now find ourselves either trying to anticipate, develop and test market products that our customer might want while constantly reviewing what suppliers are offering.

We also keep an eye on technology that might have a disruptive impact either positively or negatively on our business. It's both an exciting and challenging time to be in this business. And it is a business. Woe to anyone who is hoping to earn a living doing it without the needed business skill sets.

Please continue your writings. We are reading. We are thinking. We are processing. I hope this feedback is an encouragement.

Ray Pertierra
Photographic Renditions

George Beinhorn said...

Ouch! Sorry I called you "Kurt." Blame my 74-year-old brain!

rlh1138 said...

Well! Quite a post. Too many points for me to respond to all of them, and some I just don't have knowledge/opinion about. However, in general, all the photos being taken in all those places/circumstances you mention.. not relevant, or at least nothing to be alarmed about. As I see it, those are the equivalent of all those photos in our parents shoebox/closets. People were always taking all kinds of meaningless photos (well, not meaningless to them), but in the old days, then putting them in the shoebox with the others. Two things different today, its very easy, and almost costless to take those photos, you don't even need to remember your camera, and, the shoebox is available to show the world, also with almost no cost. But I'm not sure/clear about how this 'outing' of all that casual (and greatly increased) picture taking is of concern?? More power to them all - part of enjoying life and friends, no? And in my life (reasonably skilled hobbyist) the only interaction with my photography has been comments along the lines of, 'Your pictures of Martha, me, cat, the beach, whatever' are so much nicer'. I can only assume that reaction in your life but much stronger. (I've seen your portraits of course, they're lovely) So.. that's my comment to the 'all the pics people are taking' part of your post. Just want to add, I read you not for photo gear reviews, but for your take on a field/area I'm interested in, and the very 'outside the mainstream' views you bring. You do have a unique point of view, you are very aware of your own inclinations (I was going to write idiocracies, but don't know how to spell it), you're very reality based, you totally know what your doing in photography, and, even just as a 'hobbyist' your comments/insights on how you work as a professional have helped me. Your gear comments i.e., the early views of EVFs, really turned my thinking - and helped me appreciate how to use my then camera (R1) even more.

OK, enough fanboy stuff, just saying - take a deep breath - please keep the blog going - looking forward to the next ones!

Ray H.

rlh1138 said...

Well! Quite a post. Too many points for me to respond to all of them, and some I just don't have knowledge/opinion about. However, in general, all the photos being taken in all those places/circumstances you mention.. not relevant, or at least nothing to be alarmed about. As I see it, those are the equivalent of all those photos in our parents shoebox/closets. People were always taking all kinds of meaningless photos (well, not meaningless to them), but in the old days, then putting them in the shoebox with the others. Two things different today, its very easy, and almost costless to take those photos, you don't even need to remember your camera, and, the shoebox is available to show the world, also with almost no cost. But I'm not sure/clear about how this 'outing' of all that casual (and greatly increased) picture taking is of concern?? More power to them all - part of enjoying life and friends, no? And in my life (reasonably skilled hobbyist) the only interaction with my photography has been comments along the lines of, 'Your pictures of Martha, me, cat, the beach, whatever' are so much nicer'. I can only assume that reaction in your life but much stronger. (I've seen your portraits of course, they're lovely) So.. that's my comment to the 'all the pics people are taking' part of your post. Just want to add, I read you not for photo gear reviews, but for your take on a field/area I'm interested in, and the very 'outside the mainstream' views you bring. You do have a unique point of view, you are very aware of your own inclinations (I was going to write idiocracies, but don't know how to spell it), you're very reality based, you totally know what your doing in photography, and, even just as a 'hobbyist' your comments/insights on how you work as a professional have helped me. Your gear comments i.e., the early views of EVFs, really turned my thinking - and helped me appreciate how to use my then camera (R1) even more.

OK, enough fanboy stuff, just saying - take a deep breath - please keep the blog going - looking forward to the next ones!

Ray H.

Ian Kirk said...

I like your writing.


I couldn't care less if you write about cameras or photography or choose to waffle on about studio dog or swimming. You write beautifully, from the heart and its always though provoking. I may not comment much but I have probably read all your blog for a few years now.

Keep up the great work.

You bring some wry American sunshine into my life!

Craig said...

"Just as once cars were novel, fresh and exciting but now they are just a way to get somewhere while traffic and costs have sucked the remaining joy out of driving --- for the most part.”

Kirk, what a great analogy using commuter driving and people taking snapshots to document their lives. I’m a racing fan, but why would I spend the money on a sportscar? Spend my time stuck in traffic or visiting traffic court to pay speeding fines (I’m too old and responsible to drive recklessly anyhow)?

I believe our generation appreciates the hobby due to the nature of slowing down and observing – being in the present moment and trying to convey what I saw and felt at that moment in time.

The millennials have become conditioned to be narcissists. Taking snapshots and selfies is nothing more than trying to publicly portray one’s life is filled with fun, interesting and exciting experiences that all should envy. I often wonder who is trying to impress who… I certainly don’t need the “Likes” of casual acquaintances and those of my distant past to validate my life.


"Are we watching the Fall of the Roman Empire as it relates to photography?"

As a hobby and personal endeavor, I think that photography is at the beginning of a new age - one where fewer people are actually expressing their vision through photography, but seeking out like-minded individuals.

I spend little-to-no time looking at Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram. Why bother unless I know someone who I really want to follow?

I suppose social media might be worthwhile if I was building a clientele as a photographer, but you are the perfect example of someone who has built a reputation for vision and quality, and your clients keep returning for that very reason.

“In the future will all images move?“

I sure as hell hope not. I have idolized Eugene W. Smith and his efforts at telling a story via still images; your portraits blow me away every time I look at them (BTW, what happened to the URL http://kirktucksportraits.blogspot.com/ ? It’s still referenced on VSL and goes nowhere at the moment).

I also love what Koudelka did with Gypsies. HCB created still images that are closer to paintings with his street photography. As you first shared your dive into the pool as videographer, there’s a whole lot more going on in building a cohesive story and being able to direct the flow of the story along with the on-camera subjects.

YouTube amateur videos are a direct parallel to the crap I see on Facebook - no thanks. There’s a reason that real movies, documentaries and film shorts are done by professionals.

“How can we share stuff in a more meaningful way than across the lousy laptop screens of the first world?“

There’s the real crux of the issue for me – nothing on screen (laptop, iPad, Retina display or the crap displays of Windows) compares to the experience of looking at a print. I like surveying the images that Lenswork publishes in their online PDF interactive magazine issues, but the images can’t be done justice in an electronic media form.

Since “digital photography” is considered free by so much of the general public, getting those same folks to purchase prints isn’t a viable revenue stream for photographers.

At the same time, I like what Lenswork has done with their folios, what TOP does with its print sales (where we pre-order at a very attractive price and the photographer eliminates gallery markups).

Unfortunately, the public’s attention span has devolved to a level only slightly above the lifespan of a fruit fly, so I can’t imagine most of them actually purchasing and then displaying a print. It’s the TeeVee mindset - everything moves at 24 or more frames per second, see it and forget it.


“Should we even give a fuck or just go watch Kai do another video about his bum and today's "exciting" camera?”

Well, if that’s what people are looking for they always can go to: Facebook, DP Review, Snapchat, Tumblr, YouTube or the other crap permeating the internet.

Anonymous said...

The large-scale generalist photo blogs are dying.

Here's why:

1) To meet page view goals, they aggregate every piece of content and news imaginable, which is killing their brands. There is zero differentiation between them. (see PetaPixel and FStoppers)

2) Page views are getting harder to come by because of falling interest in photography.

3) Ad rates are collapsing because of a massive oversupply in web content.

4) Falling camera sales means the review/Amazon affiliate link game is less lucrative.

That is why so many sites are moving to Kickstarters and 'premium' memberships.

However, 2 types of photo blogs will succeed for a very long time:

1) Personality-driven outlets. See Froknowsphoto and Ken Rockwell. Love em or hate em, they have built major audiences. And Ken is the God of SEO (perhaps unintentionally).

2) Niche photo blogs that can serve a specific audience with highly targeted ads and offers. An audience of 50,000 wedding photographers is more valuable than 500,000 photographers across all genres.

Huw said...

Kirk,

I agree that there's less of a cachet around photography now, and that it has simultaneously become omnipresent (cellphones / Instagram) but also more niche (although think Flickr is still the place for interesting photographic communities).

And on the subject of your blog: I don't have a huge interest in technical posts (I have a 70D and G9x and that's it) or professional posts, but really like your musings on art, motivation and swimming. I like the breadth of your thoughts, tying the abstract with the personal. But that's just me! I always appreciate your effort and generosity.

Regards,
Huw

cfw said...

I've read your stuff on the VSL, regularly, for several years. Over that time span I would guess that maybe a couple or three dozen posts, of various kinds, did not interest me. In my book, that's like batting about a 925 average. Not too shabby. So long as you still enjoy doing this, my recommendation is to keep on keeping on, writing about what you want. I guess at some point if you feel you have nothing to say, or no longer have the time or energy, you should stop; but I hope you don't.

Joel said...

I don't have anything wise or inspirational to say, but I do enjoy reading your articles. Gear posts, life posts, work posts. All of them. Some of them have led me to make purchases (domke bags), some have led me to roll my eyes, some have led me to rethink how I go about photography. I've enjoyed being a content guzzler. In the future I'll see if I can be more of a mindful collaborator.

Sherwood McLernon said...

Hello Kirk... I'm responding to your post as a selfish reader, one who enjoys your good writing, thoughtful musings on the state of the world, personal remembrances of an author that strike a resonance with my own experiences and insights into equipment that I may (or may not) be interested in buying. I like your writing. So, I'm encouraging you to continue your blog, purely from my own personal selfishness and my certainty that there are legions like me, who are just too shy to write and tell you of the pleasure that they take from your blog every day... sometimes several times in the same day.

PhotoDes said...

I live in another place where photography is still vital and fulfilling. It's nearby New Mexico and I hear photographers talking about capturing the vistas, the historical sites, or the remarkable southwestern light almost every day. Some are gear-oriented and some are not. Much of the hobby seems the same as always. Smartphones don't have much of a place and the selfie obsessed are actually not all that common when you get out of the cities.

The internet exposes us to a lot of photographer angst that seems to be prevalent these days, mostly on the internet. I'd say it's best not to follow that path and keep your sights set well above the frivolous trends that come and go. Young people may have a strong inclination toward disruptive technologies these days and even exert a strong influence on the marketplace, but that has very little to do with the art and business of photography. "Tried and true" still has a place.

regards,

Kurt Friis Hansen said...

Hi Kirk

I think you're already well on the way towards a different future for your Blog.

The Blog has evolved. Years ago it was centered around professional photography; then it evolved into describing the business, troubles, joys and personal views as seen from a professionals point.

Photography in itself may have lived past it's "use by date" as the basic foundation of the blog.

But... you're a good writer. You have interesting views, and a lot of good ol' yarns from real life, that is worth experiencing for all your readers.

It's the story, man! Warts and all. Highs and lows, peppered with a snide remark on todays world, illustrated by an image or two. Maybe you should just shift your launch platform towards the good story. The interesting read. In a way the reportage view of it all. You're good at it, now you "just" need to spice it up with some "different" images. Related if possible; otherwise illustrative or just story enhancements.

Kind of like the old Life Magazine from the forties and fifties, where the story of life was just as interesting, as it is today. Without becoming "all ladies journal" etc. and in a more mordern format you'll "just" have to combine your gifts into a more compelling product. A story blog with interesting yarns about real life as a professional - as the "Visual Science Lab" practitioner you are.

Then it doesn't matter, that the world is drowning in trivial photography and video.

You also have the gift of story telling; in that context an otherwise trivial photograph may gather a completely new and interesting view or weight.

I'm not at all finished with reading about your machinations. You have lots of good stories left in you ;-)

So don't you take the easy way out ;-)

Regards
Kurt Friis Hansen

BPete said...

Well yes we are rushing around ... I'm late for an exercise class right now, but I read the post and yes! ... I'm not responding nearly enough to equalize the pleasure of your thought provoking and just plain often fun and always interesting posts. Forgive us all for that, but make no mistake on how much we value your being there on our screens palling around with us and talking photography. Yeah I like the gear talk too, but the main thing is the sharing about the whole photography/life attitude for those of thus that kinda revolve a big part of earth time around this camera thing. For me since the mid 60's it's bought my bread, fed my family, kept me from actually feeling like I really was actually working for decades at a time (that part I tried to keep secret ) ... and bla-bla ole salt stories galore. It was mostly in the film production business, now I've some time (though not so much it seems) to dive deeper into my still work (not really work) and you've been, well like a pal that's interested or impassioned or cursed with a similar camera as part of life as we know it existence. And I for one would sincerely miss you if you have to move on and well you get it ... so for all you've shared up till now, Thanks and hope you can stick around. :)

Anonymous said...

I'd like to propose that the tidal wave of social media driven images - selfies, pictures of food and whatnot, are not 'photographs'. At least not in the sense that those of us interested in the art of photography see them. They are more like throwaway visual comments made on the spur of the moment.

I don't actually see anything wrong with that and do it myself occasionally, but I would like to think that there will always be people out there who put some thought and effort into their imagery and post it for the genuine pleasure of others. I hope that as the web matures it will be easier to filter out the 'throwaway visual comments' if we want to see more meaningful images. I think we are already seeing some of the algorithms that might help us do this.

In that sense I hope that the web will always be a place where photographers can go for real inspiration and not get so bogged down in all the other dross.

As for your blog, I find it fairly unique as a place where the discussion of the art is mixed with the day to day practicalities of making a business out of photography. Something probably a lot of readers might aspire to. This is one place I know I will find the realities of the business, both good and bad, and how the cameras fit in to those realities.

With that in mind I would be sad if you decided perhaps to stop blogging (which I remember you considered a few years back), but at the end of the day, if its not providing the enjoyment or the business opportunities then why invest your valuable time on it?

Either that or let Ben take it over and put your feet up with a glass of something chilled... ;-)

Best wishes,
Don
U.K.

Anonymous said...

Your equipment explorations and comments are useful to me. Such practical notes are rare. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

Mitch said...

The convergence of "things" into a flat, egalitarian middle-zone is the natural progression (or evolution) as a system matures. Look at any physical product. You have the originals and innovators who create the first iteration of anything. Then, the market broadens where you have the originals/innovators with, now, imitators. Eventually things progress to the point where originals and innovators are squeezed out by price competitors as the "thing" becomes ubiquitous.

We may be at such a transition zone with photography which opens up the potential to move in new directions. So why dissect gear since gear is becoming "flat"?

Maybe we can now talk, albeit less frequently, about the Work. Having just returned from a long swing through far northern NY and VT, working within inches of the Canadian border, I can say that business is alive and well and there is plenty to talk about as it relates to making images. And there are plenty of things to photograph and discussions to be had from those photographic forays about how to achieve personal vision or satisfy client needs.



ODL Designs said...

I enjoy taking pictures of people I care about. It took me a while to simply come to terms with that... and I have to remember it because sometimes I forget.

I like to take beautiful pictures of them, well lit, from staged to candid... emotional and serine. Sometimes I forget that too, and somehow think I want to take stunning pictures of travel, or still life... But I rarely look at those.

Do I have some "art" in my work... yup, but never fully intentionally. I have never tried to shoot around a theme. The only consistent is the people I care about.

When I realized they are fleeting, that they will be who they are today only once, and precious, it finally clicked where the real value in my shooting is and what I will keep wanting to look at for the rest of my life.

Your blog touches on a lot of subjects, equipment, video/still work, thoughts on the profession, stories about shoots... One theme that has always crept back up is your portraits, and a number of personal ones (like your assistant holding the camera and looking up at you)... I have noticed many of these shots of the people in your life are older, not current... beautiful, but from the past.

I dont know about others, but you share so much here and there are a few pictures that are unforgettable (your son sitting on a bed looking about 2 years old), personal and unforgettable... But old. Many of these struck me as transcendent, snaps maybe, but speaking to what I see as photography's eternal value.

So, as a question, where is that art now? Where are the pictures of those people that matter to you? Frozen moments in time, beautiful and important forever.

But that is where I see the true value in imagery for me... I often think it is for you as you have had such a keen eye... I dont see many new ones though.

Just a thought that has occurred to me. Maybe it will be in years to come that they reveal their real value... But isn't that the power of photography?

Antonio Ramirez said...

Just a brief note to let you know that i REALLY enjoy your blog and would miss it terribly if you discontinued it. I do not care so much about the equipment reviews (although I do not mind them) but I find your writings on professional photography and how you go about getting things done very interesting. Plus, I love your portraiture work. I may not comment frequently, but I check into the blog daily.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the numbers Google tells me that almost two BILLION digital images are uploaded daily.. Pictures have become a casual remark that is often ignored or not heard... While there are armies of performers out here, and many of those are very talented, there is very little audience … So the impulse to take “pure” pictures is merely a creative necessity for the individual who expects no applause... Anyone needing that applause will soon despair and find another creative outlet, I fear …

This blog creates your audience but if we get tired of the act then it becomes a soliloquy and will you continue? .… Hopefully your life and activities and thoughts will continue to interest us enough to indulge in our watching you perform and occasionally applaud. .... Obviously your clients enjoy your performance but even they demand a different act now and then, as you have told us. … And, where is that second Henry White novel? ...

Now I applaud you. .......

Robert Roaldi said...

You write something nearly every day. If you're not getting paid for it, that might be too much work. I may be wrong, but I am sensing burnout. If that's the case, take a step back, maybe producing less output is one way to go.

OTOH, if you're writing this much, that must be because you enjoy the act of writing. A writer need readers. If you're not getting the readers, if the community isn't emerging the way you hoped, then if you keep going, one day you will be ticked off that you did all this work and did not get enough payback. That will sour the entire experience, which would be wrong, but that's what happens when people burn out. You shouldn't let it get that far.

People can't work in a vacuum forever. Sooner or later hard work must be recognized or paid for or acknowledged or something. But if you're putting it out there every day, maybe what's happening is that people can't respond, either because they don't write as quickly as you, or because the topic they wanted to respond to is already 2 days old, and in today's world that means it's history. How many people go back, read and respond to old entries, do you have a feel for that?

I take pics for fun, will never make a dime, so my knowledge and motivations are different than yours. But if you're always giving and not getting back, and that goes on for too long, it will harm you. A community sharing info is a useful thing, especially if you're self-employed so that there is no natural forum for sharing the way there would be in a company. In fact, the people you need to share with might include jealous competitors. So it may not be possible to create that community you wanted, at least not indefinitely. And that's even if you can avoid interweb trolls; I assume you have to spend some time every day filtering that crap out and that can't be fun.

I'm just doing a late night brain dump here, not even sure any of this is coherent. Maybe a vacation is all you need. I don't know you well enough to say, or even guess. All I can say is that the gear talk in this blog nails it. It's at the level of being useful information, rather than measure-bating geekology. If it disappears, I'd miss it. Whether knowing that you have followers is enough motivation for you, only you can know. Hard to imagine that being enough forever though.

Graham Harris said...

Kirk, yours is one of the very few blogs I look for daily. Why? because you write well, the topics are interesting and the portraits are stunning. I think most of what needs to be said has been said already, but I do like the general tone of criticism and the deeper reflections on what you are trying to so. Those are rare. Do keep writing if it so moves you, we'll be here waiting for the latest critical insights.

Funnily enough, I've just done the switch from Canon to Sony and have much the same gear as you - for much the same reasons. But now I have no GAS I've long since given up on all the other marketing bumf sites - and now I face the problem you so eloquently write about.... the quality of the photo is determined by the brain and eye behind the camera, not the glass on the front. How do I make pictures that I want to keep keep coming back to - for years? (There's recently been a nice post on Aeon about that too.) I love your portrait posts taken with over gear - you do that so well.

There are few enough opportunities to get off the bus, stop awhile and think and reflect on what goes into making art that lasts. Yours is one of very few opportunities in the day to do so. I think you've ended up in just the right place.

best wishes from Down Under - where's winter time! (but still warm and sunny!)

Lorne Cheeseman said...

Been lurking and not commenting for some time. I really do enjoy your writing and it has prompted me to think more about my photography. I am a keen amateur and my interest has waxed and waned over the years. I have taken some nice pictures over the years and enjoy the ongoing learning about cameras, photography and the art behind them.

First of all please continue your blog and I will try to participate more in the community. Although I do feel like there are lots of people out there with way more worthwhile things to say than me.

Secondly, this post was rather poignant for me as I have been struggling through my interest in photography for exactly the reasons outlined in your post. At the tail end of the height of film photography I enjoyed going out for a day with my camera gear a bunch of film and finding something to take pictures of. I have now moved to digital and struggle to get interested in doing that and even when I do get in the mood I find the competition with my wife and her phone to be just a bit overwhelming as she steps in front of me and "steals" my shots posting them to whatever social media and having all her friends fawn over them. Somehow, something is just missing for me and I find myself frustrated. Your post brought out some of that frustration and put words to what I have been struggling to identify. I have been a Pentax shooter for years and have stuck with the brand mainly because of my purchases of good lenses years ago. I have been excited for years about the possibility of a full-frame camera from Pentax. Now that camera has arrived I still haven't pulled the trigger and am not sure if I even will. I just feel a bit blase about it. Part of the reason is that the joy of it just seems to have gone.

Anyway, thought I would share my thoughts of how your post touched me. Please keep up the blog and I promise to keep reading.

Anonymous said...

Hell, I don't know the answers to your questions. I do know that I read your blog every day and always find it interesting. If you stop writing the blog it would complete a dismal trifecta for me as my two favorite columnists in the San Francisco Chronicle have recently retired. How's that for a selfish perspective? The unsatisfactory consolation is telling myself that the only constant is change. If you go, please accept my thanks for unselfishly writing the blog for as long as you did.



Paul Perton said...

Like many other commenters, I read VSL daily.

I read it because I like Kirk Tuck. I like what I see of his lifestyle and his approach to things. I like his quirky GAS and that he isn't afraid to waste a few dollars changing direction (entirely) when the mood is upon him.

VSL? No discussions of a heightened nature here - thank goodness. Instead, commentary, ideas and the life of an honest working photographer, making enough to pay the bills and indulge a GAS-driven whim when appropriate.

What else could one possibly want?

Gary said...

Two further thoughts: first, the ubiquity of mobile phone snaps has nothing to do with your own outstanding work, the insights you provide in the blog, or, I suspect, the interests of your readers. Second, do what you want; writing the blog is not an obligation.

Andrew Wright said...

Like many of the others who have commented, I like your blog for the breadth of the content posted. You write well and are always interesting in what you say. I will keep on reading as often as you post.

All the best.
Andrew W.

Goff said...

Kirk
I read your blog every day. It's style is unique.
I read your reviews of gear, knowing where you come from.
Your thoughtful review of the Leica SL made me decide to switch from M240, which was the right decision for me.
Please keep up the good work.
Like the BBC under its founder Reith, your blog is informative, educational and entertaining.
Goff

UP41 said...

Thanks for your writing.

This is the first time I comment although I read your blog for many moons. I don't comment partly bec of my English, partly because I am not a photographer just a snapper ( not with phone) , partly I don't think I can add anymore to your post.

I don't know much about the technical stuff and the photography business & I read your blog not so much for the gear but for all the life stories, insight and beautiful photographs ( would prefer more photo) you shared.

mosswings said...

what wonderful, thoughtful comments about this post. These are the sorts of people that your blog has attracted, Kirk: people like yourself, who know that it's the story that counts, and that you write about life, framed by a lens sometimes, by your unencumbered eyes other times.

Think of this as your 2nd novel...and your 3rd...and your 4th. Or perhaps, your non-fiction book.

The time for devoted photo nerding for me is passing. I value tools that take advantage of what we're now able to do, that get out of the way more in capturing my observations of the world and in aiding the stories I try to tell. That is not a bad thing...only for purveyors dependent on flogging the latest thing.

There is always space for reflections on life. Perhaps not every day, but as the time is right. Keep posting, please. Keep writing about life. Occasionally with a picture.

Thanks.

Gato said...

First off, keep writing. You do some of the most interesting writing about photography (and sometimes about life)anywhere around.

Photography is changing and will change. The biggest change is that change is coming faster.

I do think that the photography fad is winding down, that we will see fewer people rushing out to buy cameras and proclaiming themselves photographers. But that may be a good thing, except for those selling cameras or depending on blog numbers for a living.

As to your blog, I think you have a good niche. I would expect your numbers to fall a little but since you do not depend on the blog for income that may not be very important. You may find yourself with a more loyal, more knowledgeable core as the casual photographers drop away. For myself, I have grown bored with the equipment and technical blogs I once followed. I am much more interested in reading about the activity and process of photography, both professional and personal. Meaning that you, Mike Johnston, and Molitor are about the only bloggers I really follow anymore.

I do hope you will keep writing, and will continue to evolve as the world changes.

Jim S said...

I have to admit to being a content guzzler over here of your wonderful blog. I am a person who loves photography but will never be what you and many of your readers are, exceptional photographers. So I don't comment or participate much since it would be like an elementary school student participating in a college level debate. I don't come to your blog for technique and other type of stuff, at least not directly. I come and read your blog because I generally like your sense of humor, perspectives on photography/business/society, etc. at the end of the day, I want you to do what you want to do. I'll support it and you in any way.

With regards to your overall comments on what has happened to photography I think you are right about the 99%. The cell phone cameras have become more than good enough, especially in bright light. And you can be sure the Apples and Samsungs are working with Sony to get the lower light situations better. I don't do social media but I do share pictures via email. It is nice when on a trip.

There is another side to the technology though. I think the use or overuse of things like Photoshop and other post processing packages has in many ways went too far. If it's art then ok, pretty good. Just call that out. I like doing landscapes and I like doing them as I see them, not as I wished I'd seen them. So many of these photos I see online of landscapes look like a picture from some science fiction novel. Overbaked is what I'd call it. Like all things photography, it's my personal taste. And yes, we're all probably heading to 32K video with 20GB 1 minute files. I can't wait. (I'm not big on video "photography" personally).

Bob Travaglione said...

In your Blog, I enjoy your articles about walking around the streets with a camera. I like to see other places through your eyes. I also get a lot out of learning more about the lenses and equipment that you employ to give us your vision. Back in the 70's, I was a commercial and portrait photographer, even working providing pictures for the Kansas City Star newspaper. I felt overwhelmed taking pictures that others ordered me to produce and was unhappy with the work. I made a big shift into becoming a realtor. But I continued to take along a camera and record the world that I wanted to record. I was at different places every day. I now have have a ton of work and am selling some as stock and text book illustrations. My point is, you touch many photographers at different points in their lives and your opinion does add to our connection to the craft of photography. So, just go where you feel you need to go with the direction of this blog. Thanks for everything up to this point Kirk.

Chappy Achen said...

There are only 3 blogs that I read on a daily basis, yours, The Online Photographer, and The Luminous-Landscape. Yours brings a perspective to working and solving problems that are valuable to me. I am retired and live in a small town and have to be a jack of all trades when it comes to photography. I find myself enjoying the tasks that I am asked to perform from photographing the local stage shows, family get-togethers and all that sort of thing. Your writings on how you go about your day and problem solving is very enjoyable to read, and the fact that your not so hung up on any particular camera system is refreshing. Thanks for your talent and your willingness to share it with us.

Philip Lewis said...

Well, I was amused a while back when you said you were taking a vacation because you did not have anything interesting to say at that point. Judging by the comments on this thread, you must have your mojo back. I follow your blog because I like your evolution in shooting style. I don't do video nor print larger than 13" wise. Nor do I need shallow DOF of FF. I am a retired engineer and appreciate good gear, but I need it small to carry, so I stick with m4/3. I improve, but will not live long enough to see light the way you do. Keep up blog and take a few announced breaks, seems to work for you and most of us.

Thanks,

Phil

David said...

Well, I like reading your blog.

First of all, I like your very practical get-the-job-done attitude. You leave the 42mp camera at home and take the 24mp one. You shoot JPEGs! On a professional job! I mean, who does that? You seem to take most any off-the-shelf camera and produce professional results. And then there's the whole FZ1000/RX10 thing. I find it very refreshing.

Next, I'm enjoying following your journey into the dark jungle of video. I don't plan to go there myself. Maybe you didn't plan to either. But the market said you needed to, and so you did. It has been a learning experience for me to watch you come to grips with codecs, sound, microphones, and all the other strange video stuff.

I like it that you wander around downtown Austin just to take pictures for the fun of it. It seems like the Internet doesn't have many photographers who are shooting just for the fun of it.

Also, I think you like writing your blog. Why shouldn't you? If you want to quit, that's OK; although I will leave a hole in my morning. But if you are having fun with it, keep it up. Just for the fun of it.

David Littlejohn

PS--My wife also enjoys seeing pictures of Studio Dog.




Anonymous said...

Kurt: I bet you have many readers like me. I only read blogs where the writers are thinkers. I don't often comment on them, so I am likely invisible to the blogger. I continue to be amazed that you have a never ending supply of new and interesting ideas. I suppose that among those ideas, the question of continuing the blog must arise from time to time. Thank you for taking the time to inform my mornings. I really hope you continue. You ad great value.

Ken said...

A lot of good comments here, many of which I agree with wholeheartedly. I'm just going to be blunt and to the point, as you are in so many of your posts. I visit your blog multiple times a day to read whatever it is you choose to say. Honestly, I don't even care for your style of photography and the subject matter your assignments bring you to create, except the theater photography. If I never see a skyscraper construction project against a blue sky again I will not be saddened. I tune in for your opinions, viewpoints, insights, writing style, wit, analogies, sense of history, perspective, descriptions of the process, experience with different equipment and more. Even your frustrated "why do I even bother continuing this blog" posts. I find your writing, though focused on the photographic process and mindset, to be a deeper exploration of important things that need to be explored. Besides, you're a writer, naturally, with a clear voice, and I don't think you could give up the blog even if you wanted to!

RayC said...

A lot to chew on here. I'll address one piece however. I don't view the ever present selfie and posting of images as anything really to do with "photography" but more as a crossover from the instamatic of days gone by combined with a digital shoebox (Facebook etc) to store them in. Maybe a visual diary? The beauty of this is a lot fewer sessions of passing the packages of prints around (or worse a 2 hour slide show) after someone's trip.

How to make people stop and think about images? Print your work. Print it big.

This works for the photographer - committing to print a big image these days is a lot different than posting it as a "walk around Austin" (nothing wrong with that) or posting on flickr or Instagram. You really have to commit to finalize the image to make a big print. I often work an image and make a proof print and let it sit awhile before I commit to a big print - it is interesting to let it stew for awhile.

It also works for the viewer, a big, high quality print is a completely different experience then something quickly consumed on a blog, phone or social site.

Photography continues to evolve both commercially and personally. You have a great voice, keep it up.

Nikhil said...

Insightful as always. As a "pure" photographer I have faced that crisis of faith with the ease of photography these days, I take so many photos that I like, process them so easily in Lightroom and have so little challenge (and hence satisfaction) making them that it simply isn't fulfilling anymore.

I suspect this is why film is making such a resurgence among dedicated amateurs like myself. Firstly, the Instagram filter is built in, secondly it slows me down considerably and thirdly, it feels like I am making an effort to get a "good" photo.

Thanks for helping me clarify my thinking.

Chris said...

Kirk,

Do keep up the good work. You come across as a decent, interesting guy who is not self obsessed and, unlike most writers on photography, has a genuine career in photography. This sets you apart from all the poseurs and "artists". So please keep writing. I like reading your gear posts too, although (like many) I become much less interested in new stuff: but it is good to keep informed and to see how someone with a real purpose uses them.

Brian Keairns said...


I used to buy coffee table books like “Old Barns of the Midwest” or “Images of the Prairie” or “Buildings of New York” or whatever.

Some of the photographers whose work I bought made a full or partial living taking photographs. They were viewed as professionals and artists. They recorded scenes that I had no other way to see.

Now those same professionals live in a different world. As good as their work was I can now find Facebook groups called “Old Barns of the Midwest.” The quality of photography in that group may vary wildly but the best submissions are often stunningly good. So in the aggregate I find the same level of quality and I can satisfy my interest quickly online in most cases. Eventually I satisfy my interest to the level of boredom.

Those photographs of the prairie that I used to perceive as hidden gems capable of opening up a new world are now ubiquitous online and no longer have the same effect.

Tools like Photoshop and Lightroom have actually diminished my interest in photography further. I know there’s always been manipulation of photos but the degree of manipulation has outstripped my interest. Sometimes photography seems like a race to show off advanced photoshop skills.

The tools to make films or video are also ubiquitous but the field has a different dynamic.

I probably wouldn’t buy a coffee table called “Old Barns of the Midwest” anymore but I might still buy a short documentary called “Old Barns of the Midwest” if it was very well done.

The documentary could contain the same beautiful images I admired in the coffee table book but it could also include story, information, history, music, personality and entertainment.

It’s also more complex to create the documentary. Regardless of the tools available it will be a long time (if ever) before the creation of that kind of documentary is easy and ubiquitous.

No amount of technology will produce the script, music, narration, interviews, on-screen talent, edit style or sound design of that documentary. They could start handing out free Red Dragons on the street corner and making that documentary will still be difficult. And great results will still be elusive.

My interest as a creator and consumer has gravitated more to the world of moving images, sound and story.

Kirk Tuck said...

Brian, All very well said. And along the same lines that I keep coming back to in my own life.

Anonymous said...

Kirk
So full confession,I'm a long time reader and first time contributor of your blog. Yes a content devouring whore! Not really that proud of it though. A little history for perspective, I studied commercial photography back in the early 70's and loved photography but realized early on that I'd probably never have the business acumen to make it in the commercial business. Photography feeds my soul, I need it to fell complete as a person. It has for many years and will I'm quite sure till I die.
Regarding the cellphones and selfie crowd, I think a good analogy is the instamatic comparison. There always will be crappy photos and now people trying to validate their lives with instagram filter images, that try to suggest that they are now artists. There is now more people living on earth than have every lived and died in it's history. A true statement! And consequently more trolls and unfortunately morons. Can't do anything about that!
Virtually all of the previous responses have made mention to some degree of you being "a good writer". I totally disagree with that!
Actually you are a very gifted writer, perhaps equal to your photographic skills, hence all of your previous publications. I'm a still photography interested in anything you have to say about that. I recognize video as a art form, but never embraced it early on. Your obviously intelligent, extremely knowledgeable about your craft, understand and appreciate art in many forms and can concisely express yourself with great perspective, clarity and humor, which I love! Your musings don't need to be about photography, I'd probably be interested about your experience clipping your toe nails! Perhaps I've overstated that. I totally understand burnout, I really don't know how you post so much. I'd be happy with one post a week, if that's all that's in you. I think your a writer who needs to express himself from time to time. And I love every word of it! This is my way of saying Thank You Kirk! And hope you don't go away! Regardless, either way, I'd like the extend to you and your family my very best to you and thanks for your generosity of spirit, knowledge and humor. It means more than you'll probably ever know to a very large community of people out here in the hinterlands. Regards! Doug

Nigel Hodges said...

Hi Kirk, I think I accidentally deleted my comments- apologies if you get something from me twice.
From a photography perspective, it is an egalitarian age and from my point of view as a passionate amateur it is so much easier to make photography than when I had a six frame film in the Brownie box camera and wondered whether my pocket money would run to getting it developed and printed! The downside is that we have access to many photos that we don't like or think perhaps someone should have pressed the delete button. I'm not sure that there is a lack of enthusiasm for photography, I think there is, but many people were seduced by the idea of a DSLR when they either didn't need one for the photos they take or got fed up with lugging the damn thing around. I have learned over the last few years that I can have photographic fun with a smaller camera (and my back doesn't complain either!). I see my smartphone as another photographic tool but it can also be used for other purposes eg photographing the bus timetable as am aide memoir when going to the pub! My other hopefully coherent thought is perhaps to touch on the use of the word photograph: in Instamatic days, the word "snap" described much of what was taken - is that not true now with smart phones? Except that there are millions more snaps taken! But are they photographs........?
As to the blog Kirk, it's great, I don't see it as being gear biased more of a commentary on the art and science of being given a working photographer with humanity thrown in - always look forward to reading it so thanks and do keep writing!

Dan Jansenson said...

Leaving the intellectual content aside (and that's one of the gems in the blog) I really do love the technical camera reivews here. They are wonderful, first-person narratives of the sort that cannot be found elsewhere.

Eric Rose said...

Being from an engineering background myself and also a past commercial photographer I really enjoy your blogs. I get to live the life without actually having to take the risks and deal with the people. I'm old and cranky now lol. I enjoy your stream of consciousness style, it's as if we are sitting across the table enjoying a coffee together. I use to enjoy TOP but it seems to have lost it's way in the last year or so. I guess Mike has to make a living but his marketing savvy IMHO leave a lot to be desired. On the other hand you don't make your living from this blog so you can do with it what you want. Fortunately you are doing just what appeals to me. Hey when is the next fiction book coming out? Loved the last one.

Tofuphotography said...

The selfie generation... We used to take a photo as a memory of our experience. Now we take a selfie to give that experience meaning

Jim Hughes said...

Like the others, I like pretty much everything you write on the blog, and wherever it goes content wise.

I do believe there are major changes happening in photography. Those of us who are amateurs have been blessed by the tools that digital photography has made available to us in recent years and by the wealth of photo instruction presented on the web, and many of us have become competent photographers as a result. One big part of the change from my perspective is that the huge surge of people buying gear and learning the fundamentals of photography is pretty much over, sort of like everyone rushing to buy cell phones or tablets. We have good gear, and we know how to use it. Therefore, the audience for the typical gear reviews or the click bait "How to become a whatever photographer in three simple steps" still being pumped out by most photo blogs has a greatly decreased audience. Your blog, on the other hand, gives us insights into how to do a shoot, whether for pay or not. And for those of us who love the feel of a camera in hand and the joy of capturing images, that's valuable.

As to the video emphasis of late, I enjoy it even though I don't (yet) shoot video.

Thanks for writing! And for sharing photos.

Dave Jenkins said...

Brian wrote "I probably wouldn’t buy a coffee table called “Old Barns of the Midwest” anymore but I might still buy a short documentary called “Old Barns of the Midwest” if it was very well done.

The documentary could contain the same beautiful images I admired in the coffee table book but it could also include story, information, history, music, personality and entertainment."

As someone who actually did create a coffee-table book about old barns, which, by the way, sold more than 29,000 copies I couldn't agree less. (You can look up Rock City Barns: A Passing Era at amazon.com if you're interested.)

I can pick up a book at any time, look at each picture as long as I like, study its details, let it seep into my soul, and move along whenever I'm ready. A documentary is like a guided tour "Move along now!"

A documentary may speak *for* the pictures, but in a book or prints, the pictures speak for themselves.

Brooke Meyer said...

You're the antidote to the "Pro Forum" on DPReview and the inanity of "anonymous". Your books are good and useful. I'm a portrait and dance guy, an artist. Came to it late, its an encore career but it is all I do and most of what I care about and I make a profit. I wish the curse words would go away but otherwise you're writing is thoughtful and insightful. It has opened me to possibilities I would not have considered. Your blog fulfills the promise of what the Internet could be, the real sharing of information. As far as photography, I give Moms & Dads what they would not have otherwise and I know I got it right when Mama cries. Your blog is just about the only photography related site worth reading. Brooke Meyer

dasar photography said...

Hi Kirk,
I want to add also my appreciation for your work (photography and writing) to those of the many that made comments here.
I read your blog through feedly, by means of which I follow a lot of so called photography blogs.
Looking at the queue of posts waiting to be read I see that there is none of yours, since I read everything you write almost immediately.
That's another way to say that I like so much your vision about photography.

I am not a professional and do not feed my family with my photography, although I make enough money with stock to buy new gear every time I want.
Reading your blog for so many years I discovered the Sony mirrorless line and I owe you the decision to buy a (now old) NEX-6 that has been my faithful (and light) companion all over the world.
And I was waiting for your thoughtful advice to go and buy the new Alpha 6300.

I understand that you might feel overwhelmed by writing and working so hard. But I think that writing (as well as photography) is part of your nature and I hope you will continue to share with us your thoughts.
Thanks a lot

Unknown said...

This article made me sad... but only because I know you're probably right. I remain an enthusiastic amateur photographer, incongruously using film and a darkroom in a World of self-absorbed social media posts. I don't have a Facebook account anymore, so I miss most of the image zeitgeist. Hell, I even shoot Super 8 cine film and have a large-format view camera! Am I old? Not really. I'm 35.

For me, photography offers one of the simplest ways I know to get into "the zone", or "flow" as it's sometimes called. Whether it's out with a camera, changing settings on my old brass Canon F-1, or reading the light with a Weston Master V, or feeling the cost of every frame of Super 8 as the whirring motor clicks in my hand. Maybe it's standing in a dim red-lit room, gently rocking trays of magic liquids as an image miraculously appears on a previously blank sheet of paper. These things are valuable to me.

The question remains... does anybody else give a flying fruitcake about my photographs, or home movies, and are my photos objectively any "better" than one taken in a split second on the latest iPhone? Probably not, but that doesn't really matter to me. I gave up seeking approval from others a while ago.

The truth is, photography can be a deeply meditative personal activity, as well as being a public "look at me next to my lunch!" activity. You get out what you put in, and caring about what others think of your work isn't going to make you feel better about it.

Keep up the blog, Kirk. You have a strong voice and there are many who like to read what you have to say. But don't do it for our approval - do it because you have something to say :)

JB said...

This is the best blog out there, on any subject. I'd miss it.

Eric said...

Your blog is like listening to a friend over a cup of coffee.... Without actually being in Austin. I return simply to see you; the Dad, the swimmer, the theater lover, & the craftsman.

Dave Jenkins said...

+1 on the curse words. Good writers don't need those to make their points, and you are a very good writer.

tOM_Trottier said...

A pen or pencil can be used to write grocery lists or great literature. The fact that every literate person has a pen or pencil and writes does not diminish the achievements of great authors. It likely means we will have more of them.

Facebook and Twitter are just tools to me, to keep up with my kids, to amuse me in quiet moments, to forward my political goals. They are not my social sea.

I greatly enjoy your blog, your stories & observations, of the world, of your work, of your gear and how it works or doesn't.

While I just enjoy your blog, I expect younger others use it as inspiration for a life they seek.

Please continue with stuff you enjoy.

Mark Davidson said...

A ton of good responses here that highlight the quality of your readership drawn to your work.

Greg Heisler noted that his commercial work was his personal work.
In a similar way my commercial work is my personal work.

I can tell from your writing that even though you take time to shoot for pleasure you still get great personal satisfaction from your commercial work.

THAT is why this blog is valuable. It is an authentic narrative of a person living the examined, creative life unencumbered by so much preciousness you want to die.

Thanks for writing real words about a real life that is really interesting.

Anonymous said...

People have always taken personal photos, since the first Kodaks in the 1880s. This has not changed.

What has changed: The barrier to entry of taking the photos- it's much easier now. And the ability to indiscriminately and freely share those photos with people. So we have the same kind of personal snaps, only more of them.

What really has changed: Not photography as a hobby. But hobby as a hobby.

Hobby is dead as a growth industry, and the demographic is aging: Car enthusiasts, motorcycle enthusiasts, ham radio operators, photography, stamp collecting, gardening, comic book collecting, coin collecting, craft making, audiophiles...

Things to do for old people. Now, I know I'll hear, but my son or my niece... It doesn't change it much, as an industry hobbyism is in a sad state. Photography doesn't stand alone there.

Chris Rusbridge said...

Kirk, I regularly read your posts, even though you describe a style of photography I am never likely to undertake. It's so well written, so thoroughly enjoyable. Your frequent semi-random shifts from gear A to gear B are so well described. You're clearly nuts, but in just the right (write??? ;) way!

As for me, not sure what sort of photographer I am except mostly film. New grandson and family gatherings get the Fuji X10 treatment, but otherwise when I'm looking to satisfy myself, it's the pair of Pentax MXs and the set of wonderful 1970s lenses that draw me out. I stopped "serious" photography after our kids were born, and took it up again 3-4 years ago. I'm taking fewer pictures right now, but still enjoying it. I'm afraid my skills are relatively low, and my answer to "how to take a better photograph" is mainly the classic "stand in front of nicer stuff". But you remind me of other skills. One day, I'll try portraits, and then I'll be re-reading Kirk Tuck posts to guide me. Thank you for writing something so many people enjoy!

Rudy Merz said...

Don't you dare to stop now! I I recently discovered your blog and I love your articles and especially your portrait work. It is just awesome ! I moved away from all those mindless Facebook, Twitter and photo forum sites. I love blogs like yours.

Regarding the mindless and boring ever repeating stream of photos of the masses on the social sites. This has nothing todo with photography. This is just image recording, period. No photography whatsoever.


Never give up, never surrender.

Keep up the great work !


Best,
Rudy Merz

Bay City, TX