Photographer Arrogance

Photographers, some, are a peculiar bunch of people. To call some of them snooty is a bit of an understatement. Because there is no easier way to show off money?! At least measurebators with their “my toy is bigger”-syndrome have luckily kind of vanished since the ascent of mobile photography. Still, the bigger the gear, often the more affected the manners — not to forget the online keyboard warriors who mistake anonymity for a passport to know-it-all, and often don’t even have a camera. A “real” photographer has no time to waste time as an online smartass. People who are rude and arrogant tend to not have a lot of friends, the only place they have are forums to find people to ridicule. Yet, isn’t it telling that many photographers often are not the most communicative people? As if they squeeze the world into the viewfinder; communication attempts from outside that frame seem preposterous and are, not uncommonly, snobbishly ignored.

Measurebatoring is a purely male thing. I adore women and girls with serious cameras, especially in Asia nice mirrorless cameras are quite common among them. Gives them an aura of authority and specialty. But try talking to the average male photog at a news conference. They must be hiding state secrets; in the sense of “We are rude because we know more than anyone else.” And yet — and this hardly is news to any of these chosen ones — , their work is hardly exclusive anymore.

No-name photographers often outdo these snobs’ eye and creativity. Proof to this is everywhere. Just scroll through social media. A vast selection of amazing photographs is available online, for free, shot by nobodies with simple cameras and smartphones, yet for them photographs are nothing to show off. They’re a means to communicate with the like-minded, friends and whomever for nothing in return except some sort of gratification.

There’s a difference between shooting for money and shooting as a favorite pastime. The former is a strict process with clear sequences, often void of spontaneity and creativity, because the task is clear as contractor and purchaser know each other’s requirements.

The latter, however, is blue ocean territory, void of any shackles and constraints. Whatever format, filter, post-processing and editing, not even the sky’s the limit. And maybe that’s the reason why scrolling through social media and looking for good photographs can be such a rewarding experience.

Russian Lioness | Daniel Kestenholz
Russian Lioness | Daniel Kestenholz / iPhone 6s
Random searches reward with surprises, provocation, inspiration. Hard to believe how much creativity is out there, for free. Young talents break the chains of tradition and common techniques. Some of these visual rebels should become our teachers, and not those who preach the rule of thirds and symmetry and patterns.

True, many of the world’s most iconic photographs are a combination of the photographer’s skills and of being at the right place the right time. Most of the world’s most iconic photographs tell a story we know about, a story that we find easily summed up and described in the image. And most if not all of the world’s most iconic photographs have strong human expression in it. There are hardly any famous landscape photographs, apart from landmarks and such.

But still, most of the world’s most iconic photographs follow the rules of composition by adhering to depth, framing and so forth. And that’s exactly where the new school of more experimental, mobile, random photography comes in.

Many defy framing and reason. It’s not important whether something is beautiful or not. Messages are hidden and up to the , others reflect loneliness and solitude, then there is movement, yet others again are a wild loud potpourri of colors and emotions.

That’s hardly found in the traditional world of paid-for photography. Why would it. People pay for what makes sense and for what they can justify.

Much of the new photography is hardly justifiable, it’s a waste of carbon footprint, yet it’s a rich source of human diversity and expression — and, with few exceptions, ridiculed by the old established class of photographers who look down on anything that’s remotely connected to

  1. a small sensor,
  2. a selfie,
  3. food photography,
  4. untroubled happiness,
  5. anything whatever.

Needless to say, this arrogant attitude is utter rubbish.

You see, that’s a reason why I’m often so bored to go to photo exhibitions or look at my own pictures. They often lack those liberatian elements of defying conventions and breaking free.

Not saying an “arrogant” photographer can’t deliver surprising work. But it tends to be predictable and more of the same.

Time to rush out and play some more.

Not yet enough? For more on the topic, read Luminous Landscape’s Pixel Peepers and Ken Rockwell’s The Seven Levels of Photographers.



  • XMACHINAv2

    I’m no artist. I’m a craftsman—one who still has a lot of skills yet to master. And I believe that if you are a photographer, you have the option to respect your craft or not.

    I started watching culinary competition shows a couple years ago because I found that chefs talk about food the way I wish photographers talked about their craft: chefs talk about precision of execution as a requisite, not something about which to be ashamed; they talk about concentration and [ironically] focus; they talk about timing; they talk about balancing creativity with technique. They even talk about (Get this.) beauty of presentation. Imagine that: beauty.

    The only thing I ever hear from important-sounding photographers is their disdain for people who use photographic equipment toward the end squeezing out the performance for which it was engineered; and I hear about their love and respect for those who have somehow mastered the non-rules of random snapshottery. A viewer with the eyes of an artiste can look at a frame of random elements, none more obviously important than another, and make my his or her own composition from it, or, failing that, wait for an expert to tell her what it means based on a completely subjective [but somehow more informed] interpretation.

    I think that there should be some tension between pushing boundaries and producing work that is coherent. Now that good gear is readily accessible, the artiste relocate to the higher realm of Artistic Magic—where if you have to question the what or why of a photographic work, you don’t deserve to tread there.

    Emperor, you new suit of clothes is ready; and only the gifted can appreciate its finery.

  • You have a beautiful way to saying things, XMACHINAv2.

    … the non-rules of random snapshottery…

    The view is in the eye of the beholder, and rightly so, and that exactly lets any photograph breath in unexpected ways, while certain non-random elements, such as rules, better be adhered to, to produce coherency, as you name it.

    Beautiful.

    Thank you for this comment.

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