What’s Wrong With Photography? Nothing… Its Photo Writers We Should Question

What’s Wrong With Photography? Nothing… Its Photo Writers We Should Question

A review of an article written for F-Stoppers by Lee Morris.

The Nikon DF Represents Everything Wrong With Photography

Or does it?

I have a bad distaste for the bullshit club. The elitists who sit on the sidelines telling others what ‘should be’ without getting in the game. I have never held professional critics to high acclaim either… once it becomes a profession there is a compelling NEED to slam artists as the critics greatest fear is to be thought of as going ‘too lightly’ on someone who was less than stellar.

Add to that the need for the critic themselves to be thought of as far more sophisticated, and far more in tune with the art than the average schlub and you get film critics hailing slop like “Gravity” while passing on films that do well because they  were loved by the ‘masses’ – or to critics – ‘the dirty unwashed…’

Enter this terrible article by F-Stoppers written by a photographer named Lee Morris. It was a bitter, mean spirited article that sought to place Mr. Morris as that ‘on high’ photographer passing the judgement wand over those who didn’t quite ‘measure up’ to his high, high standards.

A NOTE FROME ME (EDITED IN)

Look, let me be clear. If you have a camera, and you like that camera, you can keep that camera. No one will be taking away your camera and forcing you into another camera.
Thank you.

“The Nikon DF Represents Everything Wrong With Photography”

We could wonder at this statement as something to marvel at, but really – what does it mean? What is wrong with photography anyway? I did not know that the wheels were off the rails in photography, did you? But – hell, it’s an online journal and we all know the importance of link bait. Pulled me in – guess it works, eh?

“Are we excited about this camera because of the photography we will be able to capture with it or are we excited because we will look trendy and fashionable holding it?”

Reading a little further in the article, one wonders who ‘we’ is. Clearly not him.

And the question asked begs another question… Why are you so concerned? Does it matter to you what the reason is for another’s interest?

Motive is now a point of contention when wanting to buy a camera?

Really?

“Cameras look the way they do today because they have been made to fit comfortably in your hand. I’ve never heard a professional photographer complain that a camera was too big or too heavy.”

What? Cameras look the way they look today because some designer built them that way based on design points that were measured and specced based on lots of reasons. Ergonomics is only one… And really? If you wanted an ergonomically created camera, it would most definitely NOT look like a DSLR. They are built to look like film cameras. They even have a ‘film chamber’ style – box/back/lens to them.

I take from the statement about weight that he doesn’t remember the very successful campaign that Olympus did with the release of the OM and the OM2… all about weight. The Nikon F3 was smaller than the Nikon F2 – and lighter – and those were features.

That apparently no one wanted – at least in Mr/ Morris’s world.

Personally I have heard many a photographer – me raising hand – that would like to see a less bulky camera, although I do love the feeling of my motor driven old F2’s. Manly men type of machines.

And things change.

“It’s always been really strange to me that this whole micro 4/3 explosion has happened because I feel like I have a pretty decent camera built into my cell phone.”

OK. What do we do with this information, sir? You don’t get it, much of the rest of the photography world does. I guess you… don’t. Feel free to not purchase a micro 4/3 camera. It’s allowed.

“If I want to take a professional picture, then I’m going to grab my professional camera.”

No such thing, Mr. Morris.

Define a “professional” image.

Define a “professional” camera.

Really cannot be done. Professional photographers have been making images on everything from home-made pinhole cameras to the most expensive one-off’s ever created (think the massive Polaroid machine). There simply is no definition of either that makes any sense at all.

But what Mr. Morris is saying is that he feels more “professional” when he has his big DSLR in his hand. Fine – but isn’t that what you are telling the rest of us is ‘wrong’ with photography? That need for ‘show’?

“So please don’t try to tell me you need a DF because it’s so easy to travel with and then strap a 70-200mm to it.”

Ummm… OK… no, wait. I have to tell you that I won’t be finding it easier to travel with and then strap (strap?) a bigass zoom to it. I don’t use bigass zooms. I use really small primes. Don’t tell ME what lenses I have to use… fair?

And really, what if I did? Would that diminish your photographic experience or  life in any way… at all? Have you ever seen a 600MM on the front of a D4? I have… that massive lens makes the camera seem terribly small – and holding it quite a challenge.

So what?

“There is also no way that holding this camera with your fingers will ever be more comfortable than a full-handed grip on today’s cameras.”

So you are an expert in my fingers now? I shot with an F3 for nearly a dozen years. I am perfectly capable of knowing how my hands grip that camera… with love and affection. And no, they never got tired or irritated or – whatever.

So to that statement I simply say – “way”.

“I think it’s safe to say that this camera’s buttons were not chosen with ergonomics or speed in mind, they were chosen to make it look like an old camera.”

Hmmm. maybe. Why do you think speed is important? Not every photographer is into ‘speed’. You want to see speed, use “P”. Lots of photographers – me for one – like the idea of slowing down the process. I never had a winder for my Hasselblad… I LIKED cranking it. It made me pause between shots for a breath. I had motors on my F3’s and would fly through film – a roll in a few seconds in a lot of shoots… only to be handed a second camera from an assistant frantically rewinding and loading the first. And I would choose the large view cameras when I wanted to make sure that things slowed way down.

Those choices were important to me. They were important to a lot of photographers. In fact, up until the F4, whether to motorize the advance of the film was a choice we made as well. And lots of shooters like Eugene Smith chose lighter cameras over the weight of those early motors. Yeah – weight and size did matter to them as well.

“Do you know why older cameras had a mechanical shutter release cables? Because they hadn’t invented better technology like self timer, infrared, or radio triggers.”

Better? Never had the battery go out of my cable release, never had any interference issues with my cable release, and I never had to make sure I had the right frequency on my cable release.

Better sir, is a term not suited for this discussion.

(And the self timer is quite old in camera construction… makes me wonder how much the author really knows about this stuff.)

“When I saw a picture of this camera being used with a physical shutter release cable it was proof that my theory was correct: so many people don’t care about pictures anymore, they just want to be “photographers.” “

Another whiner. Soooo concerned about how many people are photographers… You know what, Mr. Morris, it is exactly that point that makes me excited. I LOVE that there are lots of photographers. I LOVE that others have found the absolute joy of image making, and are finding ways to express themselves. I don’t find it an abomination, nor do I think there is something ‘wrong’ with photography because of that newfound expression.

I genuinely feel a bit sorry for those photographers who seem to be so put out by the fact that their art is enjoyed by many others. And, Mr. Morris, we are ALL photographers now. Get used to it.

When I saw that cable release, I thought about the tactile thrill of holding that shutter button and pressing it at the exact moment when all came together in my viewfinder. I had a physical connection to the camera that was real. I do not feel that when connected by wireless – and there are most definitely a time and place for that wireless connection.

We get to make that choice. Choice is good in my world.

“Using an outdated/obsolete device to take a picture makes you more of an artist today.”

No, sir. It simply is a choice my hands and heart makes. You may feel free to not ever use these old, antiquated tools. I would like to make the choice TO use them if I wish. That OK with you? If I ask nicely?

“This product exists to appeal to the same people who have gone out and bought film cameras recently because they are “too artistic” to use digital like everyone else.”

(I promised myself to not go to my usually outraged voice, but this statement pushed me to the edge of that promise. Deep breaths…)

That statement is so arrogant, so self-centered and so desperately out of touch with the subjects he is talking about that it brings into question his bona-fides. “Like everyone else…”

Does he know about artists like Richard Rinaldi, or shooters like Jennifer Boomer?

Wait… no, he doesn’t. Never mind. Let’s move on.

“You may not shoot video, you may not care about video, you may hate that still photography and video are merging. It doesn’t matter what your opinion on video is, the fact is that removing features from a product does not make a product “revolutionary.” “

I have not seen that term used with this camera. Have you? We call that a “straw man” argument. And maybe the ‘revolutionaly’ approach is the size and the way the features ARE laid out – even though not to the liking of Mr. Morris.

I am glad I do not have to worry about my opinion on video while reading HIS opinion on this camera. So many opinions… I would get lost.

“If Nikon had a logical reason why this camera couldn’t shoot video then I would be fine with it but we all know with a simple software update the camera could shoot amazing video like every other DSLR.”

More arrogance (unfounded I am afraid) on display.

It doesn’t have video. I don’t want the camera to have video. I want the camera to be the camera. I have video on nearly every other camera, and I simply do not want it.

I still have the right to NOT want something, don’t I Mr. Morris? Is there a form that I need to submit to be allowed to want what I want?

“When I first saw this camera I have to admit that I was excited, and for many reasons I still am. But I had to ask myself why?”

No. Really. You didn’t.

“Is this camera going to help me take better pictures?”

An interesting question, Mr. Morris. Does any camera in your opinion help make a ‘better’ photograph? I am not in that group. I think that the photographer makes the image, and the image is all I care about. A crappy photographer with a Rebel can get a 5DMKIII and guess what – still shitty photographs, just sharper a bit.

And online it makes no difference anyway. And so many photographers are simply shooting for online delivery that the idea that a Rebel cannot compete with a 1D in a 900 pixel wide image is laughable.

But I am not laughing.

“Is my photography business going to improve if I buy it?”

Nope. Would your photography business improve if you bought a Hassy? If the answer is yes, move heaven and earth to get it. I simply cannot imagine what piece of gear could improve one’s business. Dollars for marketing, or a studio in a better neighborhood – maybe. But a camera?

“Am I only excited because this camera looks different than other current cameras, or does this product only appeal to me because it reminds me of the first camera I ever owned?”

I don’t know. If it was, is that wrong?

Are the people who lovingly restore their vintage cars everything that is wrong with transportation today?

Are those who ride the older style motorcycles, the retro Triumphs and BSA’s and Indians everything that is wrong with motorcycling today?

Are those who listen to music on vinyl, preferring it to the CD everything that is wrong with recorded music today?

Or are they folks that make a choice. They choose something that may remind them of a time when the camera was an extension of their eye, and did only what we wanted it to. When part of the process was to choose the film type, the ISO, the processing baths… when the camera was simply a tool for the eye to look through and the brain to calculate… the heart to feel.

Perhaps it is something that brings them closer to a time that they remember and love… like a sentimental Hallmark card, or watching Costner plow the field waiting for someone to come.

That is isn’t what is wrong with photography today.

What is wrong with photography is everybody getting all vexed over what someone else is doing. What is wrong is that we have a whole new crop of people TELLING us what is good, what fits our hand, what will not be worth it to us.

TELLING us instead of allowing us to make choices based on our own needs, wants and desires.

“I’m honestly really excited that Nikon is doing something “different” but at the same time I would hate to see this camera, which I believe in many ways is a massive step backwards, become the best selling “pro” camera simply because it looks cool. We buy things every day because of the way they make us feel and that’s fine. I believe this camera will bring a lot of people a lot of joy. I just don’t want you to forget that we are supposed to enjoy photography, and not just being fashionable photographers.” (And yeah, I left out the link to the author’s workshop in the Bahamas… will let you go there on your own.)

I am staggered by the arrogance and the fake humility on display here. He is trying to ‘save’ us from the pitfalls of buying a camera because we like it, or how it looks, or because we can stand around with it and a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon listening to our AM radios and singing DooWop? It’s OK… we don’t really need saving. We are capable of making a $3000 camera purchase without being totally, you know, clueless.

Seriously.

No, there is nothing wrong with photography today. The problem is with photographers.

And possibly photo media… ya think.

Always has been.

EDIT… I was accused of removing a comment that was not favorable to me. I assure you I did not. Here is the screen shot for those of you who may have been told that I did. You can scroll to the comment on your own, but I thought this was really a cool way of adding a little graphic to the fun. Heh.

chuck