Friend and photographer Laurie Edison was reading over a digital camera review I had lent her and chanced upon the "25 Years Ago..." column in Popular Photography & Imaging magazine. There was hot and heavy debate going on over whether real photographers deigned to use auto-exposure cameras. She was both amused and bemused that photographers would get so heated up over something like that.
I pondered a bit and observed that it has been this way for as long as I've been in photography. You've had photographers claiming (at different times) that real photographers don't use in-camera/TLR metering, auto-exposure, motor drives, and auto-focus (I may have missed a a few technical innovations they've railed against).** Decade after decade the same old tired battles get waged to the same pointless non-end.
I figured out what it's all about: photographers are incredibly insecure! They are terrified that the world won't take them seriously, because so many times they've heard "Photography isn't real art," "The camera does all work," "Where's the art in just showing what's already there?" ad nauseam.
Repeated over and over, the poor dweebs have internalized this message even if they don't realize it. Deep down inside, there's some part of them that is convinced they must prove that they're Real And Pure Artists™. What's the best way to reassure themselves? Proudly proclaim to the world how they eschew the advanced, soulless technology of the day and rabidly attack those who do for being less Pure and True than they. It's the old "I do serious work; they are mere poseurs" shtick.
It's finding common ground with the enemy: "Well, yes, those other photographers really don't do art, but I do."
Then there's "You don't hear painters discussing which brush they use and marveling over the latest paint technology, do you?" The implication is, "Like them, I am above an obsession with glittering gadgetry."
Hello?! Professional painters (as in, those actually trying to sell their art for money instead of just dabbling on weekends) do just that. It's true they have a lot less to "geek" about than we do, but I hang out with an assortment of them (I used to be one) and, trust me, they're no less obsessed with their tools and techniques than we are with ours. They just much less often have a reason to get that way.
In summary, yawn. The next time this nonsense rears its ill-informed and unattractive head, consider me pre-bored. It was stupid thirty years ago. It was stupid ten years ago. It's still going to be stupid tomorrow. Some things are constant.
*I have no idea if David would approve of the specific opinions in this article, but the attitude I'm copping/copying is pure quill.
**You can add "digital photography/printing isn't real photography/printing, because..." to this list, but I'm not going to devote much space to that because it is so mind-numbingly, oh, mind-numbing. Can you say "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it?" That's right, I knew you could.
Mike adds: Fun story: I used to work with a guy whose predecessor on the job was an old-timer who shot with nothing but 4x5. Apparently he shot everything with a Speed Graphic. He did everything on 4x5, even copy work. He would leave the studio to cover an event taking with him just his Speed Graphic and six sheets of film. He didn't think much of anybody who needed more exposures to cover an event, and was contemptuous of anyone who used smaller film sizes. (My friend said that photographers of this generation would even refer to medium-format Rolleiflexes as "miniature format" cameras(!).) Who knows, maybe he would even have said they "weren't real photographers," just as Ctein says.