Another comment from yesterday (I haven't posted them yet; I had a difficult night and got going late today, and haven't posted all the comments yet): cdembrey said, "Always use the right tool for the job. The right tool can be a Holga, a 4x5 or even an iPhone. The right tool also depends on who you are. My photos are scouted and staged. I leave my camera at home when I go for a walk. Obviously we are two different personality types. That is neither bad or good, it just is." (Italics mine —MJ.)
So true, so true. This is a basic fact of photography, and like many basic facts it's one we never emphasize enough. The personality types of photographers not only influence the kinds of shooting they gravitate toward, but they also influence the techniques and tools we use, it's absolutely true.
First point first: a trivial example is that some photographers are outgoing, extroverted, and socially adept, and they have a much easier time photographing people, especially photographing strangers. Other people are quiet, introverted, or socially awkward, and is it any wonder they gravitate towards empty landscapes and unpeopled streets?
I think what you shoot even depends on what kind of human you happen to be, too. I've told my favorite story about this before but I'll tell it again. I was briefly acquainted with a serious photographer who was a thirtysomething female. She happened to be small and slight and quite anonymous and plain looking, and she also had a very mild and reticent manner—imagine about the least threatening person you can picture to yourself, and I'll bet she came close to that. One of her pictures was a shot of two very young girls in bikinis lying on grass, taken from above. One of them, who was lying on her stomach, had the back of her bikini top untied so it wouldn't leave a tan line. I discussed the photograph with her for a few minutes when suddenly it struck me: "Where were you when you took this?"
It turned out she didn't know the two girls—and they were both sleeping at the time! It was in a public park, and she had walked over to them, straddled one of them with her feet on either side of the girl's body, leaned over, shot the picture, and then walked away.
I just laughed. "Do you know how fast I would be arrested if one of those girls woke up and found me taking a picture like that?" To take that picture, I would have had to arrange the shoot in advance, be paying them to model, and probably have their mothers sitting fifteen feet away watching! As a largish male, no way in hades I'm going to go hover over two sleeping teenagers in the park without permission. Heck, the idea wouldn't even occur to me.
But as cdembrey says, personality determines to a great extent how we like to approach photography even technically. An example is large-scale setups vs. small. Having all the right lights and controlling exposure exactly and so on has never held any appeal for me; every time I try to do something that requires a lot of setup, I inevitably get bored before the shot is even made. When my mentor Steve Szabo had an exhibit of street photographs taken with an 11x14-inch view camera (really), just looking at the pictures made me tired, thinking of the all the work it must have been. (To paraphrase Dr. Johnson's piggish comment, it wasn't done very well, but it was surprising that it was done at all.)
One memory I have that appeals to me is that I once showed up to photograph Wynton Marsalis with only an old Nikon and a 35mm lens. With no flash—in a gym. Virtually every one of the many pro photographers at the event was draped with many cameras and all sorts of lenses. By accident I ended up literally right next to Mr. Marsalis (serendipity, which my personality likes and accepts), while the pros were helplessly cordoned off in a designated press area at the other side of the auditorium. The photograph that ran the next day in The Washington Post was a context-free long-lens closeup of his face with the trumpet to his lips; I think I got a much better shot. Although of course no one ever saw it.
And if I hadn't, well, that appeals to me too. I'm very provisional about pictures; if you get one you get one, if you don't you don't. I don't worry about it. (Well, too much.)
But that's just my personality speaking, nothing more. As the OP said, none of this is right or wrong, it just is.
Brazen or invisible
Another example might be between people who like to photograph adventitiously, all the time and wherever they are, vs. those who like to photograph only when they're photographing, on planned trips or scheduled outings. There's no better or worse. It just depends what kind of person you are.
Some people like the biggest, most brazen, in-your-face, technically advanced cameras that announce their presence; other people prefer small, invisible, anonymous ones no one will notice.
The list goes on and on.
In photography, as in a lot of other things, it pays to "know thyself."
(Thanks to cdembrey)
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