Written by Mike
You'd think this would go without saying, but photographers photograph.
For a lot of photographers, photographing isn't enough. Take me for example. I like to learn about photography (the whole panoply—history, technology, cultural issues, figures great and small, on and on), and when people ask me what kind of photographer I am, I say "I'm a writer."
Fact is, for many people, diversions away from photographing are important elements of their involvement.
The most common diversion (and it's sometimes fatal) is shopping—a great many people in the Internet age have become independent experts on many aspects of the equipment market, from sensor technology to the business strategies of the major companies. This is interesting, but it has little to do with photographing.
This morning reader jpbeal sent us a wonderful link about building a wooden tripod. What a great woodworking project, and nicely presented. The kind of thing I'd read about and look at, naturally. (Thanks, jpbeal.)
But I keep in mind it's a woodworking project. It, like many such things, is really only incidentally connected to the activity of photographing.
When I edited Darkroom Techniques I got a bit jaded about the extreme "perfect darkroom" projects that came along every once in a while. Out of curiosity I went back and asked some builders of these perfected darkrooms how they liked working in them once the grand building process was complete. Most of them seldom worked in their beautiful darkrooms at all. For them, the researching and building of the project had been the point, not so much working in the room once it was finished. So most of those folks were hobbyist builders, rather than hobbyist darkroomers.
To quote the famous Seinfeld show: not that there's anything wrong with that. None of the myriad diversions from photographing are necessarily bad. My longtime position on all this is that anyone can have fun with the hobby of photography however they want to, as long as they're not hurting anyone else.
But it's important, I would think, to see diversions for what they are, and be clear about the distinction. Reading books, testing cameras, arguing fine points online—or reading TOP—these are all part of the photography hobby, but they're not the same as photographing.
I've always thought that actually photographing is an important part of being a photography enthusiast. I don't know why it has to be, actually—if someone consciously decides their interest lies in another direction, different but related, then so be it. I can't see anything wrong with that.
I just think it should be conscious, is all. The danger is that all these diversions, in their many forms, can be insidious—they make us feel like we're being photographers when we're actually doing something else altogether. We might be doing woodworking projects or talking about Olympus's business statistics or planning future purchases or collecting or reading pleasant essays online. Photographing is being "out and about with a camera," in Ivor Matanle's genial phrase. (Or being inside with one—nothing wrong with studio photography or still lifes.) Looking at things and exposing the sensor or the film to light. If you want to be a photographer, diversions are fine. Just make sure none of them sneak past you wearing a disguise: know them for what they are.
from the West Bluff of Keuka Lake, New York
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Featured Comments from:
aaronL: "Mike, you're supposed to be moving! Ctein was going to give his Retina iMac review which I'm checking for hourly...Please stop hogging the blog ;-) "