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Monday, 14 June 2010


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But, but, but, ...oh, alright.

Ever watch those National Geographic specials about wolf packs or antelope herds, their dominant-submissive behaviours, the posturing, the head-butting, etc.

That's us humans too. No difference.

Mike, people always argue about religion. It's part of the deal. When I attended the church of M6/35 Summi/Fujichrome I was particularly zealotly. It happens.

Time, experience and understanding softens the defenses and helps with understanding and acceptance that we are all in the same boat.

You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

"K-14 or E-6"? The appropriately snobbish answer back then was, of course, "K-12"!


I'm kind of allergic to "one true" paths. I think I'm pretty tolerant of other people's considered photographic choices, and even often of their unconsidered choices, but when it gets to the "one true" level I start twitching -- and usually find something to say about it.

Thus, for example, I have a higher regard for prints than a simple bucket-count of my recent comments might suggest. I just find some of the statements of some of the very strong print proponents to be over-the-top, and in need of puncturing (the statements; NOT the proponents!). Same thing in discussions of archival permanence of print, negative, and computer data storage materials.

I don't know if that makes me part of the problem or not; but it makes me ME.

Is this addressed to all those Leica owners who think that possessing one automatically makes them Cartier-Bresson? And who LOUDLY proclaim the superiority of "Das Leica" over any other camera?

If you're a pro shooting what your customer demands then a certian level of equipment is expected to meet their expectations. If you shoot for yourself you use what you can afford and are comfortable with. I feel a good photograph comes down to a good subject, composition, and your choice of exposure. If everything comes together you can have a very interesting shot no matter what equipment you use.

Thank you for saying that.
Very true about photography.

I think I understand. But I do have a question. If I adopt that attitude of which you speak (non status seeking, non judgemental, and very secured in my choices - of course) ... that will make me better than the rest .... right?

I'd really like to know, really fast please. Its so hard to make the right choices. Where can I find a group that thinks like this?

It is unfortunate that you feel the need to even say it. But as you suggest. It is the nature of the audience. I visit TOP daily for the interchangeable values of information and entertainment. I honestly don't "get" many of your choices and that is simply why I visit, to gain perspective of what I may miss otherwise. For me, it becomes a kitchen table discussion that hopefully provides an occasional fruitful jab. I found that life became much more enjoyable when I didn't have to be important.
Have some fun today,

Discussing endless details about equipment, processes and/or seeking status serves the wonderfully contrary purpose of helping people avoid having to take a decent photograph or create something of value.

Mike, frankly, a 'discussion' on the worthiness of owning a leica is never tiresome, as demonstrated once in a while by yourself. *grin*.

Mike, to me it's always seemed to be a bizarre combination of tribalism and self re-enforcement fuelled by insecurity**. No matter what hobby you follow or interest you have, you will find people splitting themselves into divisions and sub-divisions creating their own frictions when they are actually following the same goals and ideals.

This was superbly summed up by Monty Python in the Life of Brian, maybe we should take inspiration from this and take up the rallying call of "Splitter!" to all those who think what we do is not the best way? ;-)

** I say this, as people like to feel that what they have chosen is right, be it brand and equipment, a genre, or an individual photograph. If you don’t agree with them, many see it as a direct questioning of their choices and an inference that they are "inferior" because of what they chose. This can be seen a lot in the way many people (over)react to honest critique in the many photography forums that exist.

Personally I like differences, in style, equipment, output and belief. They inspire debate ideas and ultimately make you grow. Though I guess it'd be boring if we all thought that. ;-)

Can I get an Amen?!

Status fetish is inevitable, and it's not limited to photography alone. I'm sure you've met your share of stereophiles who keep proclaiming that "it's all about the music", and yet...

Personally, I think that the opinion you just stated above is just your way of trying to seem better than the rest of us by acting like your don't really care about being better than the rest of us....

Absolutely. It's one reason I've largely given up seeking technical information (when I need it) on forum sites. What finally did it for me was to be told that I couldn't be a "real" photographer if I didn't have a backup body. Having a backup body is sensible if you can afford it, but until that point I had thought that a willingness to stand around in sleet and snow waiting for the picture I wanted to be just-so sort of qualified me as a "real" photographer. Apparently not.

Although I do seem to remember that someone once told me in another discussion that "B&W photographers would understand that there's not a picture worth taking there." Claimed it was tongue in cheek, but I'm not so sure.

Mike- 100% with you on that one. Like you I've spent nearly half-a-century in the photographic universe both taking pictures and selling gear. And, like you I've heard it all and seen more of the silliness than I care to remember. Back there somewhere, my attitude became - You want status? Show me the pictures!!!

Yes it would and Amen

I subscribe to your opinion, Mike, which makes me feel good because it is the better of all opinions out there. And I know that because I've tried a few!

It is hard for many people to separate a criticism of their choices, from a criticism of them personally. Often, a choice that someone might make is a very personal thing and they feel obligated to defend that choice as if it were their own person being impugned.

I find as I get older (and I do hope this is one of the benefits of getting older, 'cause I ain't seeing too many others :) I am more and more able to avoid taking offense when someone is critical, even harshly critical of my choices.

I find I am also getting better and detecting the difference between truly honest (even when harshly critical) criticism and simple mean spiritedness.

Or maybe I am just getting more comfortable with my choices. Either way, I now never assume someone thinks they are better than me because they may be critical of the choices I make.

I am still not sure I wouldn't choose youth over wisdom though :)

Won't happen. There will always a lot of people whose "self esteem" seems to be based on the perceived "status" of their possessions, be it automobile, McMansion, stereo, or..camera. Sad, superficial, but true.

You hit the nail on the head! I think so many hobbyists (myself included) can get caught in the trap of being insecure if they don't know/own/use the best workflow/gear/software. So many things can (and very often do) distract me from the simple pleasure of making pictures... rather than looking, seeing, capturing.

Even when I try to just think about seeing the light/texture/contrast - I still end up wondering if I there is a book/forum/dvd that will help. Before I can practice my photography I need to practice thinking about the right things and not all the garbage.

One of my favorite movie quotes of all times touches on this sentiment, where Michael Douglas says:

"America isn't easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it's gonna put up a fight. It's gonna say "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? ..."

Keeping the evident political slant out of it, the meaning is that respect for others is the expectation and should not be the exception.

... and that is why I come here.

Better you than me :-)

>But it's never* because I think
>my choices makes me better than anybody else.

I am disillusioned, Mike!

All I care about is the final results of your efforts. How does the print/image look. I don't give points for what you used or how you did it. All that counts is the final image and that's what should be judged, not the process or the equipment used to get it.

"A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song."
Mike maybe it´s time you recomended once again Jane English´s Tao Te Ching 25th edition. Of all the books you´ve recomended this must be my favourite, changed my outlook on life.

Since I'm fairly new to photography I can only speak of the online world.

Whenever I read a response that spikes my interest, the first thing I do is see if they have a link to their work. My totally unscientific and completely informal findings are that the biggest snobs and most vocal proponents usually don't have a link to their pictures/work. On the times they do, it's usually pretty poor. Every once in awhile a poster with a strong viewpoint will have link and their work is simply outstanding but that's very much in the minority.

So, no link to their work automatically gets their viewpoint rejected by me and if they have a link their viewpoint gets balanced against said quality of work. Simple as that.

Who's Better, You or I?(?)

You is!!


Discussing equipment can be informative, but truth be told, probably 99% of the photos I see (either prints or on a computer screen) I have no clue what kind of camera was used, or tripod, or film, etc., and never do. If the picture moves me beyond "that's pretty," or "cool, I wonder how they did that," and touches some part of my psyche, I'll like it. I may or may not ever find out what kind of equipment was used.


Come off it Mike, keeping up with the Jones's is everything!

Having said this, I have managed to let them go by for the last five years. I may try and catch up this year.


Guilty as charged. When young I couldn't afford a Porsche (still can't) so contented myself with a VW and felt smugly superior by reason of reverse snobbery, ie, 'I don't need to show off'. Of course the very thing I felt others were doing by buying expensive cars I was myself guilty of. When I discovered cameras (note; cameras, not photography) some of that snobbery carried over, as in,'Ha, I don't need no Nikon F, my Miranda D cost a lot less and still has interchangeable finders and screens'. Now that I've gotten older and hopefully mellowed many things just don't matter any more. It's not always pleasant to look back on our younger self but at least it can be instructive.

" I found that life became much more enjoyable when I didn't have to be important." ...dale.

"Discussing endless details about equipment, processes and/or seeking status serves the wonderfully contrary purpose of helping people avoid having to take a decent photograph or create something of value." ...Christopher Perez

These, and the original post...were *awesome*.

For quite a few years I worked with individuals with developmental disabilities, autism in particular, and took this away: Sometimes its important to examine only *what* a person says and not how they say it, which aint always easy on the web.
Recently, a constant critic of mine was questioning a shot I'd taken that she felt I'd completely f*cked up. *What* she said was "What were you thinking"? In order to not become defensive and actually learn from these exchanges I've found that sometimes we should take a lesson from some autistics and interpret the question literally and ignorant of the tone. "I was thinking I wanted a backlit silhouette"...it can save us from a defensive stand off sometimes.

It brings back to mind a line spoken by a visiting alien character in the Mork & Mindy comedy TV series: *You've taught me humility. Now I'm perfect.*

The desire to be right is just a basic human need. But the desire to make others wrong is the root of many evils.

Status Mike?
I ain't got no status, abroad.
Now here at home...nope, can speak and
write both so-called official languages
a goodly bit of italian when required but that's communication. Status as a person means we is all equal in the eyes of others.

Which reminds me, Zander needs new running

People are people. Some need to buy Hummers to compensate for whatever inadequacy they feel, others will buy eco cars so they can prove they are more earth friendly and still others will buy whatever gets them around in the price range they are comfortable with. All will look at the other and somehow feel superiour based on their life geometry.

Like some have already stated in photography it really just boils down to "show me the beef". Lets see your images and let them stand on their own merits. But alas people need to pigeon hole in order to keep their simple lives simple.

At various shows that I have participated in invariably some punter comes along and wants to know what film, camera, lens and paper I use. I just ask them if it really matters and how would knowing effect their experience. Yes I know I'm being harsh, the poor chap is just trying to learn, but what I hope he gets from the exchange is that he should first step back and learn to appreciate art before he tries to create it. If at this point they want to have a more intellectual discussion I am more than willing to go into as much detail about the entire process as he/she wants to absorb.

To get a bit more on track, if this same person just wants to find out if I used a Leica M3 for a street shot or a Bessa R so he can determine whether the shot is worthy then I feel very sorry for them. They are missing out on essence of our craft.

I feel the same way Mike. Everyone else a damned elitist. People like you and I are far superior!

Amen brother

You nailed another one, Mike! I used to jump into these online "discussions" all the time, but in the past year or so I've lost my taste for debate. Maybe it's just part of getting older and, hopefully, maturing. Who cares what camera or software "Joe in Sacramento" uses, or what "Bill in Omaha" thinks about the camera I happen prefer? I still enjoy reading others' comments (some are quite amusing), but I just no longer feel the compulsion to join in what are usually fruitless debates.

Dear Karl,

I think you are shortchanging yourself. Some of the best and brightest voices out there are somewhere between mediocre and insignificant photographers. Several of the most intelligent and informative commenters and critics, like Allan Coleman, are at best minimally involved in the act of making photographs. The very best and most insightful of the columnists out there are by no means the very best photographers. And vice versa.

I have seen plenty of websites created by people with brilliant photography and brain-dead commentary. And vice versa.

I'm always delighted when I run across someone who not only knows what they're talking about but also makes photographs that are equally worth looking at, but it is an unfortunately rare experience. Mismatch is far more the norm; I could point to a number of esteemed regulars of this magazine, including a certain editor and a certain weekly columnist (who, of course, must remain nameless) whose knowledge and writings are far more exalted than their photography. I'm not saying the photographs are poor, merely not outstanding. Unlike the words and knowledge you get from them.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Mike,TOP is one "must" site I visit every morning. Through it I gained understanding,perspectives and a few chuckles now and then. Judgment is something we all make to varying degrees, its just that some we say some we keep to ourselves.
I take pictures to please myself and hopefully to bring a smile or two to some.I have no intention to please everybody (It's impossible anyway)

Now I have to think about whether my joy in telling a viewer that a picture was shot on a fifty year old, $20 camera from a flea market is a version of passive aggressive status-ism.

Regards - Ross

But you CAN'T make a really fine print on VC or RC papers! Can you?

I used to have parallel experiences in music, this guitar had a better tone than that, this amp better than that one till I finally found a bizarre old guitar and amp combination for next to nothing in a pawn shop. That shut down the comments quickly as they had nothing to say beyond "what's that." I found every time someone would come up and say that they were a guitar player I'd cringe. Discovered it was the same in photography. Attempting to prop up fragile self esteem on someone else' back seems to be a human need.

Learned in my first year of photography to smile and turn back to shooting whenever someone started the Nikon/Canon/digital/film comments. Though I've been told, to my back, that I'm a snob for doing so. Sometimes you just can't win.

No! Mike! What are you doing! Now no one in their right mind will click equipment affiliate links. Before long, everyone will know it is about the joy of creating something based on their own choices, some technique, persistence, some lesser voodoo and just being yourself. Better replace those links with some links to books before all your income dries up.

Then we can start the book-snobbery.


For where your heading, Ken T wins. The wooden Berlebach is the "ONE", cause I can see it from the other side of the lake, Gitchee Gummi, soon, you, sack cloth and ashes, draped in black, trying to decipher that image inverted; it is the "ONE", view camera.


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