I wonder if Ansel Adams ever looked down on Walker Evans because of the kind of camera he used. I wonder if Richard Avedon was called names by other photographers because he used a view camera. Or a white background. Or if Annie Leibovitz stopped using a Hasselblad because people made fun of it so much she got embarrassed. They made her feel less of a photographer because of it.
I wonder if Ed Weston really did just want to get Tina Modotti naked.
I wonder if there were ever fights that started because one guy loved his Hasselblad and another guy loved his Pentax. Fist fights.
I can just see it in my mind – someone swinging a Mamiya RB67 around, an absolute tank of a camera – in an arc, picking up momentum and force as it crashes into the temple or some poor 35mm user. Film spools and flies from the camera – decorating the sky with an ever darkening ribbon and blood. Then six street photographers run up to capture the aftermath. I wonder how many “likes” it would get.
I wonder what it would be like if the Internet existed seventy years ago, when all these great photographers were around. I wonder if they would act like we all act now. With bravado. With assumption. With arrogance. You aren’t a professional unless you use the camera *I* use. Or the memory cards. Or the camera strap. Or the film. Or a changing bag. Or think like I do. Or act like I do. You aren’t professional unless you are me. Maybe they did, only it was around a coffee table instead of a web forum. Their stings and jabs were on a more local, smaller level. In person. Face to face.
I wonder if people ganged up on someone just because they used a different developer. Imagine a room full of shooters, all getting uncomfortably quiet because you entered the room and the word was that you used pyro for your negatives. The horror.
I wonder if wet plate photographers cursed the day film started to outsell plates. I wonder if anyone ever smashed their plates in protest. I wonder if film guys snickered and rolled in laughter and the patheticness of those tintype shooters. All those chemical headaches. Glass.
It’s always been changing – no matter how far back we go. Yet, some things always remain the same.
This scan is of a page that came from “Camera Craft” magazine dated November 1901, in a section called “WITH THE AMATEUR: A Department For the Beginner with a few Suggestions for the Student, Conducted by Fayette J. Clute”. I found it at a flea market last year:
“When you are asked to go out and make a negative for an acquaintance, do not let the assurance that you “will be paid for the trouble” serve as an inducement. Do not deceive yourself that here is a chance to recuperate the purse made think by your bills for plates and paper. Either do it willingly and refuse pay, or have an understanding from the start that the prints will cost exactly so much.
This price should be that of the better grade of professional work. It is an easy matter to explain that you do not feel at liberty to do work below the price of the professional with an establishment to keep up and a livelihood to make. If this negative is made for nothing, allow the party to order the prints of the professional and instruct him to charge his regular price. If you are asked to make portraits, unless fitted up for it, decline. Advise the customer that the better facilities of the professional permit him to turn out more satisfactory work.
You may lose a chance to make a dollar here and there, but you will gain in the long run. Your patrons will find less fault with the work than if they “paid you for the trouble” only. You will have less of such work to do, but it will pay you better. The professional will be your friend instead of your foe. You will win the respect of your acquaintances, both for yourself and for your work; and, above all, you will preserve your own self-respect. Of course, with immediate friends the case is different. A little tact and judgement will enable one to draw the line. Give the plan a trial and see if I am not right.
I’ve run into the same argument no matter what year it is, and where I go. Just a few weeks ago this subject came up. Tools change, but the underlying content doesn’t seem to. Funny, isn’t it?
Decades pass. Camera bodies change, the things we record light with change. We press shutters, much in the same way they did back then, only differently. The words that come out of our mouths have already been spoken a hundred years before us. It is said that everything has been done before. And here we are doing the same things, but different, because now we have more innovations that make us work faster, see clearer, look quicker, compose easier. Yet when we huddle around in groups, either in person or on the internet, our anger comes out saying the same things our photographic ancestors covered in the past. Only now we do it where everyone across the planet can join in the conversation all at the same time; it isn’t so much that the noise gets louder, but rather the echo from our forefathers can still be heard, under all of our murmurings.
I wonder when our children and children’s children look back on our blogs and websites and guest posts, if they’ll be wondering the same kind of questions and being given the same answers. Will our thread forums echo in their ears? Only now they have our answers etched in the blogosphere ether – all the name calling, the gear comparisons, brand loyalty, and they’ll get lost finding true message of what photography is all about.
Me? I want to talk about that lobe in every photographers brain that makes them shoot the way they shoot.
There is something inherent in every single one of us that makes us shoot the way we do. Unique. Individual. It isn’t about actions, or web lessons, or hanging on to the word of successful photographers. It’s already in you, and we aren’t talking about it. It’s about those five years you spent at a fine art college. It’s about all the comic books you’ve collected and read, all the movies you’ve watched, all the toys you’ve played with and music you’ve listened to. It’s the people you’ve met, the stories you’ve listened to. It’s everything in your brain. All of that collects in this unidentified lobe of your brain and who you are as a photographer comes from there.
One of the greatest things about photography is that everyone’s eyeballs see differently. On top of that how they see instinctively see is just as varied. That lobe in the brain is different for everyone. I love that each photographer inside of them has this little part of their brain that lets them shoot exactly the way they shoot. If you ask them, they might not be able to describe it – they just do what they do because that is what feels intuitive to them. I love that. And it makes the journey of being a photographer so awesome because of all the different ways an image can exist and be created.
That is what I want to see in a magazine a hundred years from now. Not the same “Don’t shoot for free” reprinted over and over, but rather, I want to read about the lobes in those photographers brains that make them shoot the way they do. It isn’t about comparing camera bodies, or fighting about megapixels. I want to see that the craft has transcended beyond gear and actions and the common denominator product, and instead cuts our heads open and focuses on our lives and the colors and the whys that lead us to create images.
We all love photography. We photograph because there are things out there so important to us that we want to photograph them and share them with the world. That is a beautiful thing, and it floats high above all the gunk we argue about to help clutter our brains.
Maybe instead of fighting about cameras, Ansel Adams and Walker Evans sat around a table and talked about the unidentified lobes in their brains that caused them to photograph the way they did. I sure as hell hope they did.
It would connect me to them so much more than what kind of tripod or camera they used.