Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A Phenomenon

I have noted, over the years, an essentially social phenomenon which occurs in photography circles, one radically accelerated by social media.

A fellow tries a thing out, and it is well received. So he pushes it a little harder next time, and his audience again responds well. Over time, he trains the audience to like his schtick more or less no matter how far he pushes it. Over time, his audience trains him to push it harder. It is a feedback loop that leads to madness.

I have found a beautiful example. Dan is a popular photographer on our favorite little photography forum. He turned up years and years ago, and was savaged by the regulars because he had his own ideas. Fairly quickly he fell into line, though, and started dutifully taking pictures that looked like the 1980s, and eventually built up enough credit to start, again, having his own ideas. He does a kind of "skin work" that, while wildly unreal, is very very popular.

More recently, he's been doing more and more radical color grading. He started with a hint of warmth, moved on to a kind of golden glow, and (pursuant to the feedback cycle noted above) he had arrived at, well, here:

Portrait of a Photographer

Now, there's plenty to like here. The light is appealingly shaped, the model attractive, the picture is sharp. While not a brilliant insight into the model's soul, there seems to be a bit of engagement here.

Dan is a bit of a proponent of available light, so he gets in a little trouble here with two different light colors.

The main problem, though, is that the guy looks like a banana. This is territory normally occupied by lemons, sunflowers, and Donald Trump.

If you poke around, the same photographer appears to have an array of recent jaundice victim portraits to look at. I think an appropriate search would probably reveal the progression from "warm" to "liver failure" along with the critique that powered the progression.

This is the kind of corner "critique" can back you in to. You're taking advice from dolts who are easily led, and who are not even seriously looking at the pictures. This is why, really, you're on your own. At the end of the day, it's down to you. You're the only one who cares enough to look at the whole picture, the whole project, the whole piece.

Nobody else loves you, nobody else gets it. It's all on you, so get used to it.

PSA: Reading a publicly accessible web site isn't stalking, so don't even go there you tiresome simpletons. No, I do not have an account, stealth or otherwise. You don't need one to read the publicly accessible forums. Same as all the other forums in the world.


  1. Creepy. Reminds me of dead baby portraits.

  2. Hi Amolitor, it is a long long time since I did not come here, mainly because I drop photography for a while. I see that you are as productive as by the past (I remember that you decide to stop posting at some point but resume afterwards). So, cheers from Belgium first.

    About the pictures of this guy : I had a look at the guy's album (36 pictures so far) and although they look technically fine to me, I would say that none of the 36 portraits that I have seen do tell anything about the soul of the person that appear on them. It seems to hesitate between fashion photography and something else I cannot defined. This is a matter of personal taste of course, but these are not the kind of portrait I would like to do if portraiture is the real goal.

    About the impact of social media and forum photography on the personal evolution of a photographer, I guess you are partly right. For people posting on social media, though, this is much worse, as they do not even what do get some feedback on their (sometimes very low quality) production. Give a try to comment pictures there and you will be afraid to read people's nasty reactions; they are just there for getting as many applause and congratulations as they can get, whatever the real quality of their work. So at least this guy deserves some respect, as he is willing to get opinion for a forum. But of course he might not escape the cure you are describing, as these opinions might not be very enlightening, unfortunately.

    (apologize for all the nasty English grammar mistakes I could make; on that side I did not improves much I am afraid).

    Kind regards,


    1. Your English is fully adequate!

      Dan is a fine technician with very pretty friends and a real eye for shaping light. What he isn't much good at is using these very real skills to do anything more. It all feels like a random appealing light applied for no particular reason to a random appealing head.

      To be fair, this is insanely hard to. It is, though, what separates the men from the boys, as they say.

      Also he paints everyone bright yellow, which is probably not a great idea.

  3. the ring-light catch lights distract me from seeing his reality. Dan is working on some technical problems that are perfectly valid. But his subjects are not Engaged. The catch lights don't help.

  4. What a great post! Keep up the good work.