Thursday, October 15, 2020

I Like Photos

I like photographs. I like looking at them. I like thinking about them. I like understanding them.

Having doggedly blogged away for about 8 years now on nothing much but photographs, I seem to have assembled a little community of people who also like photos. Hi! Thanks for being here. I appreciate you all.

What's interesting is how few people seem to actually like photos. No, I'm not whining that nobody likes my blog, because in the first place plenty of people like my blog and in the second place I get that there's plenty to dislike here. Still, every now and then something happens that gets me a great whack of engagement and it's exciting and alarming for a few days, and then it settles back down to, pretty much, the same people.

People don't stick when they swing by here.

As everyone knows most of the "photography community" is made up of people who like cameras. This is not a sin, I have myself liked cameras in the past. Also, liking cameras does not preclude liking photos, although it does take up some mental space. There are certainly people who like photos and also cameras, though.

I have come to the conclusion that virtually the entirety of the rest of the photography community is made up of people who are fond of roles rather than photos.

Quite a lot of people visualize themselves as photographers. They are attracted to that role, and they want to inhabit that role, to play it, to be it. Many of them become very good photographers, after all, making good pictures (in some sense) is what a good photographer does, right?

But most of them don't really like pictures.

You can tell, because all they every have to say about photos is "wow, so great" if it's a photo by someone they aspire to be like and "utter shite" if it's someone they don't like. They don't look beyond the photographer's name. Not really. They've looked enough to master some technique, but beyond that they simply don't have much interest.

Again, this is not a sin. Really liking photos is a bit of an idiosyncratic hobby. Someone's got to be the photographers, and I guess it might as well be those people. Indeed, not being excessively interested in photos as such probably frees up a lot of mental space to fill up with shit about lights and aperture thingies.

Now we get to the bottom of the barrel, people who aspire to the role of someone who writes about photography. They all want to be Susan Sontag, or Roland Barthes. They want to be effete public intellectuals.

Mostly these people are spectacularly uninterested in photos. They see every photo in political terms and almost ignore the contents of the frame. Their blather is invariably recycled, incoherent, warmed-over ramblings based on misunderstood sources. They have nothing to say, except a tedious repetition of their own uninteresting political positions.

Whatever else you might say about Sontag or Barthes, they seem to have actually been interested in photographs.

And then there's me! And you guys! And a small handful of other people. AD Coleman seems to like photos pretty well.

Photos, it seems to me, are very, very easy to consume, but extremely difficult to actually like. I think it's like being interested in jellybeans. Everyone likes jellybeans, in the sense of enjoying cramming them into their moist food holes. Actually being interested in jellybeans, liking them in the sense of wanting to know more, to think about them, to investigate them, to write seriously about them, is frankly bizarre. It's very niche.

Welcome to my weird little niche! And thank you all for being here!

4 comments:

  1. Not THAT Ross CameronOctober 15, 2020 at 11:15 PM

    Thank you for the kind invitation.
    I prefer the term eccentric :~)
    Happy to confess my ignorance, but still willing to give my grey matter the occasional prod to see if it’s up to learning a new trick or two from your generous niche.
    Cheers

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  2. I like photographs, but I'm pretty sure I don't like jellybeans, although I'm not even sure what they are. If you start writing about them, I'm out of here.

    Besides, from where I'm sitting you are in *my* weird little niche... So thank *you* for coming round.

    Mike

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  3. I like photographs too. Yesterday, I went to see the Diane Arbus exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It was a revelation, including her 'greatest hits,' but also a lot of her earlier work, and several shots that were competent but stylistically generic. Which I suppose, is the curse of photography that very few manage to overcome, for lack of talent, insight, perseverance, yadda. Based on the show, I would rate Arbus as acute an observer of humanity as, say, Francesco de Goya.

    We also took in a deranged jumble of an installation by postmodern asshat Haegue Yang.

    Photography 1

    Not photography 0

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  4. Thanks Andrew. Thanks for all the thought provoking commentary,

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