A constant source of irritation for me, and one that I absolutely should not let bother me even slightly, is the influence of popularity on photography.
There's a lot of creative things to do out there, and virtually all of them require a
lot more commitment than photography. Do you want to be a poet? A novelist? A painter?
An architect? Well, bad news, bub, you're going to have to go deep and work hard and you
might still never get any good at it. But let me tell you about photography!
Photography is easy. It always has been, but at this point it's frankly absurd. Literally
anyone can become a competent photographer, without even working particularly hard. Almost
literally anyone can learn to bang out competent and attractive examples of any number
of genres. Flower pictures? Portraits? Landscapes? Street? Yes to all of those. Sure, you
might never be brilliant, but only weirdo critics can tell the difference between
competent and excellent and, quite frankly, they're probably just making shit up.
The result of this is that virtually everyone who styles themself something of a photographer
is thoroughly unserious about photography itself.
This rankles, but it ought not. There's genuinely no harm here. Everyone should go nuts.
This is in contrast to something like poetry. Among those who are remotely competent poets,
many or most are obsessive about something in it. They might have a deep obsession with
the history of the Lake poets, or they might really like something to do with partial
rhyming, or whatever. The point is that a lot of poets are kind of weirdos about something
poetic, and as a consequence they're pretty sympatico with other poetry weirdos. This is
true even if the obsessions don't overlap.
Not so, photography. Virtually every photographer is a dilettante, and not obsessive at
all about anything photographic. They quite naturally find the occasional obsessive to
be weird and off-putting. They even tend to find the obsessives to be judgmental, sometimes
because the obsessives can be pretty judgmental, but not always. When someone else is
vigorously doing a thing differently than you do, it can feel like a judgement even
when no such thing is intended.
The result of this is that most photography "content" in this modern era is aimed at the
unserious, is aimed to read as non-judgmental.
The result is endless miles of incredibly anodyne, repetitive, essentially stupid material.
The writing is a mix of industry news and "here's an old picture!" with occasional "here's
a really boring but very pretty picture!"
As an obsessive, I hate this stuff. I am interested in my own weirdo niche obsessions, and
secondarily I am interested in other people's weirdo obsessions. Very much in last place, I
am interested in yet another round of "look, it's Diane Arbus' photo of twins, again, paired,
again, with some stupid quote from Szarkowski!"
This, however, sells very very well indeed to the dilettantes. Much as I want everyone to
love my weirdo obsessions, it all just feels like judgements to most photographers.