The curse of the (certain kind of) hobbyist.

There's a certain kind of photographer / hobbyist that populates the internet that seems to be so lacking in ambition, knowledge and skill, that I'm mystified as to why they bother.

They post pictures of their dogs and cats, grubby children with faces covered in god knows what and what they had for dinner.

In their view every camera, lens, accessory etc. is overpriced, too expensive, too complicated.

They ask questions rather than open the manual.

They can't tell the difference between an image shot on a camera phone and a real camera.

They moan if any camera won't fit in their pocket.

They use all the ghastly filter effects on cameras and in software.

They seem to be especially fond of those ridiculous border effects, you know the ones that look like distressed wood. Presumably to characterise their images as "art".

They think Cartier-Bresson plays midfield for Arsenal.

And of course they regularly tell everybody, what THEY think, what THEY do, how THEY have the best camera, and THEY are the experts. A friend of mine once commented that "Its strange how the very worst photographers are the ones who lecture us the most" 

Of all of this, I think its the lack of ambition that gets me the most. Actually lack of ambition is being kind. The "I can't be bothered" philosophy is probably more appropriate. In which case, why on earth do these people populate internet forums? And usually repeat the same old unproven, untested opinions about cameras they have never used as the rest of their kind. Because it seems they can't be bothered to find out for themselves, to come to an opinion themselves. They wait until they read some review, and then endlessly repeat the bits that suit them. 

They also seem to expect all the technology that is present in modern day cameras to solve all the mysteries of photography, so when, as usually happens, they fail to produce a masterpiece, its the cameras fault. Actually bothering to learn how to achieve good results seems beyond them.

And are they like this in the rest of their lives? Are they like this at work? Do they apply the same practices and philosophy to parenting for example? I suspect not, so why apply this to photography?

The % of people in the world who have some kind of capability to produce a photograph is probably quite large. Many do use this as a way of documenting their lives and the lives of their families and friends. Great, nothing wrong with that. But what makes a small percentage of these "snappers" decide to spend huge amounts of time on internet forums, posting their dreadful pictures and opinions, being rude, insulting others and generally being a nuisance? Are they bored at work? Does a forum give them a chance to vent some of their frustrations? Do they feel a sense of identity by inventing some ludicrous pseudonym and wasting bandwith with banalities and trivia?

There are many who seek to learn, to discover, and, god forbid, improve. However, ask the wrong question, or the right question in the wrong way and chances are you will be descended on like a pack of wolves. Or get branded a "troll". I've often wondered how many genuine beginners have been alienated about photography by the reaction of others, who they mistakenly believed might offer them some help. Whenever I see a particularly nasty series of posts, I always look up the perpertrator. More often than not they have no pictures of their own to view, or if they do, they are the usual collection of pets, children and food.

Of course, if you are a really bad photographer, then its unlikely that you will be aware of the fact. We've all seen Pop Idol and X factor and laughed when the real clunkers seem to have no idea of how terrible they are. However the photographic talentless have an advantage on the internet. They don't actually have to show what they can do. They can misinform and abuse all they like without ever having to post a picture.

I write of course, as someone to whom photography means a great deal, Aside from my family its the most important thing in my life. I have worked at and come up with a situation whereby it earns me a living, and yes I am somewhat obsessive. So maybe its hard for me to understand those who see photography as merely an interesting way to spend their free time, and as something interesting to write and communicate about, with like minded others. Well maybe it is, but what I find so difficult to understand, is once that interest becomes active, what causes it to stop or stall? To say, well thats far enough, I can get a picture in focus, and thats enough for me. With the best will in the world, if all people want to photograph is their pets, their children and their lunch, my reaction is what on earth are they doing on internet forums?

We do of course get examples like Vivian Maier, who took extraordinary images, but felt no compulsion to either do anything with them or even show them to anybody. A true "hobbyist". But then my suspicion is that she wouldn't have gone anywhere near an internet forum either. 

These days however it seems OK to parade your lack of skill, ambition, talent and knowledge and wear this ignorance as a badge of pride. Why else would we have "reality TV"? I do have a lack of patience with anyone who undertakes a creative pastime and doesn't seek to improve, to learn and to produce the best work possible. And yes, to make sacrifices in order to do that. How much do the people who moan about the price of photographic equipment spend on alcohol, clothes and their cars? How much time do the people who moan about the complications of modern cameras spend learning to play computer games on their mobile phones?

Ultimately, if photography (and I do mean photography, not cameras) is important to you, then why would you put limits on how far you want to go with it? Why would you say, "Thats enough for me"? If its not important enough to keep moving forward with, to keep learning, experiencing, trying new things and evolving, then what is the point? Is it just a way of passing the time or is it something that inspires and stimulates?

Some of the greatest photographers have been part time, amateurs and those who had to fit it in between earning a living. However, doing it out of interest only and giving it your best shot aren't mutually exclusive. If I see people who are far from full-time photographers and yet produce an inspiring body of work, then they have my respect. If I see peoples work that doesn't display any ambition or the capacity to move beyond the banal and the commonplace then they don't. And ultimately if I'm not interested by their photography, then why on earth would I be interested in what they say about it?