"Fussy" photographers.

Several of the criticisms of what I'm writing about the Fuji X-Pro 1 have centred around the fact that some think I'm too "fussy", making something appear more important than it is and generally being over-critical. Its interesting that someone wrote in a thread at Dpreview that they thought clicking aperture blades was commonplace, it was unimportant, and in the devil-may-care attitude I hear and read from many hobbyists (and some professionals too - though not many) "It doesn't bother me, I just get on with taking pictures." 

I sometimes wonder what some photographers are not bothered by. Its interesting to me what some people are prepared to tolerate, and why they then feel they can then arrogantly inform other photographers as to what matters and what doesn't. Or more accurately and even more arrogantly, tell other photographers what SHOULD matter to them and what shouldn't.

In writing one of my assessments of the X-Pro 1 I wrote that, regardless of speed, a camera with a "Pro" tag should be able to lock focus on whatever its pointing at. I was informed in a forum that no camera does this, and I should just live with it. Firstly, I beg to differ on the accuracy of that, in that my Sony NEX-7 has never yet, once missed locking on in AF mode. Secondly, why should we put up with it? Shouldn't we all be complaining when things don't work as they are supposed to, and even more galling don't do the things that large budget advertising campaigns assure us that they will do.

The iPhone problem that meant it stopped working when you held it too tightly was apparently answered by Steve Jobs as something like "You are all holding it wrong." Arrogant tosh, as was Canons response to all the complaints about the 1d Mk II and its focusing problems. Their solution was to either pretend it wasn't happening or claim to have fixed it when they hadn't.

The crazy thing is that there are people who go along with this, accept something as faulty and then turn round and criticise others who rightly complain about it.

So how does this impact on photographic output? Yes I'm fussy, I'm picky, I have demanding standards and yes I'm proud of it. I apply it to the gear I use and I also apply it to the pictures I take. I want the best I am able to afford in the former and produce the best results my abilities allow me to in the latter. In the explosion of imagery that has occured in the wake of digital photography, I see far too many "It'll do" pictures. "It'll do" in terms of composition, "It'll do in terms of exposure and "It'll do" in terms of post-processing. Photographic forums are full of pieces about how the photographer only shoots jpgs., usually accompanied by some justification piece that claims shooting raw isn't any better anyway. They are also full of "Its good enough for me", "You only need X,Y or Z" or "This does what I need so the rest of you should stop complaining" type attitudes.

Is this acceptance of mediocrity, symptomatic of a general "dumbing-down"? An attitude that elevates reality show cretins to the level of "celebrities", which glorifies the ordinary via social networking sites and rejects things that require commitment, hard work and practice, are challenging and require creativity and insight. 

I'm often bewildered by why so many people spend so much on the photographic internet when they have such limited ambition. They also seem to be proud of it. They flaunt their "amateurism" for all to see. And amateurism, in this context, has nothing to do with making money. The notion that you only take care with work that makes you money, is also to my mind symptomatic of this attitude. I've known many photographers who have no desire to make photography their profession but who take great care to produce the best they can. You only have to look at the work of Vivian Maier to see what an attitude like that can achieve.

The simple answer to all this is I just don't take any notice of or give any credence to people who "play" at photography. Why should I? If they don't care enough to question what they are using or what they do, who don't seem to seek improvements in either their gear or their picture making and who seem satisfied to churn out endless repetitions of images created almost exclusively with the automatic functions of their camera, why should I care about what they think or what they produce?

I assume, possibly wrongly, that the people who read this blog are committed totally to photography. I am, and since everything I write is influenced by that, I imagine that anyone else who is interested in what I write must be too. Maybe I've got this totally wrong, however I have no way of knowing either way.

For the most part, this is meant as an entertainment, with the odd serious piece like this popping up from time to time. And yes pieces like this do tend to appear when I read stuff that promotes misinformation, is ill-thought out, rude and self-centred. (Which if you spend time on the right sites, could actually be most of the time!) To me photography isn't an argument, its not a conflict. For example I hate reviews that start X v Y, implying some battle. "Canon takes on Nikon", "The Nikon buries the Canon", "The Sony blows the opposition out of the water". All this B-Movie militaristic rhetoric leaves me cold and I will have none of it. Life fortunately doesn't consist of just winners and losers.

A background in public service and the arts has left me with what are somewhat old-fashioned attitudes. Notions about the capacity for improvement, that we should all attempt to achieve to our highest potential, to value creativity and commitment and that actually learning how to get the best out of ourselves is something we should all pursue, even though it might take some work and be challenging. I also seem to be unable to take anything on trust. I've never been good at doing what I'm told unless I see a good reason for it and accept the integrity and validity of the reasons I'm being given and trust and respect the person who's giving out the instructions. 

Consequently, I have a questioning and skeptical attitude to hype, publicity speak and all that entails and generally won't come to a conclusion unless I've "seen for myself". I also have a, probably naive, belief in the possibly of being able to influence things and also try as much as I can to be honest in what I write and say. 

When people actually let me loose on students in a classroom, I was known for becoming very frustrated when people didn't at least make some attempt to move forward. I was always keen to encourage ambition, an inquisitive attitude and a sensibility that opened up possibilities, differences and new experiences rather than shutting them down. I also tried to instil an attitude that meant that my students took pride in doing the best that they could and weren't afraid to sometimes fail. I also believe in fostering attitudes that allow the possibility of change, of allowing yourself to be convinced and to question dogma and ill-informed prejudice at every opportunity.

With this in mind it is surprising how often the internet, supposedly a haven of freedom and possibilities becomes a thought enforcing and often bullying medium. However I see that as no reason to stop doing what I'm doing, and despite occasional bouts of pessimism, I do have a hopeful vision of the future.

By writing what I do, I am aware that from time to time I will get criticised. Unfortunately it is the nature of the beast that means that criticism will often be short, sharp and nasty. Well, if thats how it must be, then I may not like it and certainly would never do it myself (unless of course you try to tell me how "creative" lomography is!!) so I guess I will have to have to get used to it.

I do however have one rule which I try to stick to and that is I will never write anything to another person via the web that I wouldn't be prepared to say to them face to face. And yes I do realise that there are people out there who would be only to glad to repeat their vitriolic comments in person, but on the whole I think people are actually more civilised than they sometimes let themselves appear. I can but live in hope. 

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