Friday, May 13, 2011

What's your category in photography?

I loved interacting with photographers. Especially photographers sharing the same preferences, but that doesn't mean I'm picky on choosing who I'm hanging out with. When a group of photographer who loves gear talks ask me to join them for a drink, I'll go if I can & I'll immerse in the topics the group like to talk about. The topic usually surrounded with the latest cameras & lenses. Which lens is sharper, which camera has the fastest frame rate & etc. If I decided to go hang out with them I make sure I enjoy myself with them. We shared experiences & sometimes disagreements but when we disagree, we disagree carefully to make sure none of us are at each other throat.

Hanging out with a group of film shooters is another story. They are a group of photographers who really passionate about photography with film. They love to talk about where to get cheap films, they lament with each other on which film has been discontinued, which photoshop develop film the best. They love sharing experience they had with various films, the different characters & tones. Very often the conversation can go to medium format & large format films. They don't touch on topic regarding latest Digital SLR very often unless they find a certain digital camera gives them the most 'film like' result for some reasons. In fact one will looked strange to mention about anything related to frame rate & digital. For example, one is better of not to mention he "photoshopped" his photos, instead he must say he "processed" his photo without giving much details whether he cropped it, colour corrected it, or added any film simulating filters.

There are also sports photographers by profession. They are more easy going with any topics you want to talk about. But if they are given with their preference topics, they most likely love to talk about tele lenses. How they wish to get a 400mm f2.8 with 1.4 tele converter for their F1 Formula shoots. They enjoyed friends going "Ooh... Aahh... WOW!!! with their 300mm f2.8-600mm f4.0 bazooka. I must give them the credits they deserved, many of them are really good with their photography skills. Sport photographers are more accommodating with various type of photographers. Another word, if you put a sport photographer hanging out together with film shooter, most likely the film shooter is the one who will feel out of place.

I love hang out with friends who look at photography simply as a hobby that brings leisure. Full stop. Not a single philosophy & definition of photography is mentioned. They buy gears they could afford. Some has sky high budget to get a M9 with 6 lenses at one go. They shoot any thing simple from streets to family vacation photographs. They don't care being labeled or labeling people. Hang out with them is so at ease. We could talk about photography trips, cars, sports, family, investments, & anything at all. They are generous in praising, complimenting & sometimes correcting each other photos. One very obvious character I find in them is they hardly 'self praise' the lenses or camera they have. Their thinking is very simple. They just spend RM30k on Nikon, they aspect these Nikon gears to serve them well. They don't see the need to defend Nikon. They couldn't not understand why a photographer need to defends the advantages/disadvantages on the gears they purchased. Afterall, it's just gears they acquired with their hard earn money. If Nikon really need to be defended, their marketing department should do the job.

For me, hanging out with different group of photographers helps me to interact with people with the same hobby, another word, kill time. I enjoy it & the meeting not necessarily need to be always surrounded with photography. Some photographers draws me closer to them with their humbleness, the others leave me with a bitter taste after talking to them. I just want to clarify that I'm not trying to stereotype photographers into categories. The different grouping of photographers I mentioned above is what they do most, but that doesn't define who they are. I just can't categorize a person is landscape photographer or wedding photographer. Landscape or wedding may be what he does the most, but it is too shallow to categorize who & what sort of photographer he is.

Don't let anyone labeling or categorizing you into any group in photography and don't do it like wise. Like oh, he is the amateur photographer, he is from the old school, he is 'too commercialized', he is non artistic & etc. Don't label & categorize photographers, because photography type may be easy to differentiate, but human are too complicating to be judged by another human. I had friend labeling photographers by saying, oh... So and so is a wedding photographer and he can only shoot wedding and he is "too commercialized". Oh see... he immerse in gear talks therefore he must be a gear head. Peoples who labels & judges are very often do that to everyone around him. Think about it, do you have friends who always gossip, label & judge about others in front you? Most likely he will do the same to you when you are not around.

I'm very open to different ideas and different preferences in photography. I welcome disagreement & debates if it comes. But over-critcal & judgmental in the name of artistic photography? I think that is giving artistic photography a bad name when you intertwine with character flaws. Don't lie to yourselves that your high artistic level made you over critical with extremely high level of standard. Does fine art photography = judgmental character? If that is the case, I'm happy to be seen as non arty photographer.

There's a theory why arty peoples are very often hard to mix with. Their EQ is extremely high & their expectation & level are extremely high. They often being found to be alone in their own arty world that no body could understand them or reach their standard. Is that true? All artistic people are like that? Maybe some but I'm not sure. But I'm sure many of the best artistic artist are the worst critics on their own works. They can't tolerate mediocre results by their own hands. They are very often humble & sometime over timid in the public. Timidness is the reason some of them prefer to be a loner. Their works draw people's admirations. Arty people are very often rise to the occasion when it's least expected. Not some arty 'Wannabe' who keeps bombard you with their 'definition' of fine art photography. Not some arty 'Wannabe' who tell you image is what matters at the same time you must shoot it with film or Nikon or Canon or Leica. I prefer to see the title of art in photography is given by the viewers instead of a self proclaimed photography goal. True artist are not afraid to mix with so called "non-artistic" people less their artistic sense could be "contaminated".

I sincerely think. The more you try to be an artist, it proves that you are not one. The more you try to be different from other, it proves that you are just like everyone else.


robin said...

A very well thought out and written article and sharing from you, Choon Wee.
I find myself agreeing with you whole-heartedly about not trying too hard to be artistic, and not being overly critical about photography work. Photography should not be closed or restricted by philosophical debates and ideologies.
Art is a free form, it does not have definitions.

I particularly like how you close your argument:
"The more you try to be an artist, it proves that you are not one. The more you try to be different from other, it proves that you are just like everyone else."

Well said mate.

XuenPhotoz said...

Thanks Robin.