Why are photographers so "fussy"?

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momus

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I've been making images for well over half a century. Before photography, I did etchings, block prints, paintings, all that. Still do. Photographers are different than artists though, no matter what your definition of the word artist may be. Other than the usual categories like print, original vs multiples, silkscreen vs drypoint, etc, no one really cares about how an image was made. It's just about the image.

But photography is full of specious definitions and categories. 35mm, MF, LF, Ultra LF, digital, traditional, hybrid, wet plate, and on and on. Why? Isn't it always about whether or not the image works for someone, or doesn't? I truly don't understand why it is this way, and I've been taking photos for decades. The viewer doesn't care either. So why do we?

I had an "interesting" discussion w/ someone on this subject in the AIRBNB where we're staying. One of the other guest asked me, what were you and so and so arguing about, it seemed pretty heated? I replied, believe it or not, it was about digital vs film. They just looked at me like I was an idiot. Maybe because it IS idiotic.

Why should a subject like this result in people drawing lines in the sand? Everyone here know what happens when this subject comes up too. It almost always leads to a big argument. Does anyone think that painters fuss over whether a work is made w/ oil based oil paint, or the newer water based oil paints? That never, ever happens. People are only concerned about the image, and secondarily how it was made. I think as photographers we're very insecure, deep inside. Why, I don't know, but I can't think of any other reason. It's stupid, isn't it? No one ever says, oh, you're working in fresco? That is SO old fashioned. SO old school. They say, great piece. Or, I hate it, what WERE you thinking when you did that? You know, they have relevant comments. To dismiss a work because of the medium that it's in is beyond dumb.
 
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Larryc001

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Yes I agree. Photography is sometimes more about the equipment than the image. Because it is both technical and artistic. I am sure the great masters had to face a lot of the same crap in their time. When I look at a print or any other creation, be it painted, sculpted or made out of soup cans, I want to know “what does this say to me? Does it talk, does it generate a feeling or a memory? Or is it just more static?” We watched a great documentary the other night called Rolling Like Thunder. It is about the graffiti culture and how important the creation of their images are to the people doing it. It opened my eyes.
 

Vaughn

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Careful...calling someone an artist around here can cause fights.

Just a hell of a lot more to talk about with photography than with needle-point.
 

MattKing

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I think you may be looking at other forms of artistic or representational endeavour through rose tinted glasses :smile:.
Other than polymaths, many people tend to identify extremely strongly with the medium they work with and/or create with.
And they tend to congregate with others who have similar ideas.
One of the benefits/burdens of the internet is that it is really easy to crash the party of people who create using different tools.
And photography has one further burden - it attracts many who love gadgets and "the latest thing" - which there is a whole marketplace out there eager to support!
 

foc

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Whether the photographer is artistic or technically minded, there is always someone to argue that their image is better than someone else's.

Its just human nature, I suppose.

The artistic fussy photographer can argue about concept, composition, true artistic meaning, etc.

The technical photographer can argue about method, exposure, developer, etc, to the last decimal point.

If the fussy photographer is both artistic and technical, then we could be in for a rough ride.
 

Don Heisz

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You could say the technical details of an image are photographer's tags. No one else cares about that with regard to a photo - they really only care about what it's a photo of.

That isn't true of painting. People not only judge painting on the basis of what it's a painting of but also on the technique and perceptible skill of the painter.

Photographers are the only ones who know that there is actually some skill and artistry involved in photography. Photos are always deemed good or bad based on their content. Non-photographers are more inclined to think any appearance of composition is accidental and that everything else simply follows a formula.

There, undoubtedly, have been many times when accepted techniques in the other visual arts became passe and derided by critics and fellow artists, where artists themselves became seen as old-fashioned or out of touch, all based on their technical decisions.
 

BrianShaw

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Your observation (criticism) is likely a function of photography forums and clubs rather than photography in general. It’s mostly when two or more photographers gather that size comparisons and rivalry happens. It’s a subset of photographers who like to argue and strut and ruffle feathers… such a bore!

And, yes, similar people exist in every art form. In fact, in every human endeavor.
 

baachitraka

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It's always about the image and me personally is poor in drawing so I end up choosing camera as a device to make images (photos). Unfortunately, over time identifying oneself with their devices becomes inevitable, since you may show your images on that day but you can show your device on any day.

* I identify great masters in photography only from the images they have made.
 

Tel

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I only got into one of the digital vs. film arguments when a clerk in a lab (where I used to take my film) got aggressive about my preference for shooting film. I no longer use that lab, not because of that guy but because they botched a print job. I do a lot of sketching too, and I enjoy the low-tech aspect of that, just as I enjoy the more technical side of photography. When confronted with an argumentative disciple of digital, I usually just say that I prefer film and walk away.
 

VinceInMT

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I would suggest that what you are describing extends outside of photography and is easily observed in other endeavors and IMO it is largely a male thing. I spent several decades as a high school teacher (drafting, computer programming, and general technology) and there was definitely a different in how the boys and girls approached the subject matter. In general, the boys were very interested in the tools we used aside from the assignments. The girls just saw the tools a means to an end and as long as they functioned that’s all they were interested in.

And while this is anecdotal, the art group I go out and sketch with is about an even spilt between men and women. I have noticed that the women tend to talk about their approach to the subject and the men want to know what kind of paper/pen/watercolor one is suing.

I belong to a car club. It is almost all men and the talk is almost always technical. I have friends in two other car clubs both of which have about equal number of men and women. They tend to talk about their drives. Now, this could be because those two clubs are focused on specific brands and their cars are new(er). My club is all vintage foreign and we do have to spend some time keeping them drivable, again, an attraction to the tools.
 
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I would suggest that what you are describing extends outside of photography and is easily observed in other endeavors and IMO it is largely a male thing. I spent several decades as a high school teacher (drafting, computer programming, and general technology) and there was definitely a different in how the boys and girls approached the subject matter. In general, the boys were very interested in the tools we used aside from the assignments. The girls just saw the tools a means to an end and as long as they functioned that’s all they were interested in.

And while this is anecdotal, the art group I go out and sketch with is about an even spilt between men and women. I have noticed that the women tend to talk about their approach to the subject and the men want to know what kind of paper/pen/watercolor one is suing.

I belong to a car club. It is almost all men and the talk is almost always technical. I have friends in two other car clubs both of which have about equal number of men and women. They tend to talk about their drives. Now, this could be because those two clubs are focused on specific brands and their cars are new(er). My club is all vintage foreign and we do have to spend some time keeping them drivable, again, an attraction to the tools.

It's why I think women often make better photos. They focus on content and feelings, art, that is the whole point of a photo. Men think they're great if they have 14 stops of tones.
 

pentaxuser

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I had an "interesting" discussion w/ someone on this subject in the AIRBNB where we're staying. One of the other guest asked me, what were you and so and so arguing about, it seemed pretty heated? I replied, believe it or not, it was about digital vs film. They just looked at me like I was an idiot.

No wonder. Before you told the guest what it was about he probably thought it was something genuinely serious like "Pre-wet" or no "Pre-wet" 😁

pentaxuser
 

Eric Rose

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Forums attract gearheads and techno nerds. It's probably not the best way to discuss art or learn about it.

My first wife was a recognized artist dealing mainly in painting. She also produced stunning, creative photographs in both print and transparencies.

Once she learned the basics of photography, which honestly shouldn't take to long, she never enquired about them again. Just went out and made art. If a photographer type started asking questions about f stops blah blah she would just zone out. Could care less.

There are artists and there are photographers. Only rarely are the two present in the same person.
 

Ian Grant

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It's a fluid medium photography, we make personal choices in how we work, choice of format, style of camera, materials used. It also depends on why you make images, and what you intend to do with them.

I think Alan Klein makes a point, but I'll put it a different way, it's important to have sufficient craft and confidence to focus on the content and feel of an image, rather than worrying or obsessing on technique.

Personally although I'm largely a Large Format photographer, I find it important to also shoot Medium Format, I only shoot 35mm for occasional projects these days. But I think it's important to push boundaries and not stay in a rut.

Ian
 

AnselMortensen

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As a photographer who shoots large format, "fussy" can mean
"Having To Pay Attention To Every Tiny Detail" ....because, well...have you checked the price of 8x10 film and processing?
However, I also shoot 35mm, medium format, low-fi, and even "electronic"...whatever is suited for the subject or situation.
What I find even more intriguing, however, is that non-photographers viewing a photo have to know "What The Subject IS" before they pass judgement on whether or not they "like" it...
I propose that is why Ansel Adams is a more well-known photographer than, say Brett Weston, Richard Garrod, Oliver Gagliani, among many others.
 

Cholentpot

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I shoot 16mm through 4x5 on who knows how many emulsions and formats and systems. I don't stick with one development method and I don't have a specific vision, although I've been told recently that most of my work is over exposed. I guess that's my vision?

I am fussy about many things though. Camera strap needs to be just right.
 
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Forums attract gearheads and techno nerds. It's probably not the best way to discuss art or learn about it.

My first wife was a recognized artist dealing mainly in painting. She also produced stunning, creative photographs in both print and transparencies.

Once she learned the basics of photography, which honestly shouldn't take to long, she never enquired about them again. Just went out and made art. If a photographer type started asking questions about f stops blah blah she would just zone out. Could care less.

There are artists and there are photographers. Only rarely are the two present in the same person.

Eric: Does she have a web page or Flickr? I;d like to see her work.
 

Sirius Glass

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It's why I think women often make better photos. They focus on content and feelings, art, that is the whole point of a photo. Men think they're great if they have 14 stops of tones.

I do not worry about 14 f/stops of tones, since I know I can get it when I want to and when it is not possible, so my major thoughts are about composition and choice of compositions. I already have the equipment I want and I have not had a GAS attack in almost a decade. I know how to develop and print. Could I do a better job of printing? Yes, but I do not fuss over it.
 

Sirius Glass

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No wonder. Before you told the guest what it was about he probably thought it was something genuinely serious like "Pre-wet" or no "Pre-wet" 😁

pentaxuser

Digital camera users in general do not seem to be concerned with questions about whether of not to pre-wet.
 

Vaughn

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What I find even more intriguing, however, is that non-photographers viewing a photo have to know "What The Subject IS" before they pass judgement on whether or not they "like" it...
That does not sound likely to me.
Sorry for the weird double-quote.

Many non-photographers, and some photographers, see a photograph and go straight to the subject..."That's a cute puppy!" ...instead of approaching the photograph as an image of a (cute) puppy. One of the many hazards of photography.

As photographer working with the light on the landscape, I have to accept that many people will treat a show of my images more as a travelogue.
 
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