1o Famous Quotes about Photography That Are Absolute Bollocks

dumb

1. “Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected.” — Robert Frank

Truth: Photographers used black and white because 1) it was much cheaper than color; 2) color chemicals would eventually cause permanent physical damage; and 3) It’s easier to make things looks dark and bleak in monochrome. Note that Robert Frank specialized in bifurcating human emotion. In fact, perhaps the main reason for b&w’s being the art medium is the fact that color was immediately adopted as the landscape of commercial photography. It was easier to keep shooting in b&w than to actually become superior shooting in color. Hashtag: Whatever. Hashtag: ThisShotIsUnderexposedToo

Life can be sufficiently bleak without your help, thank you.

Life can be sufficiently bleak without your help, thank you.

2. “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.” — Henri Cartier-Bresson

Truth: The recognition of Phi happens in a moment. To imply that photographers are psychically attuned to life such that we recognize life in an instant glorifies the profession, but exaggerates photographers’ prowess. If you are on your game, you will recognize events as they happen, or as in Cartier-Bresson’s case, before they happen so that you can position yourself to get the shot when it presents itself. More frequently, however, you’ll see the potential for things happening and take the shot just to see what turns out. Expect luck to pay out more often than planning or insight. Like most things, photography takes good fortune, but all good fortune is the direct result of hours of practice and good preparation. In other words, keep shooting and good things start to happen. Hashtag: Self-Promotion

3. “Photography to me is catching a moment which is passing, and which is true.” — Jacques-Henri Lartigue

Truth: I’ll let Dorothea Lange refute this one: “A documentary photograph is not a factual photograph,” and, “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering [emphasis mine] life by holding it still.” (The Truth) As others such as Garry Winogrand, Arnold Newman and Joel Meyerowitz have said, by freezing a moment you change and exaggerate it so that others can see it. Just because you’ve photographed a thing doesn’t make it true. Sometimes, the truth happens in the moments after the photograph. (The Whole Truth) Martin Parr said, “With photography, I like to create fiction out of reality. I try and do this by taking society’s natural prejudice and giving this a twist.” Once twisted, it ceases being “true.” Alfred Stieglitz once said, “In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality.” (Nothing but the Truth) Hashtag: TheCameraAlwaysLies

Truth: This little girl can fly!

Truth: This little girl can fly!

4. “Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment.” — Ansel Adams

Truth: Sorry, Ansel. Trees. Don’t. Move. Try doing that stuff with subjects that walk away. Landscapes: hard. Street: harder. Hashtag: MakeYourJobSoundHardMuch? Okay, so there is that whole dying during the hike to get your shot business. So, maybe they are all bloody hard to do well and we should just embrace any great photographer’s work. Hashtag: Kumbaya

5. “Computer photography won’t be photography as we know it. I think photography will always be chemical.” — Annie Leibovitz

Truth: Sex is chemical; photography is about capturing and using light. I’ve been shooting 45 years. Let’s say this openly: film is shit. It’s messy, it’s expensive, and it’s limiting. Film cameras were largely inferior to the kind of digital kit you can get for the same price point, so “great” film photography was limited to pros who could wield pricey cameras and convince themselves that it was they who were superior rather than the equipment. Film is no more superior than noisy mirror-based cameras are better than mirrorless. After shooting 35 years of film and 10 of digital, you couldn’t make me pick up a roll of film at gunpoint. Hashtag: BuggyWhips

P.S. I like them there horseless carriages too.

6. “Nowadays shots are created in post-production, on computers. It’s not really photography.” — Mary Ellen Mark

Truth: I promise you, Ansel Adams spent more time in a darkroom perfecting a single print than the average shooter spends at the computer converting raw to jpeg. What Ms. Mark was alluding to, perhaps, is the faux photography art of Photoshop, of HDR, and of other distortions. But again, similar endeavors began almost IMMEDIATELY and even Photoshop has analog roots 100 years old. Hashtag: BuyAHistoryBook

 To be fair to Ms. Mark, she also modified her stance a bit: “I’m not against digital photography. It’s great for newspapers. And there are photographers doing great work digitally. When they use Photoshop as a darkroom tool, that’s fine, too. But at this point of my life, after so many years, I don’t really want to change, and I still love film.”

From raw. The end.

“If Only,” London, 2015. From raw. Looks like a photo. The end.

7. “Photography does not create eternity, as art does; it embalms time, rescuing it simply from its proper corruption.” — Andre Bazin

Truth: Photography is art, you pompous git. Some of those timeless paintings you love were likely outlined using a rudimentary camera obscura. Hashtag: IDon’tOwnaTelevisionMachineEither

Helen Levitt, “Cat next to Red Car, 1973 THIS ISN’T ART????

8. “Digital photography and Photoshop have made it very easy for people to take pictures. It’s a medium that allows a lot of mediocre stuff to get through.” — Edward Burtynsky

Truth: Neither a digital camera nor Photoshop will rescue mediocrity from itself. Indeed, the only dynamic that has changed the amount of mediocre photos seen is the availability of the interwebs. In the past, bad photos were kept where they belonged – locked in dim basements, shuttered in photo albums, or plastered on family room walls where they couldn’t harm anyone. Is Mr. Burtynsky implying that mediocre painting doesn’t exist? Hashtag: HotelArtSale,Bitch

9. “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough” – Robert Capa

Truth: Being close won’t make you better. Backing up won’t make you worse. However, backing up will make it impossible to get the same shot you’d get up close. The real, unspoken truth is that you should move in close once 1) you know a LOT about composition, 2) you know how to be inconspicuous when you need to and interactive when that’s better (plus when to be either one); and 3) you have already mastered some level of photography. Being in close while mediocre will present you with mediocre close-in shots. Helen Levitt was great from all distances. Keep in mind that Capa was something of an arrogant ass. That said, if you want to present people on the street in an artful, meaningful way, try moving in close, moving to the side, moving up, moving down. Hashtag: MoveYourAss.

As Ernst Haas said: “Best wide-angle lens? Two steps backward. Look for the ‘ah-ha’.” If you want to sit still and shoot, visit an Ansel Adams archive (but expect to hike your ass off to get one of his shots).

How close you stand depends on the effect you intend to create. However, if you want to shoot someone up close, from a low angle, good luck shooting from across the street.

How close you stand depends on the effect you intend to create. However, if you want to shoot someone up close, from a low angle, good luck shooting from across the street.

1-DSCF1929

Not sure this is a good shot? Try walking toward the light. Don’t be afraid, your friends are with you.

10. “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

Truth: I’ll be honest; I don’t think anything HCB ever said about photography is true. This one, however, I’ll characterize as a Humblebrag. “I used to suck, but then I took a zillion photos (aren’t I hard working?) and now I’m great.” Sure dude, whatever. Here’s a reality check: if you do anything 10,000 times without becoming accomplished at it: Do. Something. Else. You won’t get great right away, but you should be able to see good composition within your first few shoots or you need to stop shooting and go learn composition. Don’t believe me? Ask Maria to show you shots her 5-year-old son took in Venice. Good photography doesn’t happen because you keep shooting. It happens because you keep learning. Hashtag: Don’tHumblebrag;ItMakesYouLookLikeADouche

Copyright the author, age 15, shot number 200 or so. Whatever, humbledouche

“Martha Scott,” shot made by the author, early 1800s, age 15 (shot number 200 or so). Whatever, humbledouche.

And, as a bonus, the only absolute truth regarding photography:

1. ”I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” – Garry Winogrand

 If you’re doing it for another reason, you’re liable to end up disappointed.

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11 thoughts on “1o Famous Quotes about Photography That Are Absolute Bollocks

  1. I credit my D100 with getting me excited about photography after I nearly gave it up. And by that, I mean it allowed me to get control over the finished product by giving me a digital file to work with.

    I have albums of crap photos (I keep them for their emotional connection, not their artistic value) from trips I took while shooting film (I had a Nikon N8008 camera; still do). Getting film developed was a crapshoot. Maybe one out of a hundred turned out like I wanted it.

    For years, I thought I just sucked. Then, affordable scanners and digital cameras. The scanner proved to me I could take any of the negatives I have from them days, scan it, and “develop” a better photo than what I got back from the lab. The digital camera freed me from the tyranny of labs.

    No, not a chance in heck I will ever shoot film again; not even for fun.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Excellent points! I forgot about those days. I have an early set of shots that are all brown, because the developer printed my black and white roll of film using color chemicals (or vice versa, I’ve never been sure which). Film was like taking your kid to the doctor and hoping he’d actually gone to medical school, with no guarantee he had.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I like it.

    And I ‘liked’ it because the author is an iconoclast—I admire that—and beside popping a few over-inflated bubbles makes good points. I don’t agree with them all, but can’t justify my opinions without lengthy explanations that would yada yada yada the hide off an alligator; and the field (art) is very subjective anyway (hell, it took me a lifetime to appreciate a Picasso)(and face it, that was only the one).

    So: why do I take photographs?

    Because I like taking photographs.

    And if I capture what I feel (feel: not what I see), or if I can salvage something from what I did capture … my tail wags and I purr a lot.
    Mostly I slink away with said tail between my legs, but each flop fuels my ambition. I just know that one day I’ll take the definitive dine-out good shot. Until then all is practise.

    And thank heavens for digital~! Boom boom~!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you., sir. There were a lot of quotes I liked, but I didn’t use those because it’s been done before. One said exactly what you said: that you should photograph what you feel and not what you see. People get better over time, and I don’t think anyone starts out a master. All I was suggesting is that — unlike HCB who seemed to imply you just keep shooting — people get some informal tutelage. I thought he was being a hypocrite considering his formal art training preceded buying a camera.

      Plus, he and the rest of the Magnum Photographers bug the hell out of me.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think the answer is that—unless you are in it professionally—in truth the only opinion of your work that matters is your own.

        The Spouse and I walked through the Devonport ferry wharf a few years back where an art exhibition was on—all the ‘arty’ set were there doing their thing *with the then fashionable ‘champagne
        glasses and upraised pinkies) but none of the ‘works’ were worth doggy-doodoos.

        To each his own: to please self, or to sell to the market (the current, or better, incoming market~!) in which case one may well need a bit of tongue in cheek sometimes. Often …

        I shoot for me—and have yet to take a good one. (Over thirteen thousand rejects in my iPhoto, and climbing …)

        I’m with you—the guff and codsbabble that appears in some of the photo publications is more than a bit nauseating—some of the images very much food for thought. Brrrrr …

        Like

  3. I agree. If it wasn’t for digital I likely would never have picked up a camera again – largely because of the cost. As a hobby it just doesn’t merit getting on the same list as School Fees and Mortgage!
    With the Canon I can now photograph someone paying the fees and the mortgage! 🙂

    Like

    • I think people forget how expensive film was. Many times I could afford to buy film and take photos, but I couldn’t afford to get them developed until months later. Black and white darkroom stuff I just never liked. Too much pressure trying to open the film cartridge without ruining it.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. #5 – so. much. Hey, if you like shooting film, props to ya! Do it, that’s yours. But don’t act like you are superior to we digital people who work just as hard to learn the craft.
    Personally? I’ve often felt the film-is-superior folks just don’t want to take the time to learn digital. So, nyah! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • The cool part I found was #6, where another old-school photographer said just that, and then eventually had to admit she just didn’t want to learn a new craft. The Annie Leibovitzes of the world are actually pissed that other people can learn photography without having to deal with the toxic darkroom nonsense. I started shooting in 1970. There was NOTHING glamorous or superior about it. Unless you owned a high-end camera, the gear was about equal to a digital point and shoot. I loved my Minoltas, but the old photos aren’t nearly as sharp as my digital cameras.

      Liked by 1 person

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