Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Excuses, Excuses

In an otherwise moderately sensible post, Ming says this:

As much as I’d like to say that a sense of proportion is a) developed to various degrees in different people and b) leads to a fairly consistent sense of what ‘works’ and what doesn’t, I think this is about as far from the truth as you can get.

This is an oft-repeated theme from photographers and, perhaps, other artists and wanna-bees.

The idea is that different people like different things, you can't please everyone all the time, so just do what suits you.

The last phrase is right, but the start of the sentiment is just a giant bloody excuse to give up.

What you decide you want to achieve is up to you. I do not presume to dictate. However, know that it is possible to make art that is universally appealing, it is possible to make art that is broadly appealing. It is possible to make art that is broadly appealing, as well as meaningful and powerful. It's not easy, but god damn it, it's possible. Falling back on some "well it's all just subjective innit" or "hey, tastes vary" or "most people just aren't educated enough" is just a damn excuse, and if you catch yourself using it, knock it off.

By all means, make photographs that are not broadly appealing. It's a lot easier, for one thing, and perhaps it lets you get to something meaningful without killing yourself, or perhaps you just don't care that much about broad reach. But don't tell yourself that it's impossible to do anything else, it's not. It's merely difficult. Perhaps it's beyond your capabilities.

But by golly, if you want broad appeal, go try for it. Reach for the stars, you wimp! Stop making excuses!


  1. I would like to propose that photographers, artists, and bloggers who are 'low hanging fruit' be banished from becoming subjects of discussion.

    1. What, you want me to WORK for it? Pfft!

      I'm not really talking about Ming here, though. In fact, the cited post is almost entirely in contradiction to the quoted bit, which I didn't bother going in to because, why bother ripping on the guy for inconsistency?

      The quoted bit, though, is a widely felt notion, and I have never seen anyone actually stomp on it online at all. In print, yes, albeit very occasionally. And it deserves to be stomped on, hard, and frequently.

      What I am really saying here is that greatness is possible. It may or may not be beyond your grasp, you won't know until you really try, hard, and fail, and try again. It's possible, and it's a worthy goal.

    2. I know, and that's why I thought it might be a diplomatically opportune time to bring it up. :)

    3. Sooo, who's fair game? Can I bust on cphmag when he drops the ball? I'd say he's pretty high hanging fruit. How about Chris Gampat, 'cuz man that guy. You might consider him low hanging, but maybe he's so low you actually gotta dig him up to beat on him.

    4. Honestly, I don't know and I don't want to turn my comments into an argument 'cause I really appreciate, like, and respect your writing. So, no conclusion - just a comment thrown out there. Infuriating, I know!

  2. Not to mention the fact that what is "broadly appealing" varies over time and among different cultures. For example, within the western European tradition, Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" caused riots when it was first performed and now it is part of the classical canon.

    1. Tastes and ideas do change, sure, but don't use that as an excuse!

      The evolution of musical taste has been documented in painful detail. The equal tempered scale tuning we use today would have been considered ludicrous and awful in Bach's time - and yet Bach, played in such a scale, still sounds pretty good and has pretty broad appeal.

      The tunings that Bach worked with in his time were likewise very modern, relatively, and would have been considered unusable in prior eras.

      And yet music from those prior eras still sounds pretty good, and I dare say it sounded OK in Bach's time.

      Tastes change, but never believe that greatness is anything less than universal. Whether it actually is or not is irrelevant, the point is to believe that it is and, maybe, to reach for it.

  3. "Perhaps it is beyond your capabilities"

    Man, how much better would the world be if this was a universally accepted idea. What a blow to ego....Which needs the occasional blow.

    For me it used to go like this:
    a) Effort
    b) Disappointment
    c) Excuse

    With (c) accompanied by a bit of resentment and an outlay of additional cash.

    I take walks and shoot whatever appeals to me now. I try to improve my techique, but realize my life has not resulted in capacity for earth-shaking photographs. I don't know what obstructs me, but suspect it may have something to do with effort. It is not something residing in another persons.

    If it happens, it will be a matter of luck. I guess the only way I have of getting lucky is to shoot more. It is still fun.