The photography field attracts many technology and machines enthusiasts who come with the technicist attention to it. I see it as one of the reasons for the commercial photography to be seen and used as standard or reference for quality among many people interested in photography (although the debate on preferences between perfectionism and rusticity has existed since Ancient Greece and probably even before). The other reason is the fact that commercial photography dominates our visual experience wherever we are through publicity. Commercial photographers are mostly technicians who create images based on someone else's ideas. Most of it is technical reproduction and solutions, even the advertised photography in fashion magazines that mimic conceptual fashion photography. Depending how alienated the photographer is in this approach to photography he may come to the conclusion that what goes beyond such technical and commercial standards is poorly executed or wrong.
Fortunately photography is not a black and white thing limited to right and wrong. The meaning of anything is in the context. When we talk about quality we have to think about the context and meaning the work has. Commercial photography has its context and language, its main purpose is the tangibility, making the product or service presented in the image as tangible to the viewers, as if the spectator can touch and possess the object in the photo with their eyes. The visual sense appeal. It could not be different when the goal of the image is to sell a sensual joy to people's eyes and stimulate possession desires. As John Berger says in Ways of Seeing, The publicity image offers an alternative for the public, a better version of themselves, that they can obtain for the price of the product.
Photography that has other purposes will, or should, use other languages. The language that fits its message and context and which can be many. None of them are better or worse than the other nor more or less correct. Each of them are only good and bad based on their own context, public and message.
Siri Hustvedt in her essay "Playing, wild thoughts, and novels underground" refer to writing in this quote but it actually applies to any kind of artistic work: "There are no rules for writing novels. Those who believe there are rules are pedants and poseurs and do not deserve a minute of our time. Modes of writing and various schools come and go: Grub Street, Naturalism, the nouveau roman, magical realism. The novel remains."
When I photograph I often stay away from the sensual appeal, which used to be called as “sense corruption” by Cicero in ancient Rome, because it works on provoking anxieties. Instead I like to express my feelings and experiences. Technicality is about having control, the technical control of a machine precision appreciated from automated tools, catching our attention for the tool settings and control for the precise control result. In order to better express my feelings and experience I rather let this technical control aside, I take the advantage of the manual control which comes with my spontaneous human touch and failure. Or even when using automated tools, trust the automated failure as my own human failure with the machine, assuming therefore my sincere experience and adding it to the narrative context where it belongs.
Brené Brown, who wrote The Gifts of Imperfection, explains that it's important to understand the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism. “Healthy striving is self-focused: "How can I improve?" Perfectionism is other-focused: "What will they think?”. And I think it's important to remember that we should improve in relation to ourselves in our own language, context and message. Not in relation to a predetermined standard or have somebody else as reference of improvement goal/quality. This is not the same as being inspired by other creators and their works, because we all get inspiration from other creators, even unintended, in any way.
At the end, I don't want the viewers of my photos seeing themselves transported in the image by provoking anxieties. I want them to take the image as a memory or dream that inspires their feelings and contemplative own creative imagination. Or at least tell us what or who we are, or who I am
Street Portraits and No Violent Communication
• • •
Is photography an easy way to make art?
• • •
• • •
The photo mechanical eye culture and the need of abstract vision