10 Reasons Why Photography Sucks and Isn’t an Art Form

The wishing well

2009-12-20 Update: This article is #1 in Google for “photography sucks,” so I see why it gets so many comments. Don’t take me too seriously. Photography is really an art form and I am playing devil’s advocate here. :smile:

“I wish photography could be an art form. I love it so much, but it’s just too easy. If only there were some way to mentally cripple the majority of the population from being able to take beautiful photos, or if I could make the craft so needlessly difficult to only be accessible to a tiny few. Maybe then I can trick others into thinking I have talent where there is none. Oh photography, why must you be so simple and uncomplicated!”

We’ve been tricked—all of us—into believing that photography is an art form requiring skill, talent, patience, and “the eye,” when outside of fairy land, it requires no more skill or talent than driving a car, or pushing buttons on an elevator. What kind of art form would have these ten traits?

1. Anyone can do it. While we’ve not proven the infinite monkey theorem for reproducing Shakespeare’s Hamlet, surely a monkey could take a good, interesting photo. In fact, with today’s auto-focusing, auto-metering, easy-to-use cameras, I have no doubt that a monkey, with some practice, could take a photo as good as Sunrays or The Red-Brick House. Do you like doing the job of a monkey?

2. No talent involved. You’re in a good place, you take a good picture. You’re in a bad place; you get nothing. It doesn’t matter if you have passion or willpower. If someone else is in the right place at the right time, they can easily capture the moment just as well, even if they’ve been handed a camera for the first time. You can’t say the same about any real art form, like playing the piano, or drawing, or sculpting, which require years of experience and practice.

3. No creativity. When you take a photo, you’re using a tool to save a copy of a scene. You’re creating nothing and the camera’s creating nothing. If the camera does create something, it isn’t art—it’s a defect. The more you protest that your badly-composed, out-of-focus pictures bear your unique artistic sensibilities, the more you satisfy your own delusions. Photography is about as creative as mowing the lawn (and if you think that’s creative, then you have my sympathy).

4. It doesn’t help you to look at the world differently, no more than painting, or sketching, or kayaking, or any other hobby. If anything, your view of the world narrows, because you’re stuck looking at it through your narrow viewfinder.

5. It’s an art that’s not a science, and a science that’s not an art. If my five-year-old sister can cover my job on our vacation to Disney world, then what kind of science is that? Normal scientific processes are torturous and difficult to master, like constructing a high-rise bridge or installing an Olympic-size swimming pool. Scientific arts like performing a complex piano piece or crocheting a beautiful sweater require years of expertise and practice. Not photography. Photography is for dummies. Then on the other end, we have b.s. science touted by the “artists,” like megapixels, lens optics, and sensor reflectivity. They have no idea what this stuff means, nor do they need any understanding of it to take pretty pictures, but they pretend it makes the craft complex, and their jobs, difficult and valuable. Kudos to the engineers, sure, but I’m not scientific as a mere photographer, any more than I’d be an auto mechanic for driving a car.

6. No future. You can’t make money taking pictures. If you do, you’re not an artist, you’re a businessman. Nothing more.

7. Life as a technician. You can’t get a good photo unless you Photoshop the heck out of it, like going from this awful thing to Leafy Droplets 4. Is that creative? My 10-year-old cousin can add some contrast, sharpen, darken the corners, and shift the colors with ease. If you put yourself through hours of this drudgery, you’re no more of an artist than the lab operator at Wal-Mart. A computer can easily replace you. How does it feel wasting your talent?

8. Strokes of luck. If you do capture a great photo that needs no editing, it’s because of reason #3. No talent whatsoever; you were just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and disciplined enough to have your camera ready. So basically, your dependent on fate to bring you pretty pictures to photograph. Don’t you want to be in control of what you create, and when you create it? Do you like doing work that relies on luck, discipline, and drudgery, that you’re not even getting paid for? You may as well be digging ditches. At least then you’d be doing something useful for the world.

9. Join a community of morons. Maybe your smart and join a “camera club.” Then, you get to hear a dozen other people complain about the delay of Nikon’s latest DSLR and make excuses why they can never be a good photographer until they have *insert lens here*. Then they’ll complain about how they can’t attract any money. Maybe if they’d add something real to the world, they’d have the money to buy their toys. If you’re a photographer, you may as well be playing the latest World of Warcraft game.

Or perhaps you’re particularly dedicated and follow your passion to a photography university. Then you get to spend four years and thousands of dollars on the dead art of film, while hearing old codgers whining that the youngsters have it too easy nowadays. You may as well learn Latin. If you want to be a professional photographer, take a business class. But you’re condemning yourself to a lifetime of slave labor. If we had today’s photography before Lincoln’s time, then slaves would be photographing our children’s birthdays and recording our weddings. Why? Because slaves were forced to do tedious, boring, uncreative work.

10. You’re a dime a dozen. You’re building no legacy, you can’t pass your business on to your children, you work on assignment for pennies, and anyone can replace you at anytime. In what other artistic field can anyone do exactly the same work you do, with no talent nor experience? Read rubbish like Is Color Photography an Art? with any spirit of inquiry, and you can see what fools we are.

“Okay, so since photography is really nothing, we’ll give it some class. Only photography done on expensive, time-consuming film is art. No color nonsense—that’s too much like the real world. Digital doesn’t count—it’s missing the needless drudgery. 35mm? Are you crazy? That’s the easy way out.”

Can’t you see how dumb this is? If photography was an art form, we wouldn’t have millions of pages debating the subject. It would be plain and obvious. The very existence of a debate proves that photography as art is shaky ground to stand on. You don’t see anyone debating painting as an art form, or protesting the Mona Lisa as uncreative.

“The color photographer has many means of bringing expression into a scene; the selection of camera position, lens focal length, use of filters, depth of field, film type, exposure, composition, and shutter speed all figure into the image that is produced. During printing, the color photographer has control of contrast, density, color balance, and saturation to convey personal expression.”

Oh puh-lease. “The cashier has many ways of being creative at the check-out line. She can express herself by scanning your groceries swiftly, grouping them by color, double-bagging at her discretion, and suggesting candy bars and periodicals. She has control of the conversation, by making friendly chit-chat or working without delay. Through the artistic medium of words, she has the potential to positively influence hundreds of people every day.”

At least cashiers don’t delude themselves thinking they’re at the pinnacle of artistic expression and can change the world. Perhaps we aren’t so lucky.

Photography is fine for what it is: a pseudo art form for talentless hacks. But don’t give it more respect than it deserves.

Switched to SYN Hosting, Outage is Over

Hi everyone. The website’s been down for the last 18 hours, since 7:30 A.M. (EDT) this morning, but I’m back now. I discovered it when I awoke at 2 P.M. (I’m happily unemployed), and immediately began trouble-shooting. It wasn’t on my end at all; it had to be Netfirms’ fault (they’ve given me trouble before). Netfirms wasn’t serving up anything from the MySQL database, which cripples me, because this blog is all dynamic.

Netfirms has been growing progressively worse in the past two weeks… FTP has been terribly slow, the website is slow, it’s gone down a couple of times because of them, etc. I called them… and after 30 minutes on hold, hearing only an automated message telling me how “extremely important” I am, I just hung up. By then, it was 3:30, and I decided to give up and switch web hosts. Even though I have Netfirms’ first-year $10 special ending on August 2, I can’t stand it anymore. I did an hour of research, and picked SYN Hosting because they sound good and honest. I sent in the request for an account, and then headed for school (my night class was from 5:30 to 9 P.M.), not being able to do anything more for the time. I had a test in precalculus algebra, and I did poorly on it (will find out Monday). If I do well on Wednesday’s final (2008-06-25), the grade is dropped, so that’s what I need to do now. I should be fine with 85% on the final.

So when I got back home, I got my email from SYN Hosting. I’d already started downloading the files from Netfirms before leaving, and it was done. I promptly switched DNS servers in my triple.com control panel and began uploading files to SYN Hosting. Still haven’t done everything (the stock photos are ~160MB and will take hours). But the site’s back.

It takes a long time on my slow ADSL connection with just 128kb upstream bandwidth. Especially when you have 3000 small files, like with my WordPress MU installation and army of plugins. And I had some trouble importing the MySQL database, since it is so large (23MB). I got it all worked out finally. I’m glad to be back, and sorry for the trouble.

All of the thripp.com network was down. I’m posting this here, because I get 60% of the community’s traffic.

SYN charges $8.34 a month for their basic plan, billed every six months. I searched first, and found the SAVEME offer. Basically, if you’ve had your domain for over six months and are hosted elsewhere, you get three months free. I sent this emphatic message in the notes field when I registered:

Save me! I’m using Netfirms now, and after four outages in the past two days (one right now), and no one to answer their phones, I’ve had it, even though I have a over a month left on my contract. SYN Hosting is a lot better, I can tell.

Boy, was I surprised to log on and see that I’d been given six months free. Here’s what my invoice looks like:

SYN hosting paid

Mind you, I haven’t actually paid them anything. I was expecting to get an email to do so, or at least provide credit card or PayPal billing information for their security, but no. You don’t often see this kind of commitment from hosting companies.

What I’m really enjoying, is the fast loading times. Checking on this website speed test, I see my page takes under a second to be compiled:

thripp.com loads quickly

In my last days with Netfirms, it was often over 4 seconds. Waiting isn’t fun.

Netfirms claims to give me something ridiculous like 2TB of disk space and 2000TB of bandwidth. SYN Hosting keeps it real: 6GB disk space and 120GB bandwidth each month. And their interface and control panels are better. You can even see how much CPU and RAM resources you’re using. That’s far more important than bandwidth, because with a dynamic, database-powered site, bandwidth isn’t what drags you down.

Managing your own website is hard work. I’m glad now I can stop worrying about it disappearing. Go ahead and try out SYN Hosting; they’re a real gem. Make sure to enter the coupon “saveme” and tell them who you’re transferring from in the notes, if you want a few months free. I’m looking forward to much more enjoyable days here, for my readers/viewers and me.

Usernames vs. Passwords

I just had a great idea. How about a website where your username is your password and your password is your username, and your password is public but your username is private? That would probably be more secure than the traditional hidden-password approach, because no one would be able to log in to your account, because no one would know your username but you!

I’m so brilliant…

My Google Favicon Design

I was reading this article about Google’s favicon revisions. I don’t like the new lowercase “g”; the old capital one was better and more distinctive. But Google doesn’t like the new icon either, and is accepting submissions, which ends on the 2008-06-20. I always liked the Google logo with the colored balls, but I don’t see any trace of it in their current ideas. so I made and submitted my own:

Google colored balls favicon by Richard X. Thripp

Marissa and Micheal complain that Google has no specific logo, so only their name or a derivative of it will do. Why can’t this be their logo? It’s already on Google Earth (at the bottom-left). Seems like a good favicon idea to me. The speckled green and red bars frame the balls, representing the Google spirit of courage and innovation.

If it wins, here’s what my Firefox address bar will be looking like in a few weeks:

Example of the Google favicon by Richard X. Thripp

And this will be the new Google browsing experience:

Example 2 of the Google favicon by Richard X. Thripp

Beautiful, no? I like it a lot better than what we have now:

Interim Google favicon

The problem with the small g, is that it doesn’t look like the home page’s logo, the color doesn’t match, it’s indistinct, it’s too formal, it’s no fun, it isn’t memorable, it’s confusing, and it isn’t Google. I’m hoping my icon is Google. If only they’ll listen.

Stock: Leafy Sky

Leafy Sky

Leaves on a tree, with my camera pointed toward the clouds. This one is unconventional as a stock image as it’s horribly over-exposed on the right, but I’m making an artistic statement and this may translate into your use. If not, just use the left half of the image.

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.
[quickshop:4*6 Leafy Sky (lustre):price:0.95:shipping:0.45:shipping2:0.45:end]

Buy a 4*6 copy for $0.95 (USA only). Lustre finish. After adding, go to your shopping cart.

Canon Rebel XTi, EFS 18-55mm, 1/200, F8, 18mm, ISO100, 2008-01-12T15:16:26-05, 20080112-201626rxt

Torrential Rain

After weeks of threatening skies that produced nothing, we’re finally getting some rain in Daytona Beach, Florida (Ormond Beach actually, but they’re close). I was drenched on the way to school yesterday, and we just had quite a cloudburst at my house. Here are two photos:

One thing that you’ll find when it’s raining a lot… is that it’s hard to get a good picture! First, it’s very dark out, so motion blur becomes a big problem. Second, you’ll take lots of photos where it looks like nothing is happening! (I always do.) Just a bit of fog or a gloomy sky, instead of the big raindrops and howling winds that your eyes see.

You can only really show the wind with a motion blur shot of trees, or if there’s a tornado or tons of mist flying about. You get photos with no rain because it takes a fast shutter speed to show it, which you can’t use in the dark normally (try upping the ISO sensitivity and using a smaller f number). But I have some other tips to capture the mood:

• Over-ride the auto-metering by stopping down a bit. When you want a dark scene, the camera doesn’t know and will make everything look bright and cheery. You have to fix that yourself.

• Show puddles, big puddles. Or the raindrops hitting those puddles. Use as fast a shutter speed you can, or a slow one showing the blur of turbulent water.

• Get a shot of raindrops falling. This works best if it’s still raining and the sun has come out, because there’s plenty of light and you can easily use a fast shutter speed, like 1/2000 of a second.

• Show raindrops on a window with a dark sky behind it, from inside your house or in the car.

• Stake out a spot and take shots of cars kicking up water, like my shot, Make Waves.

• Take shots before the rain starts, like I did with The Red-Brick House. Often, the sky is beautiful and ominous, but after the rain starts falling, it turns to a boring gray mush.

• Get closer. Even if it’s blurry, snap photos of rain sweeping off roofs or draining from gutters. You’ll capture the experience of torrential rain much better than just pointing your camera into the sky.

• When it’s blue and rainy out, your camera will “fix” this by making it look a normal, warm gray. Over-ride the white balance by using the “sunny” setting (not cloudy, as that’s too warm). You’ll get more interesting, unsettling blue tones, without them being excessive.

• Protect your camera! Put a plastic bag over it, then cut a hole for the lens if you need to. If you’re particularly wealthy, you can even buy a camera rain cover (there are lots of options).

• Go to the river or ocean and take shots of all the rain hitting the blue water, or the haze off in the distance. Watch out for lightning, though.

• If you’re going to photograph lightning, set up a tripod under a roof somewhere, shooting with a thirty second exposure. You’ll need to close down the aperture as far as you can, perhaps even using a filter to keep the light under control during the lengthy exposure. Don’t trust your camera; under-expose your photos. If any lightning does turn up, the camera won’t be expecting it, so the shot will turn into an over-exposed blob if you’re listening to the meter.

Now you know what to do. Just wait for some rain, and get out there.

I am no longer an employee

I was fired an hour ago. It took me this long to write this (I’m slow, you know).

If you’ve read my first post about this, you’ll know that I was in trouble for telling my boss she’s in the wrong career. And possibly for teasing her for five months, but she started that and it didn’t become a problem until after my nerve-striking statement, after which she was searching for problems to catch me on. That meets the definition of a red herring.

Bascially, I was fired for being honest rather than fake, by my boss’ supervisor over the phone. When you have a boss (even yourself) who wants attractive but evil fakeness rather than honesty, then that is the only thing that can happen if you refuse to compromise. The only thing.

Perhaps if I would’ve groveled a bit more at several key points along the way, or put up a wall of fake professionalism through the past three months of my job (i.e. not talking about anything deeper than the state of the morning coffee), then I could’ve clung on a lot longer. I also could’ve sucked it up and not asked to be transferred to the Ormond branch, and acted as if I wasn’t being held back.

Or maybe it was sharing Fear is Evil with my supervisor and old friends at Ormond. It was probably too jaded, yet truthful for them. Truth is a scary thing, for people who have sheltered themselves from it. There isn’t one truth, but many, and mine is one of them. I learned this from my year in QUANTA. Mine is a particularly frightening one to someone in the system.

Sharing that article was not a “smart” thing to do, from the standpoint of a normal person. What would the normal behavior be?

• 1. Offend your boss, not by something inherently offensive, but because there’s a shred of truth in it and she is scared.
• 2. Apologize profusely.
• 3. Promise it will never happen again.
• 4. Say it wasn’t true, you were just joking.
• 5. Say it wasn’t true, you were just angry.
• 6. Beg forgiveness.
• 7. Work extra hard and donate money to the library (or the equivalent for another workplace), to prove what a wonderful servant you are.
• 8. Not try to get transferred, because that’s asking too much.
• 9. Go up the chain of command and tell them how sorry you are too, because that’s what it’s going to take.
• 10. Be so wonderfully nice to everyone, you’re bound to be loved. But to everyone else, it’s obviously fake.

… and the list goes on. Do any of these sound like the behavior of a smart, passionate person? If this is the list you’d follow, it’s time to wake up.

In my younger days (12-15), I would’ve been more apt to handle this differently. I’d respond with a month of hatred toward my boss, plus three months of hatred toward the system, and then, because I was never weak enough to seek revenge, six months of apathy. Then I’d just try to forget all about it. But when we forget, it’s just avoidance. Fear. I’m sixteen now, and I hope I’m passed that. You have to face your fears if you’re ever going to grow anywhere. Being an employee isn’t so great after all. This is a blessing in disguise for me.

I’m not angry, I’ve moved above anger. Which is great, because anger drags you down. It’s a weight on your soul which pulls you down to the level of an animal. All I can feel is compassion, which is great because it means I’m moving forward and I’m not permitting negativity in my life.

The big problem, even bigger than being pushed to act fakely, is that since my new boss started (Jan. ’08), she took away everything I used to do. I was relegated to shelving and organizing the shelves (shelf reading), and not helping patrons check out items, or find stuff, or on the computer (unless it was something she couldn’t do), or issuing library cards to new faces in the library, or photographing story-time and other children’s events. In fact, she was bent on a strict code of professionalism in the workplace (no humanity). I used to give out print copies of my photos or articles to patrons and staff often, but she prohibited it, saying it was not my “job.” Funny thing is, it’s exactly my job, because all of our jobs in life involve each other. Not a grandiose title, or a book full of policies and rules. Normal people don’t need a man-made book of policies and rules.

So, where my goal in library services is service to others, I became unable to fulfill the mission by these new restrictions. And if I can’t do the mission, than each day is drudgery. I was dreading going to work today, before the news, because I didn’t want to go through another (half) day where my path was blocked. I’ve seen it in the library, because we get half the patrons than when Lisa was there (the upbeat librarian who was transferred out at the start of the year). The shelves and books are in beautiful shape, evenly spaced (one of my projects was to make their heights equal), and in perfect order. And it means nothing.

Either way, I made 59 cents on my website yesterday, far less than my $8/hour job. But at least this path has a heart.

So what am I going to do now? Besides my precalculus algebra class that I have eight days and two tests left in, I’m going to dedicate myself here. To my photography, and sharing it with the world, and building profits off of contextual advertising. The Volusia County Public Library system is no worse than any other, but that doesn’t mean it’s better either.

There’s a really funny thing here. When I spend twelve hours on the computer on days where I released my entire portfolio as stock imagery, or made dozens of comments on other blogs, it’s a smart and logical thing to do if I make it big (i.e. make money). If I fail miserably and make nothing, than no matter how driven and positive I am, I’m nuts. A megalomaniac, and quite a monomaniacal one. Perhaps I’m even delusional, for maintaining positivity where others would give up in despair. I might even have Attention Deficit Disorder. Whatever it is, there’s something horribly wrong with me, because I refuse to be “normal.”

It’s the same thing for gambling. If you play black-jack at Vegas for twelve hours a day, you only have a gambling “problem” if you’re losing money. If you’re the most brilliant card counter ever and are making money hand over fist, there is no gambling problem. The “problem” status is not dependent on the righteousness of the behavior, but its end results. A curious quirk. There must be a name for this concept. If not, I’ll make one up. But I’ve reached the end of my thoughts for now.

An ode to courage, and to living with it even when everyone else forsakes it. I know I try to.

The Temperature is -57, Says Google

Logging on to my iGoogle page today, I see this:

my iGoogle page

Everything looks fine, right? But wait. Zoom in on the weather.

Florida is -57 F

I didn’t notice it was 89 degrees below freezing here! My goodness, my digits should be falling off. And in Central Florida, in the middle of summer. Very bizarre. Must be the effects of global warming.

This iGoogle “gadget” comes right from the horse’s mouth, and claims to have 12,203,943 users. I wonder for how many of them, the temperature drops 145 degrees at once. But for now, I’m back to sunny Florida’s 88°F.

Photo: The Graceful Flag

The Graceful Flag — a United States flag keeping still on a windless day

The stars and stripes fly low on a windless day. There was a nice background of clouds, so I shot this of the flag from the ground. I placed the pole off-center a bit, as that’s more appealing to the eye.

I added some contrast and color through curves.

Canon Rebel XTi, EF 50mm 1:1.4, 1/800, F7.1, 50mm, ISO100, 2008-06-12T11:14:07-04, 20080612-151407rxt

Download the high-res JPEG or download the source image.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Please credit me as “Photo by Richard Thripp” or something similar.

Spamming Everyone

I was contemplating how to get the word out about the resource I’m developing here at Brilliant Photography. I decided to send an email to everyone know a.k.a. mass spamming. But it’s not spamming, because it’s relevant. I don’t know where the idea comes that messages that aren’t personalized are spam; do we expect the same from the newspaper, television, or even blog articles? Certainly not. Here’s the message, anyway. It outlines what I’m doing here quite well.

Hello everyone!

This is one of those super automated emails to everyone I’ve known over the past four years. I wanted to let you know the great progress I’ve been making at my website, Brilliant Photography by Richard X. Thripp, at http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/ . I’ve been working hard on my writing and photography, completing a portfolio of my 30 best images: clichés like roses, sunsets, raindrops, bugs, and still life. Mine are different because I always try to be sharp and innovative. I have a nice gallery section showing every photo I’ve ever posted, and I’m writing more informative articles on photography; stuff like How to Always Get the Perfect Shot, How to Use Zooming for Explosive Photos, How to Brand Your Prints, and my 4500-word novel, How to give file names to your photos, which arcs across photography, library science, cataloging theory, and the evils of Daylight Saving Time.

Two days ago, I was thinking "how could I make my website an even more useful resource?" It didn’t take long to think of it; I’ve done the unthinkable by releasing my entire portfolio (my life’s work, if you will) as a free stock resource. If you are a digital artist of any sort, or want a nice photo for a birthday card or to print for your wall, this is great news.

Though it’s a divergent topic, I’ve begun writing about personal development, because it fascinates me. I’ve also implemented affiliate advertising which generates revenue per click or purchase, in the case of the photography gear I sponsor. Someday, I will be able to support my passion full time, just from sharing it with the world on my website.

If you’d like to stay in the loop as I publish more photos and articles, you can subscribe by email here, or if you know about RSS feeds, add this one to your feed reader. I’ll be at http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/ forever, so you can also bookmark it or come back to this email when you’d like to see what I’m up to.

Thanks and happy travels. Send me an email back so we can keep in touch.