November 2, 2005 by Allen George
Ruts And All
Writers block is painful and I think the only solution is to start writing something, anything, just to get into the groove again.
Most of my friends and acquaintances aren’t interested in photography. On one hand I’m faced with people whose eyes glaze over if I mention the word “camera” and on the other… Well, on the other there’s my roommate Mike Brimner. Ah Mike, how pissed off can I be with you? Quite a bit. Quite a bit.
You know what, I don’t care. I should keep my mouth shut like I usually do.
Mike, quite arrogantly, thinks that he’s capable of making excellent photographs. Once, when flipping though a photography book, he said “Guaranteed, I can take any of these pictures.” I took one look at the picture he was staring at and almost laughed my head off. Here’s the deal Mike:
“No. At your current level, you can’t.”
I’m not saying he can never get to that level. He’s just not there right now. Usually I would let his blanket statements go but I knew he was wrong on this one. Mike takes snapshots. Hell, we all take a lot of snapshots, but let’s not pretend we’re making high art here.
I courted trouble right off the bat. “No Mike. You couldn’t.” The next twenty minutes devolved into a verbal battle. One particularly galling section still comes to mind:
You never take the time and trouble to make photographs. To think about the subject, arrange it in the frame and compose it.
Yeah, but I could if I wanted to.
If? How would you know? You’ve never tried.
I know I can do it.
Hell. In that case I can claim that I have the skills to do anything well. It’s easy to make claims without any backing.
You know what your problem is? You don’t believe in yourself.
No – I’m just realistic about my skills right now.
In STV 202, I read an interesting study. Those with the least knowledge of a skill were the poorest in evaluating their personal skill-level. Mike’s a textbook case. I think it’s because people like Mike don’t know enough to appreciate the level of work that goes into that field. As you work harder and gain more knowledge, you become better at understanding your limitations.
In the end, I challenged him to produce a high-quality picture that he could pit against the one in the photography book in a “jury of our peers”. I’m still waiting for his response.
I hate ranting, because it feels so pointless. In the end, I ranted to the author of the book.
My roommate picked up my copy of “Landscape Within” and after flicking through the pages remarked “Guaranteed. I could take any of these pictures.”
I disagreed strongly – and still do.
I often defend photography from people like my roommate. To them, photography is “pressing the shutter release”. By making statements like that, they cheapen the process of making a photograph. I too, try to make photographs, and I know that to go beyond the simple snapshot takes time, and a lot of effort.
Have you ever faced criticism like that? Have you ever felt the need to validate your work to others?
I know it’s an odd request, but I really need to ask.
Two weeks later I got a response:
Well that is an interesting question! In fact you’ve inspired me to write an article for OP.
OP in this case is Outdoor Photographer. I actually have the text of the article that he submitted and I’m “the reader with the flat mate” and Mike’s “The Critic”. I’m going to pick up next month’s Outdoor Photographer and see if the article’s in it.
I’d be quite chuffed if it were.