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Ah, I love me some American politics, especially during campaign season. It’s like reality tv – so little value, so much drama and entertainment. Thankfully, my news channel feels the same way and won’t bother much with boring ol’ “real” news for at least another month. Drawing inspiration from American politicians, I’d like to speak my mind about an understandably sensitive topic. And taking a page from the Politician Playbook, I’m going to attempt to make what could be a valid point, but I’ll try to surround it with enough disrespect and lack of compassion that people stop listening. If this happens, if by chance I come across as intolerant, lacking empathy, or simply like a total arse, it’s possible that you misunderstood me. It could be that I misspoke or maybe I’m grossly misinformed; however, it’s more likely that you’re just plain ol’ wrong. What I’m saying is: Read my lips, I did not have relations with that woman, we’ll find them WMDs, please vote for me as your favorite artist.

So, deep breath. Here we go. I know that photography’s a highly polarized topic with artists. Are you an advocate for film or digital? A believer in portrait or landscape? A location ideologue or a studio pragmatist? Do you believe in the unchecked freedom of post-processing or the imposed limits of al natural? Do you lean gloss or matte? I’m aware of the issues. I know the controversy that surrounds each of them. But for the moment, I’m not talking about any of those positions. I’m talking specifically about legitimate photography, photography where a photo is made using a camera. And in every case of legitimate photography*, I gotz some serious choices to make. Is this gonna be color or black & white? Do I use a wide-angle lens? How about a fixed lens or a zoom? Do I want to capture the subject with its background or focus-in close on something specific? What’s the story I want to tell? And that’s the problem with being a photographer – and perhaps the problem with being an artist, or being a person – we have a choice. It might be easier if we didn’t. Sometimes I wish that someone would just make a decision for me so I didn’t have to. I’d like someone to say, “I know it’s your camera and you’re an adult photographer responsible for your own photos, but you need to shoot out-of-focus close-ups of baby ducks, in color at 50mm, and only on cloudy days.” Even though it sounds counter-intuitive, perhaps a non-photographer could make these decisions better than I could; if they’ve never held a camera, even better – they’re less likely to get bogged down in the specifics of photo-makin’.

*Editor’s note: It’s been pointed out to the artist/author that all photography is photography and his argument, though legitimate is, at its best, incomprehensible.

But that ain’t the way it works and having to make a decision for myself, for the sake of my own art, I chose to take the photo above** in black & white. In this particular instance I felt that color detracted from the mood of the photo. The black & white exudes a timelessness that’s very much a part of the city of Quito, Ecuador, where it was taken. I hoped to focus on the contrasting import and whimsy of the moment and to draw attention to the woman’s fashion without putting it center stage. Fashion – now, that’s one of those things I know nothing about but would gladly broadcast my views, especially when there’s a camera around.

And that’s how it’s done, straight out of the playbook.

**Photo wonks curious about tech decisions: the photo was shot at f1.4, a s/speed of 1/2000, at 23mm, an ISO 400, and an exposure bias of -0.7ev. And I made those choices all by my lonesome.

And you, which way would you cast your vote: color or black & white?

4 Responses to Politics, Photos, and Being Too Legit to… Quit. Seriously, Just Quit

  1. I think Louis Armstrong said something to the effect of “If it sounds good it IS good.” The result is what matters. Whether the result is the product of years of effort or is a happy accident matters little to me as a viewer of art. Of course it may matter intensely to the artist but remember that a viewer does not get any of that. They just get what you choose to put in front of them. My suggestion: don’t over-think stuff.

    If your message was intended only for artists then feel free to disregard my comment.

    • Good advice, Jeff – something artists and everyone else should consider when we get lost in our own “If, then, maybes.”
      Besides, who am I to argue with Louis Armstrong?

      Thanks for the comment.

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