Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


“History is being made, and we’re capturing it.”
February 27, 2012 11:06 AM   Subscribe

I Love Photography. A rant by Allen Murabayashi.

Included in the article are a few of the best photos of the last year;

Rich Lam’s image of love at the Stanley Cup riots
Tohoku earthquake tsunami
Eric Thayer’s airplane in a shaft of light
Peggy Sirota’s pictures with Ken Jeong photobombing Kate Upton
Natsumi Hayashi levitating [previously]
posted by quin (27 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
*golf claps*
posted by hermitosis at 11:14 AM on February 27, 2012


That was awesome. The thing that always boggles my mind with photography is that you get to know some shooters and you feel like everyone loves art and sharing and then you hear stuff that reminds you of the most backwards hollywood studio kind of thinking. Musicians are cool with people downloading their stuff (they can make money on shows and tshirts as well as iTunes), filmmakers are somewhat cool with torrents (they still make something at the box office and DVD/downloads later), writers don't sweat ebook sharing (they still sell dead trees as well as kindle), but photographers will deface their own photos with giant watermarks, hide them in flash interfaces, and read you the riot act for using something like Flickr and allowing people to download full size versions of your photos.

I love photography and all its many forms, just like Allen here.
posted by mathowie at 11:25 AM on February 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


That was a good read. Thanks. I appreciate the skill of a trained professional, and I have hired professional photographers frequently to capture important moments. But I also love photos and I can't always afford to pay someone else, so I try to take photos myself—and over the years, with experience accumulating, I have felt gradually surprised to discover myself becoming halfway decent at it. I'll never be "skilled" and I'll always appreciate someone who is...but the big, big benefit is that I have more photos of my friends and family and life to enjoy.
posted by cribcage at 11:25 AM on February 27, 2012


Great rant - I loved it.
posted by aturoff at 11:28 AM on February 27, 2012


I post a lot of photos that no one looks at, comments on or seems to notice at all. And that's fine by me because I'm not doing it for them.
posted by tommasz at 11:29 AM on February 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


A small correction: the dog is jumping out of a helicopter, not an airplane (which sort of implies the dog is wearing a parachute, but it's water below them, not thousands of feet of air).
posted by exogenous at 11:39 AM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed that. That early paragraph, where he talks about all the things people hate, could be applied to just about any art form. Hearing people trash everything gets kind of old after, say, forty seconds.

People talk about how everyone taking photos on their phones and uploading them to Facebook is ruining photography but my family has boxes and boxes of cracked, faded, shitty Polaroids and Kodak Disc (remember those) shots that we can't do anything with. I really wish we had tens of thousands of digital shots we could (eventually) make sense of with some software. I'm already loving iPhoto's face recognition for doing that.

but photographers will deface their own photos with giant watermarks, hide them in flash interfaces, and read you the riot act for using something like Flickr and allowing people to download full size versions of your photos

The only thing about that is that it's a lot easier to grab a photo and claim it's your own. Harder to do that with a song or a movie. I can understand photographers wanting to prevent that.
posted by bondcliff at 11:50 AM on February 27, 2012


I post a lot of photos that no one looks at, comments on or seems to notice at all. And that's fine by me because I'm not doing it for them.

Thanks for the clarification, exogenous. That looked like a plane to me.
posted by hal9k at 11:54 AM on February 27, 2012


The business of photography is undergoing massive change. People who used to make a ton of money aren’t making the same money any more. Amateurs are giving away photos for free. I totally get it.

But listen. There are so many more incredible photos today than there ever were. And more people consume more photography than they ever did thanks to things like Facebook, Instagram, iPads, blogs, and “best of” compilations. This is the golden age of photography. Everyone takes photos now, and there is inspiration all around us. History is being made, and we’re capturing it.

I love photography.
And I love music, comics, and books. And photography. This era of social media and digital distribution is huge for lots of fields. A comic based on/in D&D, using relatively simple graphics can get $1.25 million in funding from fans in a relatively short time, and it's just the biggest independent media project yet.

But I also love context, because sometimes even a thousand words can be improved upon by a title or a caption (example from the article: the couple kissing on the ground during a riot was during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Either I never knew this, or forgot it, for all the times it was re-posted as "OMG Look at this!")


tommasz: I post a lot of photos that no one looks at, comments on or seems to notice at all. And that's fine by me because I'm not doing it for them.

Who are you, Kevin Smith? (My mind now maps "not for [x]" with that comic, which always makes me smile. Ham!) Anyway, take enough pictures, and some will impress you and your friends. That's another beautiful thing about digital photography.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:03 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, I want to read and enjoy this, but it makes me really, really angry when people misread this photo as some sort of 'hey, they're sexing at a protest! How touching!' kind of thing. In reality, she, just been knocked down, and he was trying to make sure she was okay; but because her skirt fell up, people can sexualize it and change the context completely.

That seems like a stunningly clear example of what happens when you misread photos. Are you really enjoying photos for what they are when you misread them so blatantly?
posted by koeselitz at 12:06 PM on February 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Great rant. You find the attitude he despises in lots and lots of fields...some people get off on the field itself, and other people get off on being gatekeepers. I like the former, really dislike the latter.

I used to watermark the photos on my stupid blog (!) until I realized...who gives a shit? I'm not a great photographer. When I post to flickr I do the creative commons thing and if someone can use it, I'd love a credit just for the ego stroke, but whatever.

If I had a need for perfect shots for a printed piece that's costing a bunch of bux anyway, I'd find a professional. But if I'm illustrating an online article with a finite shelf life that calls for a generic shot of NYC (say), I'll go to a cheapie stock house or do a CC-search on flickr.
posted by maxwelton at 12:09 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Love it, quin. It's a nice balance to all the photo-whiners out there. There's too much jealousy and nitpicking among photographers.

I've shot for 35 years, using everything from 110 film, a Diana (back in the 70s, when it was just cheap, and not hip), countless Polaroid cameras, including the making of Polaroid Transfers, various 35mm SLR film camera, including Nikons, Canons, Olympus, and Yashica, plus countless point-and-shoot film cameras, medium format film cameras including the cheap, Chinese Seagull TLR (which is AWESOME!), and many digital cameras, both SLRs and point and shoots. My current "good" camera is a Nikon D5000, which does things that no film camera could ever do at any price. Lately I shoot more photos on my iPhone, usually with the Hipstamatic app, than any other camera.

What I've learned through all the years, and all the cameras, and all the pictures is this: I have taken some really great photos with some really bad cameras. I have taken some really bad photos with some really great cameras. The anti-photography photographers have always been around, but now there are more avenues for rants, and it's easier to run across them.

On the positive side, no matter how many photos are uploaded to the internet from good and bad photographers, truly great images still grab my attention and imagination, standing out from the noise. And an image can be "great" without checking off all the boxes of "technically correct." A camera phone grab-shot with emotional impact and interesting compostion and subject is way more interesting to me than the most skillfully shot, perfectly lit image captured on 8x10 film.

(Aside: I also am weary of the flash interfaces of photographers' websites, but as my link above shows I am guilty as well. It was just an easy way to get the photos up, and I've been too lazy/busy to change or update it.)
posted by The Deej at 12:12 PM on February 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


That seems like a stunningly clear example of what happens when you misread photos. Are you really enjoying photos for what they are when you misread them so blatantly?

Reminds me of the story behind the famous photo of Muhammad Ali standing over a prone opponent, his mouth open in a bestial taunt. Apparently, what actually happened was that Muhammad Ali knocked him prone, took a sharp breath, and then quickly went back to his corner. No taunting whatsoever.

All photos are lies. They freeze and frame a moment. That's what makes them interesting.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:12 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


That seems like a stunningly clear example of what happens when you misread photos. Are you really enjoying photos for what they are when you misread them so blatantly?

I think it's interesting because of the way it evokes that famous Alfred Eisenstadt photograph of the couple kissing in Times Square on VJ day.

In the absence of any other information, I'm happy to take your word for what's going on but if all you have to go on is the information in the image, it's not unreasonable to assume that it's a kiss that's taking place. When did you last see a young man lying down , legs entwined with some portly middle aged woman because she'd fallen and he wanted to check on her health?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:21 PM on February 27, 2012


Koeselitz, that's a bit over the top. He says he was comforting her, she was scared and confused after having been knocked down. They were kissing, as they said in interviews afterwards.

The photo is what it appears to be, an intimate moment of comfort amidst the confusion of the riot. You may not like it, but that's apparently what it was.

And she was wearing cut-offs, not a skirt.
posted by bonehead at 12:21 PM on February 27, 2012


I haven't read it in a while, but I used to really enjoy David Campbell's blog posts on photography.

It came immediately to mind when koeselitz mentioned 'misreading' a photo and what do I find near the top, but this - 'This photo is not just what it is'
posted by knapah at 12:23 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nice to see someone rant positively, I was afraid this was going to be another I hate newbie photographers rant.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:26 PM on February 27, 2012


I agree with him 1000%, except for Instagram. Fuck an Instagram.

(OK, that's harsh. I'm just very tired of the default cross-processed look that people choose in Instagram. The app is actually capable of taking really nice-looking photos, particularly in black and white.)

also beautiful people use it and i hate them so much
posted by beaucoupkevin at 12:41 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the link:
My friend Caroline doesn’t own a camera. She keeps using the crappy camera on her Blackberry. But it doesn’t matter. It’s not always about the quality of the image, or the composition, or the lighting. Sometimes it’s just about the people in the image and the feeling that it elicits. She went back home to Chicago this summer and had brunch with her mom. Someone took a photo with that crappy little cellphone, and now they can remember that brunch forever.
Caroline most definitely owns a camera and that's the great part about current technology. Literally anyone can own a camera and use it anyway they see fit. Some people want to be artists, other just want to record events. It's an amazing time to be alive, all things considered.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:59 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I forget who relayed the quote to me and so I have no idea who said it first, but I like the thought that "The best camera you own is the one you have with you." Even a shitty 3 MP cell phone photo of some spectacular moment is better than no photo at all.
posted by maryr at 1:23 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even a shitty 3 MP cell phone photo of some spectacular moment is better than no photo at all.

For me, spectacular moments include random hairballs I find around the city. I seldom use my camera phone, but that's one thing it's full of: balls of hair I find on buses, sidewalks, in corners inside of buildings... you'd be aMAzed at how many wads of hair there are that most people just walk right by without notice.

Thank god someone's got your back, eh? I'm recording them all. You're welcome.
posted by heyho at 1:33 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


What's funny about shitty 3MP cameras is that their quality is not too far removed from what was considered amazing technology ten or so years ago. The Nikon D1 sold for $6,000 in 1999, producing 2.7MP images - granted, with a bigger sensor than that of a camera phone and with Nikon lenses, but still.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:40 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


but photographers will deface their own photos with giant watermarks, hide them in flash interfaces, and read you the riot act for using something like Flickr and allowing people to download full size versions of your photos.

One of the reasons i see for this is that it's more than keeping the images being spread, but everyone then expects you to work for free. I get asked (told sometimes) to shoot weddings for free, because "i enjoy photography". Do any of those other groups get told to do their jobs for free? Past work may be free, but no one seems be to telling musicians to make a personal album for so many people. Photography stealing is rampant, and no one really has your back. Pop an image on the web and even corporations will use it if they think they can get away with it. Personally, i put almost all my images up as creative commons, as long as you aren't making money with it and say i'm the one who took it, share away. Use it for profit, and you don't have the model release, and i'll come after you as hard as possible, and i'll also help the model do the same.

The Nikon D1 sold for $6,000 in 1999, producing 2.7MP images - granted, with a bigger sensor than that of a camera phone and with Nikon lenses, but still.

The glass is actually quite important. While current iphones and such have great sensors (quite small really, and that does matter, because physics and all) and make great images, they are quite limited by their lenses and small sensors. Not knocking them, but it's really comparing apples and oranges.
posted by usagizero at 2:43 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yay shoutout for MeFi's own kokogiak. I enjoyed this essay more than I thought I would.
posted by jessamyn at 3:00 PM on February 27, 2012


It's a lot easier to set up a complicated multi-flash shot... than it is to come up with or catch a truly interesting composition.... I really liked that rant.
posted by khappucino at 4:27 PM on February 27, 2012


I love photography. I don't love photography in all its forms. I don't love photography uncritically. I don't love Instagram. I don't love Terry Richardson. I have never met anyone even close to the straw man being presented here. I can write short declarative sentences, too.

I think this is a good essay, but I would have liked it better if the preface didn't list a bunch of things as if being critical of any of them makes you a grumpy old fart. I'm going to pretend the essay starts with "I love photography. Let me show you why."
posted by simen at 5:28 PM on February 27, 2012


This rant describes the diametrical opposite of the standard for Wikipedia's Featured Picture of the Day.
posted by ovvl at 5:34 PM on February 27, 2012


« Older "Rhyece O’Neill is an intense young man. A polemic...  |  Pennsylvania judge Mark W. Mar... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments