A while ago, my dear blogging friend Manja wrote a blog post that left me wondering. To sum it up, she had posted a photo in a Facebook photo group and received a flood of negative comments. People were saying she needed to “fix” the photo and do things like apply the rule of thirds, etc. Some people defended her. As far as I understood, Manja herself had been happy with her photo.
Personally, I liked the photo. It was a very neutral subject: a calm rural landscape with a vivid green look to it, and there clearly was a story there if you looked carefully. The background was unfocused in a dreamy way.
So reading her post, it felt confusing to me how such a photo could cause an online debate. It’s just a photo, after all. There weren’t even any people in it. How can it cause such strong feelings?
It also feels confusing to me because there’s no arguing over matters of taste. We don’t all need to have the same opinions about a photo. If you don’t like it, move on. Constructive criticism is fine, if you know that’s what the other person wants to get. Unsolicited criticism without warning? Maybe not always so nice to get it. And who is it coming from, why do they think they know better, what kind of authority figures are they in their art?
I don’t like it when someone says (usually in a matter-of-fact, patronizing tone) that art has rules. While Manja told me her photos are not art, I consider all photography art, even war coverage if you really think about it.
And art has no rules. It really doesn’t. Using photography rules is optional, they aren’t real rules, you know. They are there to assist you if you feel insecure or undecided. Something to reflect on, and adapt at your will.
The last time I said that art has no rules was in a blog post years ago, I don’t even remember which post it was anymore. But I do I remember a comment I received from a photo blogger who didn’t usually visit my posts. He was saying maybe I don’t consciously apply photography rules but certainly my brain applies them subconsciously.
Interesting. I acknowledge that this might be true. But I don’t like it when a stranger tells me a) what my brain is thinking and b) how it should be thinking. Whenever I hear something like this, I can’t help but think the person speaking really lacks imagination.
A couple of years ago, I attended a little photography course, just to see what I could learn. I’m just an amateur and so anything I learned would be new to me. One of the first things the teacher said was that there are two types of photographers, technical ones and creative ones. He added that in his opinion, very few are both. (And I don’t remember much else from the entire course.)
Another point that comes to mind from Manja’s post is professional pride. I love it when people are doing what they love in life and when they try to do it well and are proud of themselves. But I don’t like jealousy.
Just because A is good at something doesn’t mean B can’t be good at it too. Admitting it doesn’t make A any less competent. There’s room for many kinds of talent in this world, we all have our niche.
I also studied some Internet Marketing a while ago to update my old Marketing degree a bit. Over here, you expire pretty quickly in the job market if you don’t keep updating yourself constantly with new courses and degrees and skills. (This is the land of free university education and high taxation leading to low entrepreneurship, so while it’s a small place, there’s lots of competition and unemployment.)
There was a woman in my course who was around my age, fortyish, who was complaining about how companies are now purchasing social media services from random people without formal education. Instagram stars and Snapchat princesses. Her job was to create brand stories on social media, in other words she wrote Facebook and Instagram posts all day long. She was talking about how it requires skill to build a story and keep it consistent. (I still can’t believe jobs like that exist.)
Anyway, I always thought it was funny how she automatically assumed she was entitled to do that job while others weren’t. Yes, I understand uneducated freelancers bring down the salary level for those with a formal education in communications. But that’s life. Those freelancers are hungry for success and it’s a jungle. Find your niche, the thing that makes you better, and compete. Stop complaining.
For photographers, it must be the same. I can understand how professionals might be annoyed at amateurs getting more attention or praise online than they do, or higher pay. But it’s like saying no one can play football unless you’re a professional. Or no one can enjoy dancing unless that’s what you do for a living. Photography just happens to be well suited for online displaying. Deal with it! Don’t be jealous, be nice. Kindness always carries you further than aggression.
At work, I do some copywriting. I’ve actually been writing all sorts of texts at all of the different jobs I’ve done throughout my working life (I have a colorful work history) and I’ve been writing in my free time all my life. Since I was a kid, really.
But I’ve never been a Copywriter. For instance right now, I’m a Marketing Planner in a sales team. Not ever having had the title Copywriter attached to my name has never been a problem for me until now: at work, the Marketing department seems to hail a young kid as a semi-god. He’s a real live Copywriter, outsourced, and just because he has this title, he must be better at it than anyone else. Even though his work experience must be less than 5 years judging by his age, while my experience in writing spans over 20-30 years.
So I do understand the pros who get annoyed. Even though in this case I’m the non-pro. I can understand both sides of the debate quite well.
Anyway, who knew there were degrees for copywriting these days?! Back when I was choosing what to study, the options over here were limited. But nowadays you really can be whatever you want. There’s a degree for everything. And if there isn’t, become a freelancer.
Who defines who is the best, the most credible, a definite authority? Who decides the rules? What kind of people comply and pretend they are experts in doing so? Personal branding meets follow the leader.
As for Manja’s photo debate, my opinion is that not everything needs to be “fixed”. Paraphrasing Manja when she compared photo editing to doing make-up: you start doing more and more of it, fake eyelashes and colored lenses, and finally one day all you’ll have left to resort to is plastic surgery. Is that the goal? Does everything need to look plastic, polished, improved? Where is the magical feel in a too-perfect photo?
I don’t have the answers so I’ll stop here.
Enjoy your day!