Just ask Donald Pettit, NASA astronaut and "amateur" photographer. Donald…
It might sound strange to use the verb “Love” in the title of a rant. But here goes.
I love photography.
Why am I telling you this? Isn’t it self-obvious? Don’t we all love photography? The answer is no. There is a percentage of photographers who hate photography. They do not appreciate photography. They do not consume photography. They don’t look at photo books or photo magazines. They hate the guy with the iPhone taking Instagram shots. They hate the guy who just bought the D4 because they don’t have one. They hate people using digital because film is what real artists use. They hate photographers who embrace social media because images should stand on their own. They hate Getty, Corbis, the AP, day rates, photo editors, assistants, rental houses, camera stores, point-and-shoots, iPads, zoom lenses, padded camera straps, wheeled suitcases, younger photographers, older photographers. The photo of so-and-so on the cover of whatever it’s called sucks. That guy copied the other guy, he sucks. Terry Richardson sucks. Chuck Close sucks. Vincent Laforet hasn’t taken a still in 17 years. Kodak hasn’t been managed well since the 70s. Blah, blah, blah.
I love photography. Let me show you why.
This was my favorite image of 2011 shot by Rich Lam for Getty Images during the rioting that occurred after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. It’s amazing. It’s a crazy juxtaposition of love amidst protest, which was such a dominant theme this year. As many people have commented, it’s a modern day From Here to Eternity. You look at it and you think, “What the hell is going on?” And then you hear the back story and it’s even more amazing that it happened and someone was there to capture it. I’d like to hang it on my wall.
Rüdiger Nehmzow took these incredible photos of clouds from an open door of a plane. Who does that? He’s not complaining about Terry Richardson. He’s too busy creating amazing photos. Speaking of which…
People say the guy has no talent. They hate the on-camera flash. But you know what? That’s Terry Richardson‘s thing. That’s what he does. Do you have a thing? Are you known for your visual style? Sure, maybe you could have taken better photos of Lady Gaga if you had access. But you didn’t. Terry did because he built a reputation and a career. And this photo happens to have some Italian chick with a big nose washing her face and smiling, oh and by the way, she’s an incredibly creative and talented mega star. I was in Tokyo over the New Year’s drinking a coffee in a bookstore, and I flipped through the entire book. Hey man, she was born that way.
This is perhaps the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life from the Mainichi Shinbun (literally “Daily Newspaper”). It’s a black wall of water crashing over a seawall from the Tohoku earthquake that killed nearly 16,000 people. I saw a stupid Matt Damon movie called “Hereafter” that had a CGI tsunami. Then I saw video of the real thing, and I was speechless. A tsunami isn’t a wave. It’s a wall.
My high school hired me to take a series of portraits of Bay Area alumni, so I hired my buddy Max Morse to assist me. Here was the set up shot. I really like it. I posted it on his Facebook wall, and he made it his profile picture. I once made a photo that Missy McLamb took of me into my Facebook profile picture. She commented back that it was the highest compliment. I didn’t fully grok what she meant at the time, but now I do.
2011 marked the ten year anniversary of September 11. I live a few blocks from Ground Zero, so I walked down with my camera hoping to make an iconic shot. But it was cloudy as all hell, and I couldn’t see the towers of light piercing into the night sky. Then I see Eric Thayer‘s photo. Where was I? How much more uplifting could a ten year anniversary photo of 9/11 be?
Reuter’s journalist Barry Malone captured this image near Somalia. The juxtaposition is boggling. Guy in suit. Dead cow that is so starved it looks like a leather jacket. And craziest of all, he’s using an iPad as a camera — a scene that couldn’t have existed until last year since the iPad 2 came out in the Spring. Since then, I’ve seen this all the time. In fact, my father uses his iPad as a camera.
Protests were happening everywhere from Wall Street to Tahrir Square. And in Greece where economic issues are abound, Nodas Stylianidis captured this self-immolation photo, which of course, reminds me of Malcolm Browne‘s photo from Vietnam.
Peggy Sirota took these funny photos of comedian Ken Jeong photo bombing super model Kate Upton. I wrote a blog about it. People got upset. Said it was gross. Said it was demeaning. But I laughed when I saw the photos. It made me happy. It’s poking fun at the very things that are supposed to be demeaning. Are you trying to convince me that this is perpetuating negative stereotypes?
My high school classmate Tina and I share a stupid on-going exchange about Nicolas Cage, who has had his share of problems. When my birthday rolled around, she didn’t resort to the typical “happy birthday, allen!” wall post. No, no. She made a composite. It’s some sort of horse head nebula. With a cupcake. And Nic Cage’s floating head atop the cupcake. It’s amazing. This photo, by the way, is perpetuating negative stereotypes of Nic Cage Nebula Cupcake photos.
I love photography.
There’s a teenager in Japan named Natsumi Hayashi. She had some average Canon DSLR, but she came up with this concept to take self-portraits that look like she’s levitating. She takes a few hundred images jumping up and down and trying to strike the right pose. She has a Facebook Fan Page and lots of people take homage shots, but they’re just jumping in the air. They don’t levitate. They don’t jump 100 times for the perfect image. They don’t do it over the course of a few years to make it their own. She’s just a girl with a camera, and then all of a sudden she got a gallery show and a 5D, and I was really psyched for her. Her photos inspired me to levitate, and what could be a greater gift?
I love photography.
Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez of the US Air Force took this photo of a Special Operations dog jumping out of a plane. I’ve seen a few images similar to this. It’s amazing. It’s amazing that a dog helped Seal Team 6 kill Osama bin Laden. It’s amazing that dogs jump out of planes with people. It’s amazing that military personnel are there to photograph this stuff, and even more amazing that it gets published.
Tony Cenicola humorously photograped a chicken to accompany a New York Times article on cooking with chicken skin. On the Lens blog, reader Carol J. Adams commented:
“Not only has the Times featured a misogynistic image, they are now celebrating it by discussing it in a blog? This is the sexual politics of meat; it is about sexualizing the dead flesh of an animal by associating it with women’s bodies. It is anti-woman, it is anti-animal; it’s a pathetic, dated, sensibility. All around the world meat companies have beaten you to this. This is a new low for the Times. Beheaded female bodies as attractive? Just who do you think you are eating?”
“@Carol J. Adams – Your comment does not hold weight with its own blatant disrespect for the male form that is Burt Reynolds. Why your mind took an innocent image of a chicken, and associated it with a female body is beyond me.”
It is a chicken, right? I dunno, I get confused between people and chicken sometimes.
While some photographers complain about stolen images, security and thumbnail sizes, editor Alan Taylor went in the opposite direction. In 2008, he created the Boston Globe’s “The Big Picture” which was one big page of lots of incredible photos that were 990 pixels wide. No tiny thumbnails, no watermarks, no Flash, no bullshit slideshows that were only developed to create page inventory against which to sell ads. Nope. The Big Picture was about showcasing photography, and it’s glorious.
He was so successful that The Atlantic hired him away in early 2011 to start In Focus, which continues the large format tradition.
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.
My best friend got married in September, and I took this photo of him hugging his father at the rehearsal dinner. It’s a pretty crappy photo. The light was really orange, and this was the best I could do with the white balance. His father’s face is obscured, but it’s an honest photo.
Last week, his father passed away following heart surgery. I knew his father for 20 years. I saw my first snow at their house over Christmas break in 1994, where I also did my first snow angel at the age of 18. I spent hours at the piano while his father played the guitar. I spent hours at the computer looking at all his father’s flower photos. Tell me that this is a shitty photo. (It is) Tell me that you could have done better. (You could have) Tell me that I didn’t need a $5000 camera to capture this. (I didn’t) Then tell me how I would feel without this photo, and tell me how photography sucks.
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.