A couple of weeks ago, I decided to have a bit of a clean-up of the various photography and photographer RSS feeds I’ve been following. Although I hadn’t intended it that way, the ones that got the chop are, to be blunt, the self-appointed gurus. The ones that stayed tend not to be selling anything. I realised that I’ve been getting far too hung up on various people’s opinions that just don’t matter. We seem to be going through some kind of bubble, where a whole slew of people who’ve owned a camera for about 5 years have set up websites left, right & center setting out their stalls and inscribing the Truth on their stone tablets. Usually there’s more than a whiff of cod mysticism involved, or some slightly nauseating goody two shoes humanism. And all wrapped up in one of three visual recipes: wild over saturation, fake cross processing, or long exposure complete with vignetting. And spread over countless e-pages in e-books, or even,
, print books. Travel advertising as travel photography, IKEA prints as art. Sadly the amount of original thought is very low, and awareness of any kind of context or history of photography is even lower. It’s like the world was reset with Digital, or maybe with expired film in crap cameras.
About 10 years ago, things were a little different. I learnt a lot from Michael Reichmann’s Luminous Landscape - which started out around 1998 if I remember correctly, which took a rather different approach. No preachy tone, although plenty of opinions, but opinions, suggestions and pointers backed up with many years of experience. A few others are worthy of note, but none have had the staying power of the Luminous Landscape - even if, personally, both it & I have moved on, and we’re not really in the same space anymore. But actually after all these years it’s still the gold standard.
Much of the preachiness involves the exhortation to “Follow Your Vision (but give me money so I can tell you what it is)” (does that bring the same analogy to your mind as it does to mine) ? But I’m cutting loose. You can’t buy inspiration in an eBook. Inspiration is all around, it’s free, and uniquely personal. Not everybody in the world can be a great photographer, but everybody can follow their own personal journey through photography. And personally I find it a lot more rewarding when I manage to forget all the gurus whispering in my ears.