Thursday, May 24, 2007

Snapshots vs. Art

A friend told me recently that her daughter won a stock photography contract with a Swiss company. That's great news. "Oh," I said, "I would love to see your daughter's work." She promptly gave me the Web address and I went on my way.

I just checked out the site.

It really, really, truly, honestly, undeniably, totally sucks. It sucks in a major way. And it sucks so bad that now I'm going, "Awwwwwww, what on earth am I going to say to my friend when she asks me what I thought?" Because I'm not one of those people who can feign enthusiasm for shit.

I thought about not posting this here, because I sound like a photo snob and I don't want to be snippy. So let me clarify that I do not judge other photography from the standpoint of thinking that I'm a great photographer myself. I consider myself mediocre at best, and possibly with a flair for editing. In other words, I know to throw out the junk and not show it to anyone. I like to think I have an eye and, when looking at the work of others, can say, "That's phenomenal" versus "That looks like a ordinary snapshot taken with a circa 1986 Kodak Disc camera."

And it's not that I think snapshots are bad. Snapshots are fantastic. The snapshot holds a very important place in the friend and family history genre. It's vital and necessary and invaluable. The world would suck rocks if there were no snapshots.

It's just that snapshots generally aren't interesting to many people other than those who are in them, or those who love (or at least like) those who are in them. Think about it. I'm sure your coworker who you think is named Ned but you're not sure, who you smile at and say, "How ya doin?" when you pass in the hall, not even slowing down to get a real answer, has a big ol' photo album at home full of images that are priceless to him but don't mean diddly squat to you.

Really good photography, though, the kind that hits you in the solar plexus and makes you inhale (or exhale) quickly, or makes you angry or happy or uncomfortable, means something to most everyone. That's the kind of thing that should win one a stock photography account, not grab shots from cousin Chip's wedding.

I should learn to never, ever say, "Oh, I would love to see your/his/her work."


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