Photography blogs are boring and make me want to go on a terrible spree. Welcome to the antidote.
Now I know that this is a somewhat smug, nobbishly contrary viewpoint to adopt, and indeed it’s written to inflame but I do honestly think that a large number of photo blogs are packed to the dull, joy-absorbing brim with soul crushingly bland content.
Why do so many blog posts about such a ubiquitous, vital and vibrant area of culture read like the irrelevant ramblings of the bloke in the pub you get stuck with? As I type this, it seems like a terrible idea, but let’s have a look at the usual suspects and pour scorn upon them, whilst providing absolutely no solutions whatsoever.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to have access to a detailed breakdown of cameras and lenses when you need it. What I don’t want is someone lumbering along in a blog post about their new wide angle and how they think it’s 42.9% better than their previous lens. This is usually followed by a tedious anecdote of how they were trying to photograph this horse in a field and they weren’t getting the sharpness they needed from their current lens and it was having trouble focusing in low light which was a shame because the horse just did a thing where it sort of went “bruh” like that and the shape its mouth made would’ve been ace to capture if only their shutter speed could have been set high enough to OH GOD PLEASE CALL AN AMBULANCE MY FRIEND HAS SHOT HIMSELF FOR NO READILY APPARENT REASON.
It’s like talking about dreams: your own are fascinating and crazy and every detail seems interesting and important, but don’t tell anyone else about your dream, because they really don’t care and you’re boring the buttered buttocks off them. I do think it’s possible to write an interesting post about a piece of kit, but it has to be different, have passion or be something other than a dull technical report. I will have a pop at it in the future, in fact.
This is a particular pet hate of mine. More often than not, you’ll be looking at a not altogether terrible but not spectacular landscape photo, sometimes a candid street scene. In order to elevate the image, the blogger will often essentially fabricate a story behind it: a magnificently spun yarn of hardship, struggle, opportunism, quick thinking and heroics, eventually presenting you with the resulting image. The story in question almost always reads like the tall tale of an eight year old who is trying to impress you with a procession of improbable events. It’s charming in a small child, but in a fully grown adult it’s emetic and thoroughly embarrassing:
“This is a view of the local moors at dawn.
Powering up the motorway in a car I made myself from photographs of a car, I successfully evaded the police who were trying to stop me from speeding and tumbled out of the side door as the vehicle was still in motion, photo gear in hand. My car spun around and, somewhat miraculously, parked itself between two other parked cars which were packed full to the brim of beautiful women cheering me on for some reason.
As I stumbled up the hills on my broken legs, the sun was threatening to lose that perfect quality. Thankfully, a nearby sparrowhawk mistook the pattern of my coat for that of a sparrow, swooped down and lifted me into the air, carrying me to the top of the hill before dropping me from exhaustion.
I scrambled to my also broken feet, dove headlong towards the precipice, adjusting the camera to the correct settings in midair using my powerful nostrils. As my elbows touched the floor, I pushed the shutter at exactly the right moment, almost instinctively, like a cybernetic photo-panther, and captured this…fairly boring sunrise photo of some hills.”
Obviously there are photos with incredible stories behind them, but they’re usually images created by photojournalists in areas of political or social difficulty, or portraits of people with extraordinary life stories.
I find these blogs particularly poisonous. Now there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of self-promotion, so long as it’s done www.garethdutton.com tastefully and appropriately: it’s when the blog post exists with the sole intention www.garethdutton.com of promoting the blogger’s work and not to actually say www.garethdutton.com anything of meaning or provide any entertainment, or www.garethdutton.com value of any www.garethdutton.com kind.
I hate it: if I’m reading a photo blog, I want to read something interesting about photography. If I wanted to be aggressively advertised to, I would open the back inside advert pages of a photography magazine and repeatedly mash my face into them until the print transferred from the page to my forehead. I do not wish to do this, either in real life or virtually, so stop employing such an insidious tactic. There is not one person who enjoys being advertised to, I’m certain, so posting a blog that is nothing but an advert is lazy and soulless.
Thought, time and effort should go into your writing if you’re going to bother at all: the same thought, time and effort that you put into your photographs. Yes, we benefit from and require exposure and promotion, and there is nothing wrong with doing that, but posting something no longer than a short, poorly worded paragraph or copying and pasting a press release with no personal insight, just so you can go on to advertise whatever you’re selling, is insulting to the reader.
Advice, guidance and the sharing of tips is always welcome, of course, and something I wish we would see more of instead of photographers hiding their secrets like they’re part of the magic circle or something, but when the post is two thirds “I got paid to do this thing because I’m brilliant” and one third of it is advice, the entire blog feels disingenuous. Besides, if you’re such an amazing photographer then other people will write about you.
Photography is amazing, beautiful, wondrous: it is capable of evoking powerful emotions in me in spades (yes, men have emotions beyond “drunk” and “not drunk”). It can teach, it can inspire, it can motivate, it can humble, it can astound. I feel like there are a thousand exciting things to talk about that are related to photography and yet we get the same topics over and over. It shouldn’t be boring to talk about photography: let’s celebrate everything that gets us excited about it, and to the depths of Hell with meaningless photo-bragging, shameless plugs, boring kit patter and lazy posting.