Why is it that so many photographers seem interested in nothing by photography? They wouldn’t go to an exhibition except when photography is been showcased. They wouldn’t talk about arts except when it’s about the art of photography. They wouldn’t show curiosity for anything but the craft of photography. Why are photographs so self-absorbed? Other artists are interested in more than their own craft, but photographers seem to be only interested in photography.
I don’t mean to rant or to patronize, if anything this is a question to myself and in so doing confronting my mostly former self. I used to be all absorbed by photography. Yes, I could appreciate a nice painting, but I wouldn’t go to the length of seeking out a gallery to discover the art of painting. I certainly wouldn’t go to an arts performance. When I met fellow photographers we would immediately connect and start talking about technique or maybe even photography in a broader sense if we got that far. I would be curious to find out more about the other photographers I ran into. But when I met other kinds of artist I didn’t show more than polite interest in their doings. Today I think it is quite strange, to say the least, that I would say no to a whole world of other creative endeavours and potentially inspiring encounters. Now I recognize the same in so many other photographers; they close themselves up for this whole stimulating world outside of photography. Saying so, I should of course add that lots of photographers do expand their horizon beyond their own self-centred worldview.
But then; what is about photography that invites its performers to reduce and narrow the creative experience? For one I think it’s partly the geekish component of photography, closely connected to its technical aspect. I see a certain fascination with the advanced technology that modern cameras are an exponent of, and I certainly can be excited myself about a new lens or a new camera I have acquired. But the excitement soon wears off and I become more interested in the picture creating aspect of the gadget, not its mere technology. I think for a great many photographers – or so-called photographers I should maybe say – the fascination never develops beyond the technical aspect. That’s their interest more than the ability to create images that speak from the heart and add insight into our diverse existence.
Nevertheless, it’s not only the technological nerd who stays self-centred around photography. I see photographers genuinely interested in the creative component of photography, but still never roam outside their well-trodden path. This I find harder to explain – although I have been there myself. Is it still the mechanical/technological aspect of photography that sets it so apart also in the picture creating process itself? With all other arts the artists need to create everything from the ground (more or less that is), but with photography the photographer takes what is and captures an image of whatever that is (and I do realize that computer added design has somewhat changed that idea in certain areas of photography). Do we think that because of this mechanical rendering of the image we have nothing to learn from other arts? That the technique also limits the learning experience or the value of other expressions or art?
As much as I have been there myself, it still puzzles me that it seems like photographers have a tendency to isolate themselves from the rest of the creative world. We should instead embrace all there is, find new ways of performing our arts, combining methods and ways of expressing ourselves and learn from whatever there is to learn from. In my post Diversify and Become More Creative I wrote «we will learn much more, and find more interesting ideas, if we look beyond the lessons already learned by our peers, and look elsewhere.» I really think we should spend much more time with other works of art or even collect inspiration outside of the artistic world.
Why do you think that photography almost inherently invites to a more closed minded approach, a more self-absorbed creative attitude? Or am I maybe completely wrong? I would love to hear your opinion.