Nothing but Photography

Sven viser bilder til to av sønnene til Miguel Nuñez og Katarina Nuñez

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.

118 thoughts on “Nothing but Photography

  1. I learn a lot from Cinema the way the cinematographer frame shots interests me and how they light subjects – theater is enjoyable too and I do like browsing books but mainly \i look at other photographers works especially from the past and the guys pushing boundaries.

    1. Like you I get a lot of inspiration from films and books. I used to go on theatre shows, too, but over the last couple of years, that has just vanished into thin air. A good idea to start doing it again. Thanks, Scott.

  2. I have observed this phenomenon myself as well and have been rather puzzled by it! For me it’s entirely different, probably because I come from a family where we engage with art a lot. My mother works in an art museum and so I’ve been running around museums since I was a child. My brother paints, my dad and I go to art shows together and I myself dabble in drawing whenever I find the time. The whole of art history has a lot to offer to photographers, especially where it comes to composition or abstraction and it also teaches how light changes colour. I have heard photographers say that photography is so different that fine art has become unimportant for photographers. I don’t agree at all, especially with realistic painting. And even engaging with abstract art will provide you with tons of knowledge about colour and composition.

    1. I agree completely with you. I actually think the more different from photography other arts are, the more photographers can learn and be inspired by. So abstract painting, yes, absolutely. Otherwise you seem to have a really diverse background into art. Thanks for sharing your experience (and it’s nice to see you back on my blog again).

  3. I am a writer who loves to take photographs and is learning more on the artistic and technical aspects of photography every time I hit the shutter button. I have a photographer friend who is very closed off, and he thinks it’s because he views most of what he sees through the eye piece of his camera. This narrow focus seems second nature to him. Not sure if there is merit in that thinking, but it does make a bit of sense to me.

  4. Otto, I think that what you say is applicable only to professional photographers. I’ve had only the simpliest cameras (Russian “Smena” and today Canon powerShot GLPH 340 HS) and practically zero technical knowledge but photography (art of fixing images and feelings) always gave me joy.

  5. This is a fascinating topic, Otto. Photographers get together and exchange ideas in local camera clubs – it’s the way we learn from each other and grow as photographers. If we go back 100 years or so, painters were doing the same in Paris, and later for example in the Bauhaus movement. I recently was at an exhibition of Piet Mondrian and he and a group of fellow painters had close associations with philosophical ideas – Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Goethe and his theory of colours and also Sculptors. It was a sharing of ideas cross a range of boundaries. Why don’t photographers do that? I think it is partly because we fail to recognize that we are one of the Visual Arts, and partly because photography is more about capturing the reality of the world rather than creating an artistic impression of it. Having said that I think photographers who create composites (and there area lot of them out there) – think of the photographic equivalent of Magritte – might benefit greatly from the sharing of ideas with painters. I certainly find every exhibition I see – painter, sculptor, photographic – inspires me in some way and I would encourage all photographers to broaden their horizons. I now have a list of 12 exhibitions in London that I want to see between now and Christmas and they include Rembrandt, Turner, Constable, Horst and Snowdon. Quite a list.

    1. That’s one thing I envy you, all the possibilities that London offers. 🙂 Besides I think you have a good point in that photography is considered more to be about capturing reality than creating an artistic impression – although both ways requires an understand of the visual language.Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Andy.

    2. You’re right that many photographers don’t think of their work as anything less than “capturing reality.” And different camps like Photojournalists and Fine Arts Photographers have different ‘rules’ about they can and cannot do with photographs. However, I think there’s a misconception that what photographers do isn’t a visual art or a visual language.

      To me discussions on composition, lighting, exposure, choosing the right depth of field, selecting the right image from outtake or methods of processing an image are modes of interpretation or ways to artistically render your particular view of a reality.

      We all have insular tendencies as human beings. However, as individuals, we’re so limited in what we’re able to see and experience. This makes being open to the experiences and perspectives of others more important: how else are we to have a greater understanding of “reality” or be able to communicate it to others?

      1. A very poignant and though provoking comment. I think there is some misconception that photography is not a visual art, but at least it’s less so now than maybe 10 years or 30 years ago. I certainly agree with you in that capturing a photograph is an artistically way of rendering what we see and how we react to what we see. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Ette.

  6. This is an interesting question, as I travel I spend a lot of time in art galleries, and looking at architecture. But if we are to become to professional or at least proficient we must to some level at least become absorbed in the topic. I have a husband, a daughter and step-daughter in construction as project managers – they talk of little else when gathered together, but I know they all have other interests. so it seems when birds of a feather flock together they sing the same song….

    1. Of course that’s always the case. And I see no wrong no wrong in photographers talking photography when they gather. On the contrary. But I also believe many photographers would gain a lot by opening up to and learning about other artistic expressions.Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Janice.

  7. I’ll admit that I can be just as self-absorbed about paintings of a certain kind that inspire and inform my own process. Sometimes it helps for someone else to kick me out of my rut and get me to notice other visual artists’ work. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I like coming to your blog. You open up my world more. Thanks!

  8. I think that people who are passionate about A, B or C, tend to immerse themselves in that passion. But life is this limitless universe of possibilities, and everything that we do invites a layer of experience upon that creative work. Most of the people that I know take a humanistic approach. That is, it is an interdisciplinary way to view their world. They are influenced and inspired as much by a marvelous meal as they are by a passage in a novel. The act of living gives us food for thought.

  9. I totally agree with JF. What you discuss here seem to be true only about the professionals. People like me are interested in many things and the photography is only one (althought very important) feature of my creativity. And by the way, the photo os this post is just (as the French say) “GENIAL” ! . 🙂

    1. Thank you for that nice comment, Geri. It does make sense that what I am saying in this post has relevance mostly for professionals. Other people of course don’t have the same focus on the craft.

  10. Dear Otto
    as Geri and JF wrote before this phenomenon is true for professionals only. But for this group it’s very, very true. Besides not being interested in other forms of art they are quite often neither interested in the theories of aesthetics. Maybe this has to do with digitalisation which turned quite some of my photographer-friends into nerds.
    Greetings from the North Norfolk coast
    the Fab Four of Cley

    1. Thank you Klausbernd. I don’t really think it has to do with digitalisation – although that development m y have reinforced the tendency. I noticed the self-absorbing mentality among photographer (and, yes, mostly professionals) long before digital cameras came around. 🙂

  11. I hope not to be one of these , I regularly visit galleries and exhibitions of art in any form, I feel it keeps your mind open for ART in general. Good photo indeed for the subject of your blog.

  12. So many interesting thoughts Otto! I know quite a few people who are very culturally minded – theatre, film, music, art appreciation to the nth degree yet are very dismissive about photography and no interest in taking photos. Perhaps the photographic fraternity, most of whom work in isolation, you refer to see themselves as having returned from the “jungle after the big hunt” and simply need to debrief amongst themselves sure in the knowledge that friends and family have heard it all before!

  13. As someone who has been smack in the middle of other arts, and only just getting started in photography, I can say this. Seeing and learning from other art forms helps me to frame my photos better maybe. The golden mean, balance, negative space. All these rules apply to sculpture and painting, and also photography. I am not really wrapped up in the tech end of things, I just want to take beautiful and unique photos. Obviously I have to know some of the tech things to achieve this. There was a time I didn’t think of photography as art, then I started looking at it that way, seeing things from that different perspective. Now I see the art in the composition, and end result.

  14. You do well to question single mindedness. There’s so much more – wonderful old houses, gardens design museums and of course in London there’s the V & A, Natural History etc etc
    Like the photo

  15. hi otto,
    in my opinion, a professional (renown/established) photographer would definitely either have an innate or cultivated sense of appreciation for ‘creative art’ forms. i would think their success or failure in the profession – creating successful images is dependent on it. Perhaps the ‘close minded’ idiosyncrasy they suffer from is due to the fact that they are too engrossed and preoccupied in finding and defining their own style, not to be influenced. a blessing and a curse within the profession, so to speak?

    1. I think this could be another element to explain the idiosyncrasy; that some photographers are to worried about being negatively influenced by other artists. Furthermore I believe you are right in that most renown photographers would inherently be interested in other art forms. But you know, most professional photographers aren’t renown…

  16. Insightful post, Otto. I consider myself a photographer and have thought a lot about this question you raise. I found that my relationship to the act of taking photographs was quite paradoxical. My inspiration to take pictures was to figure out my relationship with my autistic brother who is very low functioning. But to do so, the camera was interposed between me and him. So how does the photographer make contact with the subject if there is a physical barrier between the two? When I developed my film and printed my prints, I could see in that 1/60 of a second, moments that I missed in real life. It gave me more awareness… So, getting back to your observation, perhaps many photographers feel the need, unconsciously or otherwise, to be removed from the object or subject that attracts their interest. Photography may be a way to engage with the subject while being protected from it.
    Thanks for your posts and your interesting observations.

    1. You bring up a good point. I know from my own work in for instance refugee camps or in areas that have been destroyed by war that camera – and thus photography – functions as a way of protection oneself. But even if photographers feel the need to be removed from the subject, why would they not be interested in other art forms? Thanks for raising the question, Jack.

  17. Hmm . . . I haven’t noticed this phenomenon, but I don’t get out much . . .

    It is important to refresh oneself from other disciplines. I learned the little that I know about composition from reading works on painting in watercolor. For inspiration, I turn to “Hawthorne on Painting” and Robert Henri’s “The Art Spirit.”

  18. You certainly got some debates going there, Otto! Personally, I have always been interested in art, and think we can learn much from the ways artists have looked at the world around them. I also liked your point about some photographers (and it would be true of artists too) who never roam outside their well trodden path, and I’ve definitely been ‘stuck in a rut’ myself…. Doing your online course this year jolted me, and I hope I’m becoming more creative now.

  19. a lot of the togs I come across where I live, are retired workmen, ex miners/steelworkers and the like, I think for them going to art galleries would be classed as sissy, and they do revel in the lens/camera gadget side of things. I don’t think they think of themselves as ‘creatives’ but really they are, just don’t know it 🙂
    I came to photography through calligraphy first, then painting model figures, but I too am a gadget girl 🙂 so photography ticks the box for me!

  20. Sinceramente non so risponderti. Io sono solo una fotografa dilettante e per passione, non sono certo una professionista. Amo tantissimo l’arte in tutte le sue forme, vado alle mostre di quadri, di sculture e altro ancora. Però mi sono accorta che metto sempre in primo piano ciò che è fotografia e che ho voglia di imparare tantissimo. Poi viene tutto il resto….
    Saluti, Patrizia

  21. This is an interesting observation. I am not completely convinced that is true for all professional photographers. I can’t speak for one for sure but I do trend to be obsessed in photography than other forms of art as well. It is not that I do not enjoy ones when I come to see ones. I believe the reason is that I do not see how they can be directly related to the photography. I could be wrong and likely to be wrong here. I think until one sees the fundamental basis of how a picture/paint, etc. can be related and what make us like what we see (or even hear) then photographers can start appreciate the other forms of art. IMHO.

    I am wondering what other photographers’ first impression or what comes to their mind when they see other’s photographer’s works?

    1. No, of course not, not all professional photographers are self-absorbed by their craft. Anyway it’s understandable that one who is interested in photography spend more time studying the chosen craft than other art forms. But I think even if for art that doesn’t relate directly to photography, it can open the mindset and inspire a photographer.

  22. “Why do you think that photography almost inherently invites to a more closed minded approach, a more self-absorbed creative attitude?”

    This is not true for me, as I have many (too many!) other interests, although photography and all related is by far my favorite. To answer your question…I think it could be in large part, due to the fact that every moment of every day provides an opportunity for a photograph, and a photographer is always noticing those opportunities.

    What a thought-provoking post, Otto. I truly enjoyed it! Thank you!

    1. Part of what you point to also has to do with the fact that photography is an art form that anyone can do (better or worse that is) at least to some extent, while other art forms require more developed skills for a person to perform. Thanks for you thoughtful comment, Lisa.

  23. Interesting questions. I suspect artists of all kinds have a tendency to become a bit one dimensional in favor of their own mediums. And I would prefer to believe that true artists really do appreciate forms of art other than their own. But the truth is that everything you said resonates with my own personal experiences in the world of photography.

    I especially liked your thoughts about the “geekish component” of photography. Why is it when we get together we talk so much about equipment and technique, and so little about inspiration and purpose and vision? Perhaps our conversation reveals something about the quality of our work?

    You said it so well: “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.” When interest moves onward from a fascination for the technical to a passion for creation, maybe that is when an artist is born.

    At any rate, we need artists and we need those who appreciate art, and not everybody has to be both. Whenever there is an explosion of interest in an art form such as there is in photography, that is a great thing because the interest inspires some of us to appreciate our world more.

    I think true artists, whether they be sculptors, painters or photographers must share some rare ability to see things in ways that others do not, to see ordinary things in extraordinary and unexpected ways, to envision creative possibilities that others cannot imagine. I would like to think that artists of that caliber also identify with and appreciate the beauty to be found in other mediums.

    I have met photographers like you describe who love photography to the exclusion of other art forms. That is a conundrum, isn’t it? I’m not overly frustrated by that. After all, we are all works in progress. 🙂

    1. I think the same as you, that true artists appreciate art forms outside of their own craft. The geekish component of photography I think has to do with the fact that no other art form is so technological depended. Yes, you have different brushes, but it’s not high tech the way a camera is. Finally I agree with you that there is no need to be frustrated about this idiosyncrasy of photography. Thank you for a thoughtful comment, Dave.

      1. Oh, the discussion was wonderful – we need more thought provoking posts and this was a great one. So thanks for giving us an opportunity to express ideas like this!

  24. When I first got going in photography, that’s all I could think of. Then slowly, over time, this eased off, and I found that movies and museums are like an electric current in my brain, I get inspired by looking at paintings, sculptures, movie scenes. I can pretty much guarantee, that after coming out of a museum I can see and take more inspired photos. The work of other arts feeds my muse.

    1. That’s how it ought to be for most photographer, that other art forms inspire the muse. As for what you say first, I think it’s only natural that when you start out exploring a new art form, you will keep the focus on it exclusively for the most part until you have a certain grounding.

  25. well said,Otto von Münchow I know my photographer friends who admit that they don’t understand art. They hate to read an art or artists. Some don’t even read books… anyway.
    I learn lot from the interdisciplinary activities, i love working with theater and films. In editorial stories I work along with the writer/ reporter always. I illustrate and build stories. I enjoy that. My point is one (photographer) has to see through every possible angle of life which can be converted into a good meaningful photograph. Thanks for posting.

  26. So many different opinions. I’m not a photographer, just a snapper. I’ve had cameras for years, played around, tried to get into the technical side as I’m a very ‘technical’ person, but ultimately I just return to taking pictures with what’s in my pocket, which, unless I’m on holiday sightseeing is only ever my phone.
    I think mostly I’m just disorganised with a fragmented attention, I find there are just too many things going on to focus on any one for very long, and even when I can concentrate on photos and I do have a camera I end up looking through the lens rather than my eyes, if that makes sense, and the experience is then only recorded but not ‘experienced’ first hand.
    I go snowboarding in fabulous places with amazing light and although my friends have GoPros and I have modest cameras capable of great results I end up shooting pictures and videos holding my iPhone as I ride.
    But somehow for me I like it that way because it’s just how it happens, when it happens, and how I experienced it first hand.
    Hope that isn’t just a load of gibberish! Not only am I not a photographer, I’m no intellectual either!

    1. Not gibberish at all. I think the process you describe is how it is not only for many “snappers” as you call yourself but also for professionals. I think the cell phone camera has changed the way a lot of us see photography and how we approach the shooting process. The cell phone is always there and very inconspicuous. Thanks for sharing your experience, Jerry.

  27. I’m a photographer and to be honest, as much as I like some photo exhibits, I will go to an art museum much more often and soak up all manner of artistic expression that is held within. Paintings, sculptures, the works – I love to see them. Not all of them hold my attention but when they do…ahhh!

  28. Fortunately I have an enquiring mind and will seek to expand my horizons (physical as well as mental!) whenever I can. I like to explore the ‘arts’, in whatever form they take, and will go to see things I think I don’t/won’t like in order to try and understand them or see them with a different perspective. I find it a little sad when people are too blinkered by their own perceived views as they miss out on so much the world has to offer.

    Warning – this next bit as an opinion based on absolutely no facts at all! …. and when I talk about photographers I’m not including documentary photographers etc. who record moments of reality.
    Maybe the difference between artists and photographers is because, in principle, anyone can ‘be’ a photographer …. after all, all you have to do is get hold of a camera and press a shutter release. Artists need (I believe) to have a natural ability and those without that natural instinct soon fall by the wayside. There are some artists who choose photography as their medium and it is they (as well as the innately curious like myself!) who, like artists in other mediums, will visit galleries etc. in order to feed their interests in the arts. It is also they who realise that the art of photography also involves a lot more than pressing the shutter release or how the next 1000pixels will improve the pictures they take.
    Maybe your question is as much down to the differentiation between ‘happy snappers’ and ‘photographers’ (ie. photographic artists) as anything else – but there’s a minefield!
    I’m not sure I’ve put this down particularly well but I hope it makes sense!

    1. It sure makes sense – and yes it could be a minefield – but I think you are touching on the core of what I am trying to discuss in this post. As I answered to another comment, everybody can photograph, yet it takes quite a devoted approach if you want to make art out of photography. And that devotion would naturally include inspiration from all kinds of art forms. Thank you for a thought-provoking comment, Noeline.

  29. A very interesting observation. I have noticed the same thing and it puzzles me. Photography is about observation—not with a lens but with your eyes. If you don’t look at anything, you are not seeing anything. I always got inspired by walking through art galleries and watching movies. painters start with a blank canvas and add or delete elements of their choosing. It is all about composition and technique. (It is said that Edward Hopper was really a photographer and I agree.) Watching movies is all about mood and feeling. Cinematographers use their lenses to create feelings and emotions for the viewer. Both of these elements, in my mind make for interesting photographs.

  30. I agree with David, in that photography is about observing. There are many worthwhile scenes that non-photographers and non-artists will simply not see. When I was active in photography, I thought of how to frame a subject and how to keep the detail I wanted in the shadows or the highlights (if either mattered to the composition). So, framing and lighting is important for the architectural component of the shot as well as Bresson’s “decisive moment”. I have dabbled in sketching and watercolor painting which seems to take observation to the next level. Instead of capturing the moment, a painter or sketcher synthesizes what is in the scene that presents itself.

    As far as your original question goes, Otto, as has probably been said in the earlier comments, photography attracts the tech-oriented (for the uber-snappers) as well as some artists who need the remove of the camera. The act of observing can also be isolating. Observing implies an outsider stance, as in, “I observed,” rather than, “I participated.” One of my teachers told me a story of a photographer who was at a funeral of a loved one. He took pictures the whole time, very dry-eyed. Later, someone noticed him looking at the pictures he shot, crying. Apparently, he was observing when he was taking the photographs, but participating when he really understood the content of his photographs.

    I imagine that photographers as a group come from all different backgrounds. Perhaps the field of photography offers an environment to those who would not (consciously) be interested in overt artistic expression but have a need to express themselves in some way.

    Thanks again, Otto for sparking this discussion.


    1. Your last point is a good one. Photography attracts not only artists who use the camera to express their vision, but an array of people with various motivations for photography all the way up to the über-tech-oriented. You thoughts on the ability to observe is very valid, too. Although I think that those photographers who are able to move their viewers with their art, are not only observing during the photographic process, but actually participating. If you keep a distance, then that will come forth in your images. Thanks for the elaborate comment, Jack.

  31. I have noticed exactly the same and while it always puzzled me as well, I don’t think that I have an answer or explanation. Maybe we’re are just not all seeking the same. It might be more important or enough for some photographer to document what they encounter in the world in the best possible way. The motive itself is not so much important but rather to master the technique/equipment and get reliable and reproducible results. And there there are other who see the camera and also the editing software as tools comparable to the brushes and colours of a painter. The latter might be more open to other arts.

    For me, I’d say art basically led me to photography and then photography led me to art. There have often been times in the past where I wanted to create something and give the pictures in my head a physical form but I never felt confident enough to actually start painting. And what would I do with all the canvas and paper anyway? Many years later, I finally started to discover photography and found that it is the perfect tool of creation for me. At about the same time, I also became interested in streetart which is quite strongly linked to photography, not only because it helps documenting the temporary artworks but also because a lot of stencil artists use photographs as basis for their work. I still find a lot of pleasure and inspiration in the work of urban artists and like to use words from songs, movies and books to go with my photographs but also embrace what the ordinary world has to offer me. I think that’s a lot more fun than tech talk though I also have to admit that it makes me smile sometimes when another photographers asks me: How did you do that? 🙂

    1. As you point out – and as have been pointed out in other comments – the fact that photography attracts I wide range of approach, from the artist to the documenting person to the happy snapper to the tech interested; makes it less possible to classify or put together a single understanding that covers all practitioners of photography. Thanks for sharing your experience, Viola. It was particularly fun to read about the influence street art has had on your photography.

  32. I don’t think I realized that photographers were often isolated from appreciating other art forms.I think you know that best from the company of other photographers. And I hope you can influence your fellow photographers to think differently if that is true of them. I can say that my interest in photography was fueled by the photographic exhibits I admired at the Fine Art galleries. I would originally go to an art museum to feast on the paintings, but inevitably I’d find my way to special photography exhibits and I suppose along the way I really began to see how exposure to different mediums sparked greater love for art in general, which in turn increased by creative curiosity. Very interesting thoughts, Otto.

    1. You are not the only one who have found photography through more classical art forms. As for changing anything, I don’t think my thoughts will get photographers more interested in other art forms – if they aren’t already. For me it’s more about trying to understand. Thank you for sharing your experience, Debra.

  33. This is an interesting observation Otto.
    I think if you get too caught up with the process of making a photograph you are bound to isolate yourself. Same goes for other art forms as well. That’s because each is very different from the other. On the other hand if you focus more on the final output and see it as a creative expression of your feelings you would be able to draw parallels, relate to and even take inspiration from other art forms as well.

  34. Wow, I didn’t realize this facet of photographers. I would never have known based on my experiences with your encouragement of my artwork, Otto! Thank you for being one who thinks outside the box! 🙂

  35. As a passionate photographer, amateur I find interaction with other art form very interesting and useful. A few years ago a friend of mine, who unfortunately is no more with us managed to make a not formal group of people involved in different arts, one was a musician, another a land artist, a couple of photographer, an art teacher a few other people. We used to meet each 1 or 2 months, visit an event which could have been a painting exhibition or a concert or a movie very oft in a different city. Therefore we had to travel by train and when coming back home we always had interesting and stimulating discussion about what we took part in.
    If a plan an exhibition of my photos when selecting I need to find a certain rhythm in it not too be too boring for the viewer, the process to find a rhythm is the same the musician has when planning a concert…
    Unfortunately my friend who was the hearth of this group died, some other me included moved to a too far city and the experience stopped.
    But from that I learned to try to get something, inspiration, ideas from other expressive arts. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not but that is life!
    Thanks for this interesting post Otto and thanks to all the friend who made comments as well very interesting!
    PS:not yet understood how is that I always arrive late…

    1. You are never late, Robert, but always arriving at the right time. The group you were part of sound like a great idea. Something for others to pick up on. I am part of a similar kind of group with me being the photographer. The others are one graphic artist and painter, the second being a marketing consultant and the last working for the local opera. We don’t meet on a regular basis, but maybe three or four times a year. The exchange is really very inspiring. Thank you for sharing your how it works for you, Robert.

  36. i have been a photographer for over 35 yrs, taking a 3 year long full time course in it in the glory days of film, back then, i framed everything i looked at with my mind’s eye, to see if it would be a good picture… i have lost that skill, or obsession, what have you. I no longer care about being a great photographer, in fact i aim for the opposite, to be bad at it and this is a challenge for me, to take boring photographs and somehow still get that little tingle from it…. i think perhaps that’s what makes photographers obsessed, is that little dopamine rush of it, the sheer addiction, it probably binds to our opiate receptors lol…

    but i must admit, my main interest is in biohacking and my health, science, quantum physics, etc… i come from a background of physics and i had mini strokes that wiped out my education, but the spirit of it all is still there… ironically, even tho my major education was computer science and physics, it is photography that has remained, abiding patiently for me to come back to suckle, knowing that when day i will be starved for that je ne sais quoi that i get from it

  37. Of course I never thought about the impact of hormones. You are probably quite right about it. Otherwise I think it’s interesting to read that you try to take boring photographs. Of course I know that your do get that little extra element that makes the photos not boring at all. Still fun to learn about your approach. Thanks for sharing your experience, Elaine.

  38. Thanks for a provoking post … have been puzzling over it; I’m toying with the idea is that photography as a serious discipline does attract a lot of ‘convergers’ with mildly obsessional traits – and who naturally stay focussed on their main interest to the exclusion of others.

    Possibly more divergers are attracted now with the opening of the field to less technical approaches (or smart cameras), and that is reflected in their open mindedness to other disciplines around them. It is becoming harder to define words such as ‘photographer’ or ‘artist’ or ‘writer’ these days with the rise of blogs, etc diffusing the boundaries of professional skills.

  39. An excellent and very interesting article as always Otto. Beyond the exposure trinity that I learned as a lad of 13 and never forgot, I’ve never been that interested in the technical aspects of photography to be honest. I feel a little shamefaced when I say that but I bought a camera two and half years ago a picked up again where I left off as a boy of 14. I set my all singing and dancing camera to M and that’s where it’s stayed ever since. My eyes glaze over when I start reading technical articles. I just want to be out there taking pictures and I muddle through.
    Not having really studied much about art, I did used to visit Tate Modern quite regularly which I enjoyed very much and your article was quite timely as I’d just been reading a book on composition, a book written for artists who paint pictures, not photographers. Artists who can put objects and subjects anywhere they like within their canvas. It gave me an interesting perspective. Lots to be learned. I can’t move trees or rocks but I can move myself of course. I think we can certainly learn a lot from other artists and other arts.

    1. Nobody should even try to move the world around. As you say, what we can do is move ourselves. Very to the point. Interesting to read that despite not being interested in the technical side of photography you shoot manually. 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Adrian.

  40. My feeling about Photography are deeply routed in what I think images create. These thoughts came from reading a book called “On Photography” by Susan Sontag highly recommended for any photog. By the way she wasn’t a photographer. “Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. stay eager.” ― Susan Sontag
    My photograph has evolved and morphed into my spiritual path as I search for creativity and yes it becomes and attachment and maybe an obsession. If one is to find creativity one must balance the technical and at time lose it to the moment, IMHO.
    Another book for those searching for artistic creativity check out ” The Zen of Creativity” by John Daido Loori.

    1. Susan Sontag’s book is classical and a must read for anyone slightly interested in photography. The book by John Daido Loori I haven’t heard about. Just ordered it – look forward to reading it. Thanks for the recommendations and for sharing your look on photography.

  41. Guilty!!! 🙂
    I was in a room with someone the other day and overheard her say that she did (‘something’)ography….I only heard the ‘ography’. So I struck up a conversation thinking she said photography, but she clarified that she had said choreography… interest waned off. This blog reminded me of that 🙂
    I think meeting with someone who has a similar passion creates a synergy that attracts us. However, this shouldn’t prevent us from appreciating and being interested in the passions of others.
    Good post!


    1. Yes, it’s only natural that people with similar passion enjoy that passion together. But as you say, this shouldn’t prevent anyone from opening up to other impulses and other forms of passion. Thanks for your comment, Jacqueline.

  42. Having never been overly technical, I feel very strongly that the arts inspire and influence photography. Besides pouring through art books and visiting museums, I sometimes listen to music on my iPod as I shoot or edit photos. I believe there are many things in life that influence our work that we are probably not even conscious of!

  43. I’m not a professional photographer, but I do love a well captured photo and enjoy shooting in natural light. Photography, like anything, can become an obsession and a self-absorbed activity, because to be great it takes much time. In our digital age taking the photos is just one phase of the production. The post-shooting work, either by photoshop or other application tweaking is what takes up massive amounts of time. At least, that’s what professional photographers tell me.
    It’s worthwhile to pay for a photographer’s skill – I trust his/her professional technique and eye. Because the process of producing quality work requires so much time, and the art is overall, a tedious endeavour (from post-production to sorting and maintaining say, an online portfolio), near obsession is almost a prerequisite to be among the greats.
    Some may disagree – in our age of super cameras, anyone can buy a DSLR and claim to be a photographer. I don’t think it’s that easy, and have respect for those who really hone their skills through time and experience.
    There’s also a certain line of comfort that needs to be crossed, especially if you’re a photographer whose subjects are other human beings. It’s often intrusive and one really must love the art to have the boldness to take photos of people who may be vulnerably positioned. Every photographer has his/her etiquette – for permission, some ask, some don’t. It’s a matter of professional standards if and how one chooses to compensate their subjects, especially if it involves making commercial prints out of human subjects. Bottom line is, you must love the art to cross over to that discomfort zone.

    1. I totally agree with most of what you say here, but for me that love for one art doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to expand one’s vision inspired by other art forms besides photography. And I am sure you agree. Otherwise your description of the professional photographer is accurate. Maybe with the exception of one thing. Yes, post processing takes quite a bit of time, but for me it’s still so much faster than when we all worked with traditional film. The digital era has really made the whole process so much easier. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Pixie.

      1. Yes Otto, I completely agree that it’s possible, perhaps even important, to find inspiration in other art forms apart from photography itself. That’s an interesting point – that post processing is now faster with technology. I’ve had photographers tell me otherwise – there’s a movement (in HK at least) where photographers charge more to shoot on old-school film, not only because of the preferred ‘texture’ of the produced photos but also because there’s close to no post-processing time – just that the photographer has to find a decent studio that still processes film. Thus I have the idea that shooting on film requires less processing time. I’ve not really shot on film though, so can’t really say.
        Generally I would imagine that technology has made things easier on many levels, especially with portfolio creation and sharing.

        1. I guess it depends on how you work. But if you want to keep up with a searchable archive, want to make black and white prints or colour correct anything with films it’s such a slower process. 🙂

          1. Yes true. Personally I wouldn’t bother. We’ve probably passed that era!

            I like your photography and your take on things. Look forward to your new work 🙂

  44. This is fascinating to me on a number of levels: both your original post and the responses.

    While I’m not a photographer, except in the sense that I take photographs to use as illustrations on my writing blog, I follow a number of photographers. In each case, the appeal of their website or blog isn’t just their photos or the technical advice they offer. Instead, I stick with the ones who don’t fit a pattern of self-absorption. Self-awareness, the ability to reflect on the creative process, and an awareness of the dialogue that takes place between artist and viewer (however implicit) are what attract me. There are many similarities in the creative process across disciplines, and photographers who understand this not only are more appealing as photographers, they have much more to offer to the creative community.

    Ironically, the same sort of self-absorption exists among writers. I know plenty of people who spend their days reading about writing, attending writing workshops, and blogging about writing. They’re also obsessed, but when you look at their work, there’s very little content and a great deal of self-analysis.

    The first photographer I followed was Chase Jarvis, and one of the best books I’ve read was “Hackers and Painters” by Paul Graham. There’s an extended essay on his site that gives the jist of his argument. Programmers like Graham and Alan Kay are terrific examples of people outside the more traditionally artistic realms who can help us avoid the kind of solipsism that can stop the creative process in its tracks.

    1. Well, I am not surprised that not only photographers but also others in other creative fields also can be mono-obsessed. I think for any discipline, any form of art, those artists who understand to bring in inspiration from other fields are indeed more appealing as artists – as you point out. Thanks for a very poignant comment, Linda.

  45. My immediate thought on this is that it’s because the camera is a “magic box”: You point it, and it captures whatever you want to remember forever! That makes it an object of fascination in its own right. But then, we can move beyond just that, of course, as you encourage photographers to do, here.

  46. I think the creative soul is always in search of something new and special ~ and in that sense all artists have this desire (and flexibility) to pursue something new outside of their chosen area of expertise. However, in my mind I also see photography offering so much more besides the “simple” magic of creativity ~ and that is technology. All the technology, technique and money involved in this hobby makes it easy to be distracted, to become absorbed in everything else except for the beauty of creativity & pursuit of something new… Then again, perhaps, of course, maybe not 🙂

  47. Cath Rennie has added her voice to a photograph. Using written words, sounds. video, she has certainly tweeked my interest 🙂 Press On – I added the sense of smell to a drawing I did in Egypt. I dipped a stick in a bottle of brown ink and sketched some columns – got back to the hotel and realized it wasn’t walnut ink it was echinacea ! Hummm this has strayed from your original question.

  48. That is a thought-provoking article, Münchow. A serious number of ‘pro’ photographers seem to cocoon themselves in their art which is more a journey than destination. A journey has fellow travellers of all hues and calling, a destination may have none.

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