Rant: I Love Photography

It might sound strange to use the verb “Love” in the title of a rant. But here goes.

I love photography.

Why am I telling you this? Isn’t it self-obvious? Don’t we all love photography? The answer is no. There is a percentage of photographers who hate photography. They do not appreciate photography. They do not consume photography. They don’t look at photo books or photo magazines. They hate the guy with the iPhone taking Instagram shots. They hate the guy who just bought the D4 because they don’t have one. They hate people using digital because film is what real artists use. They hate photographers who embrace social media because images should stand on their own. They hate Getty, Corbis, the AP, day rates, photo editors, assistants, rental houses, camera stores, point-and-shoots, iPads, zoom lenses, padded camera straps, wheeled suitcases, younger photographers, older photographers. The photo of so-and-so on the cover of whatever it’s called sucks. That guy copied the other guy, he sucks. Terry Richardson sucks. Chuck Close sucks. Vincent Laforet hasn’t taken a still in 17 years. Kodak hasn’t been managed well since the 70s. Blah, blah, blah.

I love photography. Let me show you why.

This was my favorite image of 2011 shot by Rich Lam for Getty Images during the rioting that occurred after Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. It’s amazing. It’s a crazy juxtaposition of love amidst protest, which was such a dominant theme this year. As many people have commented, it’s a modern day From Here to Eternity. You look at it and you think, “What the hell is going on?” And then you hear the back story and it’s even more amazing that it happened and someone was there to capture it. I’d like to hang it on my wall.

Rüdiger Nehmzow took these incredible photos of clouds from an open door of a plane. Who does that? He’s not complaining about Terry Richardson. He’s too busy creating amazing photos. Speaking of which…

People say the guy has no talent. They hate the on-camera flash. But you know what? That’s Terry Richardson‘s thing. That’s what he does. Do you have a thing? Are you known for your visual style? Sure, maybe you could have taken better photos of Lady Gaga if you had access. But you didn’t. Terry did because he built a reputation and a career. And this photo happens to have some Italian chick with a big nose washing her face and smiling, oh and by the way, she’s an incredibly creative and talented mega star. I was in Tokyo over the New Year’s drinking a coffee in a bookstore, and I flipped through the entire book. Hey man, she was born that way.

This is perhaps the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life from the Mainichi Shinbun (literally “Daily Newspaper”). It’s a black wall of water crashing over a seawall from the Tohoku earthquake that killed nearly 16,000 people. I saw a stupid Matt Damon movie called “Hereafter” that had a CGI tsunami. Then I saw video of the real thing, and I was speechless. A tsunami isn’t a wave. It’s a wall.

My high school hired me to take a series of portraits of Bay Area alumni, so I hired my buddy Max Morse to assist me. Here was the set up shot. I really like it. I posted it on his Facebook wall, and he made it his profile picture. I once made a photo that Missy McLamb took of me into my Facebook profile picture. She commented back that it was the highest compliment. I didn’t fully grok what she meant at the time, but now I do.

2011 marked the ten year anniversary of September 11. I live a few blocks from Ground Zero, so I walked down with my camera hoping to make an iconic shot. But it was cloudy as all hell, and I couldn’t see the towers of light piercing into the night sky. Then I see Eric Thayer‘s photo. Where was I? How much more uplifting could a ten year anniversary photo of 9/11 be?

Reuter’s journalist Barry Malone captured this image near Somalia. The juxtaposition is boggling. Guy in suit. Dead cow that is so starved it looks like a leather jacket. And craziest of all, he’s using an iPad as a camera — a scene that couldn’t have existed until last year since the iPad 2 came out in the Spring. Since then, I’ve seen this all the time. In fact, my father uses his iPad as a camera.

Protests were happening everywhere from Wall Street to Tahrir Square. And in Greece where economic issues are abound, Nodas Stylianidis captured this self-immolation photo, which of course, reminds me of Malcolm Browne‘s photo from Vietnam.

Peggy Sirota took these funny photos of comedian Ken Jeong photo bombing super model Kate Upton. I wrote a blog about it. People got upset. Said it was gross. Said it was demeaning. But I laughed when I saw the photos. It made me happy. It’s poking fun at the very things that are supposed to be demeaning. Are you trying to convince me that this is perpetuating negative stereotypes?

My high school classmate Tina and I share a stupid on-going exchange about Nicolas Cage, who has had his share of problems. When my birthday rolled around, she didn’t resort to the typical “happy birthday, allen!” wall post. No, no. She made a composite. It’s some sort of horse head nebula. With a cupcake. And Nic Cage’s floating head atop the cupcake. It’s amazing. This photo, by the way, is perpetuating negative stereotypes of Nic Cage Nebula Cupcake photos.

I love photography.

There’s a teenager in Japan named Natsumi Hayashi. She had some average Canon DSLR, but she came up with this concept to take self-portraits that look like she’s levitating. She takes a few hundred images jumping up and down and trying to strike the right pose. She has a Facebook Fan Page and lots of people take homage shots, but they’re just jumping in the air. They don’t levitate. They don’t jump 100 times for the perfect image. They don’t do it over the course of a few years to make it their own. She’s just a girl with a camera, and then all of a sudden she got a gallery show and a 5D, and I was really psyched for her. Her photos inspired me to levitate, and what could be a greater gift?

I love photography.

Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez of the US Air Force took this photo of a Special Operations dog jumping out of a plane. I’ve seen a few images similar to this. It’s amazing. It’s amazing that a dog helped Seal Team 6 kill Osama bin Laden. It’s amazing that dogs jump out of planes with people. It’s amazing that military personnel are there to photograph this stuff, and even more amazing that it gets published.

Tony Cenicola humorously photograped a chicken to accompany a New York Times article on cooking with chicken skin. On the Lens blog, reader Carol J. Adams commented:

“Not only has the Times featured a misogynistic image, they are now celebrating it by discussing it in a blog? This is the sexual politics of meat; it is about sexualizing the dead flesh of an animal by associating it with women’s bodies. It is anti-woman, it is anti-animal; it’s a pathetic, dated, sensibility. All around the world meat companies have beaten you to this. This is a new low for the Times. Beheaded female bodies as attractive? Just who do you think you are eating?”

ScottA responded:

“@Carol J. Adams – Your comment does not hold weight with its own blatant disrespect for the male form that is Burt Reynolds. Why your mind took an innocent image of a chicken, and associated it with a female body is beyond me.”

It is a chicken, right? I dunno, I get confused between people and chicken sometimes.

While some photographers complain about stolen images, security and thumbnail sizes, editor Alan Taylor went in the opposite direction. In 2008, he created the Boston Globe’s “The Big Picture” which was one big page of lots of incredible photos that were 990 pixels wide. No tiny thumbnails, no watermarks, no Flash, no bullshit slideshows that were only developed to create page inventory against which to sell ads. Nope. The Big Picture was about showcasing photography, and it’s glorious.

He was so successful that The Atlantic hired him away in early 2011 to start In Focus, which continues the large format tradition.

My friend Caroline doesn’t own a camera. She keeps using the crappy camera on her Blackberry. But it doesn’t matter. It’s not always about the quality of the image, or the composition, or the lighting. Sometimes it’s just about the people in the image and the feeling that it elicits. She went back home to Chicago this summer and had brunch with her mom. Someone took a photo with that crappy little cellphone, and now they can remember that brunch forever.

My best friend got married in September, and I took this photo of him hugging his father at the rehearsal dinner. It’s a pretty crappy photo. The light was really orange, and this was the best I could do with the white balance. His father’s face is obscured, but it’s an honest photo.

Last week, his father passed away following heart surgery. I knew his father for 20 years. I saw my first snow at their house over Christmas break in 1994, where I also did my first snow angel at the age of 18. I spent hours at the piano while his father played the guitar. I spent hours at the computer looking at all his father’s flower photos. Tell me that this is a shitty photo. (It is) Tell me that you could have done better. (You could have) Tell me that I didn’t need a $5000 camera to capture this. (I didn’t) Then tell me how I would feel without this photo, and tell me how photography sucks.

The business of photography is undergoing massive change. People who used to make a ton of money aren’t making the same money any more. Amateurs are giving away photos for free. I totally get it.

But listen. There are so many more incredible photos today than there ever were. And more people consume more photography than they ever did thanks to things like Facebook, Instagram, iPads, blogs, and “best of” compilations. This is the golden age of photography. Everyone takes photos now, and there is inspiration all around us. History is being made, and we’re capturing it.

I love photography.

About the author: Allen Murabayashi is the CEO and Co-founder of PhotoShelter. Allen authors PhotoShelter’s free business guides for photographers and marketing professionals, including topics like email marketing, search engine optimization, and starting a photography business. Allen is a graduate of Yale University, and flosses daily. This article originally appeared here.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Christian!

  • Benicio Murray

     “all photos are interesting”
    And I suppose you believe everyone is a talented and unique snowflake too

  • George

    Great post, Allen. 

    For me, the definition of a great photograph is simple:
    It has to move you. 

    When an image has the ability to elicit some kind of emotional reaction, then as far as I am concerned, you have achieved success. 

    (imho The camera/film/sensor/lens/post-processing used is largely irrelevant, and of interest only insofar as it might help/educate/inspire other photographers to improve to their own technique.)

    Just my opinion.


  • Gavin Stokes

    PhotoShelter (this is where we have a divergence of opinion, which is part of my thesis. you believe that the discussion of photography should be academic in nature. but why do i have to have studied martin parr to have an “important” conversation about photography? i can have a visceral/emotional reaction to a photograph that transcends “pro” or “amateur”, “good” or “bad”, “awesome” or “fail.”) 
    You don’t have to have studied photography to have an “important” conversation about it, it just wont be an informed conversation without some sort of understanding which usually comes about from a certain level of study (not necessarily academic).

    I have to say I spent many years taking photographs and it always irked me that I was never 100% happy with the results or couldn’t repeat the the few ones I was happy with under other circumstances. That changed when I spent a year studying it and developed some context and understanding of what makes a great shot.

  • B E. L

    As an amateur photographer my beef lies with those who think they are photographers based on their equipment. I’ve been working at photography for years and have never had the latest or most expensive equipment, I’ve worked and saved for what I could get, or been lucky to be gifted with handed-down equipment. My style developed around the camera limitations. All my cameras are second-hand and refurbished and only now I am feeling the benefits of a Canon 500d.

    So here is my beef: yesterday I was walking around Oxford Street (I live in London) looking for somewhere to eat with my girlfriend. I love Oxford Street because it is the pool that draws in the entrie countries demographic, everything is there for you to see. So I am walking past French Connection and stop and watch a woman with the latest Canon camera. Her live-view screen was flapped open, her dial was set to auto, her flash was up-and-ready and she was photographing a sign. Now, I have no beef with the auto function, but yesterday was a bright-sunny day and shooting a shop sign required no flash. What I could tell from this, as well as my admitted judgement of her rich-attire, that the camera was a camera for the sake of a camera. But I have a keen eye, I like street photography and I like to write – I look for things. I spotted atleast five or six genuine-looking photographers, walking speedy, looking normal, blending in, cameras-at-sides, shooting when necessary, no bragging, no image.  

    You must know what I mean? These people are everywhere, the slr-necked tourists and wannabes who think the brand or style of camera pertains to image quality and skill. I have seen this in my college photography class, the “coolest” kids with the “best” cameras invariably made the worst pictures. Im talking the on-trend hipster kids who wore photography as an image, a label, not as a hobby. It was, in my class, the “nerdy”, quiet and work-savvy kids, the one’s considered uncool – not being hipster to an extent, who did the best.

    It seems that people think camera quality relates to photographic skill, like shooting a beautiful image with a compact camera doesn’t equate to a fairly-decent image shot with an slr. It’s, like Dennis Marciniak suggests, people like the idea of being a photographer, and what better way to appear photographic than to have an slr. It literally seems, to me, that people believe skill is birthed from the ability or availability to spend – this offends me. It’s like saying, the best cook has the best pans, the best runner has the best shoes, the best gamer has the best computer. Yes, the “best” may have the “best” but they didn’t become the “best” from having the “best”. It’s not magic, Beckham wasn’t a crap footballer until he got some decent boots and a ball – he worked for it, he worked hard. With photography it always seems to me that people compare products, in circles i’ve been in anyway – I am by no means in professonal circles, more than technique, style and skills.

    I think if people are judging photography by equipment, the meaning of photography has been lost, it’s just spec-comparison, not art. That is, in summary, my annoyance. I identified with a story once (cannot remember where I heard/saw it) about a man who went to his friends house and his wife cooked them dinner. Over dinner he showed her photographs and the dinner was good. She remarked “wow – you must have a good camera” he replied, “wow – dinner was good, you must have really good pots and pans”.

    I think this is the modern ethos, especially when we consider the amount of cheat-style, instagram, apps that produce vintage-visuals, among amateur or unknowledgable “photographers”.

     I love people who love photography, who loving creating and sharing images. I do not love people who think they can buy their way into skill or try to wear “photographer” as an image.

    – B 

  • Gavin Stokes

    @ B-E.L, you get that with  anywhere hardware or status can be used to suggest experience…actually it has more to do with announcing to others your wealth or social standing. I don’t think anybody who has any serious involvement with photography 
    is judging photography by equipment.

  • Verso3344

    As far as I know they weren’t apart of the rioting, at least from what I gleaned from the press at the time. My beef isn’t with them, or the photo (which is great)… just the rioters. 

  • Gavin Stokes

    I think this statement pretty much sums up why an informed understanding is helpful……..”Terry Richardson‘s thing. That’s what he does. Do you have a thing? Are you known for your visual style?”….his thing? 

  • B E. L

    You’re right, I think though, a lot of people assume photographers are all big cameras and lenses and this is perpetuated by people who can afford claiming to be photographic.

  • tightsandtea

    a photo shouldn’t have to be explained to be good (oh, it’s his thing! on-camera flash! neat huh?); it should have impact on its own

  • Guest

    “slr-necked tourists and wannabes who think the brand or style of camera pertains to image quality and skill”

    don’t judge people so readily. not everyone with an slr around their neck is a brand-obsessed hipster. to think the quality of the camera/lens has zero correlation with the quality of an image would be a mighty big fallacy.

  • EvilGenius

    I have read the post… and the comments. Thankfully I don’t have to agree with anyone! 

    I have semi-decent kit. Yet, most photos of my 7 month old son are taken with my Blackberry! 

    I believe what is important is to ask yourself: “What story does my photo tell?”

    So stop bitching and go take photos! And Allen… great post! 

  • B E. L

    I totally agree with this, but my point is. A lot of people are buying SLR’s when they could be buying a cheaper compact camera for what they actually want to do/what they need their camera to do. It was obvious to me that she, like many others, buy high-end equipment almost like a guarantee that their pictures will be good.

  • tightsandtea

    I agree to a certain extent.. I own an slr and wouldn’t even consider myself an amateur–I shoot for fun. but I bought it because I enjoy the variety of options (lenses, flash units, filters, extenders, whatever). of course you can capture the same moment with a camera phone, but you don’t have as much control regarding the outcome of the image.

    I think you should be allowed to buy a nice camera and not be judged as “pshht, oh look at that hipster with a dslr thinking they’re a photographer, how amateur of them. pshhhawww I could take better with a P&S, why do they even have that camera”.

    regarding your second-hand equipment–I had great equipment that I sold like 5 years back (college made me literally a starving student). I was able to buy a lot of the same accessories and a “better, newer” camera.. but I found that my old equipment performed better. maybe it’s all psychological, but even the same lenses feel more cheaply made. I wonder if it isn’t unreasonable to think that, in the span of like five years, some lenses were altered slightly to become cheaper to manufacture

  • Veston di Donato

    Amazed.  This article is chocked full of wisdom and caring.  Inspirational, to say the least.

  • Wallerus

    Good read there Allen, and I enjoyed the part of about having a “thing.” Photography, for me, is making photographs, telling a story, capturing moments, and just plain having fun. Thanks for the afternoon reading.

  • Damiamonsivais

    Naively written and quite certainly disappointing article.

  • Damiamonsivais

    Naively written and quite certainly disappointing article.

  • Davide Petilli

    I think the GaGa shot is horrible… the 9/11 anniversary one is superb.
    By the way, I love photography and I think this is a really nice post. Good writing!

  • mikekwan1001

    Sounds more like you love the sound of your own voice (and name-dropping).  It’s fairly obvious you are a fan of “internet photography wankery” rather than actual image making and appreciation of the art.  To me, the best photographers have always been “less talky, more shooty.”  *shrugs* I don’t feel the need to prove to the internet that I know a lot about so-called photography.  I like taking pictures, and I like looking at them…you should try it sometime.

  • mikekwan1001

    “something lack effort or originality can be considered art” (SIC)

    Who made you the arbiter of taste?You just made the biggest mistake of all….equating effort with the value of a piece of art.  It does not matter how hard an artist worked at his piece.  It is irrelevant.  As well, originality is not always the hallmark of great art.  Michelangelo copied, so did Mozart, as well as Shakespeare.  Authenticity is far more important.  As well, art is whatever one want to call art.  What Sotheby’s calls “art” may not be what my grandmother calls “art.”

  • Rachel Devine

    I love every single thing you said and how you said it. Thank you.

  • Kate

    I agree so much with this. I very much appreciate images whether they be taken with a phone or with the most expensive DSLR you gave have. For me, it is about the emotion an image provokes – not about technical purity. 

  • me

    The light was really orange, and this was the best I could do with the white balance.”

  • DaveJ

    Can’t we just take pictures for us? I shoot film, and yeah, I see how easy it is to bring something half-decent and half-as-time-consuming with an iphone, or instagram, or whatever. But I take pictures for me. If that takes a route where it provides for me (income-wise), that’s awesome. But above even that, I only take pictures for me.

  • Kimberly Siebert

    The whole reason for the GaGa photo is because he is meerly showing that he loves photography, good, bad, inbetween. Because ALOT of photography especially the not so good stuff IS HONEST. OH maybe this picture IS Gaga showing just ‘STEPHANIE’ NOT GAGA which is why you don’t like it. Is she NOT a person?

     I think those of you who DONT get it, should REREAD it and not read INTO it.  All this is is his opinion and saying how much he loves photography. He is ‘name dropping’ to prove a point.

     If you don’t understand that either, then maybe you should go back to school.Grow T.F. Up..AND its NOT ABOUT THE ART in THIS post…

    Photography whether good or bad he is saying that it is an important capture of a special moment whatever that moment is. Regardless of how it is captured. Point being, it was captured and now, there is tangible proof of that moment captured.

  • Anne

    great analogy with the pots and pans. a great chef can cook an amazing meal with limited resources. yet at the same time, there are only so many things you can cook out of a single, cheaply made pot.

  • maria s

    excellent article – thanks for sharing!

  • Richiebuzz

    gast! I am ready!

  • B E. L

    This is to the reply you made, it doesnt offer me a reply to a reply option, apparently. I do agree with you, I guess my grievance lies with the fact people seem to adorn the image of “photographer” by owning an slr, but there are those who put in work or, just enjoy taking photographs who may not recieve as much credit.

    My background in art and photography is limited and short-lived, I have only just left college, but what I noticed is this: there is the tendency for people to claim they are an artist/photographer and then there are people who work at being an artist/photographer. I like to think of Garry Winogrand in this case; he is a legend of “street” photography, but he was more interested in aspects of his work that he DIDN’T like as opposed aspects which he did. In my experience, those who seek the image thrive off of a compliment and therefore replicate same-style imagery, those who are truely interested in the subject are interested in how they can improve for themselves. The reply you gave to my comment shows you are interested in photography and pictures, not so much a glorified image that comes with the “photographer”.

  • Suseeharkins


  • Nicolemarcellahunt

    You seem to miss the whole point of the article. It has nothing to do with “helping photographers/photography”, its about achieving a picture, a memory by any means, whether it is instagram or a hasselblad. 

  • KelminVan

    As with beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder. 

  • Buggle

    We couldnt go two freaking posts without more Instagram hate.
    Typical Petapixel.

  • Mantis

    I think far too many people, especially those who comment here, are just in love with the idea of new gadgets.

  • Jaime

    I love this, thank you. 

  • Mindy Mosher

    YESSS!! Thank you!!!

  • DruTheShredder

    Man I wish there was no comment section on any website… everything always turns into a fist fight. I didn’t mean to rhyme that… The truth of the matter is that no one cares about your opinion, I don’t mean that in a rude or malicious way, just being real. If you want to post an opinion, then write a blog, then someone may care enough about your opinion to read what you have to say and try to take some information to heart. I liken this to people posting political opinion on facebook… come on now, we only care about what WE think, not what YOU think, it makes us hate you for a really stupid reason. People have differing opinions, accept it and keep it to yourself. Allen wrote a blog about his opinion, we all followed a link to get here because we care about his opinion. I really do appreciate EVERYONES’ opinion, but only when I ask for it. That is like the 10th time I wrote “opinion” I know. There… that is me posting my opinion about not posting your opinion… contradictory as it may seem… ummmmm… opinion.

  • Shamaresa
  • Summers2

    more shuttering less typing!  nice passion

  • nerea

    @nereamartintin seguirme

  • xxbluejay21

    Dude, I have no idea what you just said. What’s the difference between a photograph and photography? Anyone care to explain??

  • Guest2

    I think he meant he liked the result and not the process: getting the right camera settings, composition, lighting, post processing, etc. It’s a lot of work when you only goal is to appreciate the image afterwards.

  • syedmoindoja

    loved the article

  • csmif

    you are a bitter person.

  • csmif

    Whether you like his style or not, the creep has been getting work consistently for YEARS with major publications and companies. Has your style gotten the same for YOU?

  • Lori Generose

    Awesome article!!

  • Dov

    Yep I totally agree.

    On one note though a chicken is a female bird a rooster is the male. Since nobody eats roosters at least your never going to find a rooster carcass at the majority of supermarkets selling chicken.
    So anybody using a chicken carcass is using a female bird so yeah it is an obvious association anyone who cooks will make consciously or subconsciously..

  • Vikas Khair

    Awesome Article loved it