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!

  • Laura York

    Loved this article! 

  • kirk benton

    I love photography. Like have tattoos of cameras love. At the same time, I apologize, but instagram does not help a lot of photograpy/ers

  • Dennis Marciniak

    Yeah – this was good, I often wonder myself whether people love photography or love the idea of being a photographer.

  • J.L. Williams

    So, Allen, you love photography. Good for you. No doubt you’ll now get deluged with comments about how wonderful your post is. This isn’t one of them.

    Reading your post helped remind me that I hate photography. No, I don’t hate people with iPhone cameras or D4s, I don’t hate celebrity photographers, I don’t hate people who use digital instead of film or vice-versa.

    No, photography is what I hate. I feel about photography the same way poet Robinson Jeffers wrote about poetry in “Love the Wild Swan”:

    I hate my verses, every line, every word.
    Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try
    One grass-blade’s curve, or the throat of one bird
    That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky.
    Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch
    One color, one glinting
    flash, of the splendor of things.

    After too many years of learning photography, studying photography, spending too much money on photography, practicing photography, I’ve realized that the only thing I like about photography is photographs, and photography usually gets in the way of photographs.

    But you know what? If you go back and read your post, you’ll notice that you say you love photography, but all you talk about are photographs. So maybe we’re not so far apart.

    The snap of the big-nosed Italian girl is still kack, though.

  • BigTallGates

    Photography. Fuck Yeah!

  • Richiebuzz

    You said it!! I hear ya! great article.

  • Kitty Mason

    Enjoyed your article. I was just thinking last night as I was going through some photos that “I love photography”! Am I great at it, probably not, but I love it enough to keep learning. :)

  • Mark J P

    Really great post and very well said.

    I love photography too.  I love taking/making photographs of my own as well as looking at other people’s work.  Photography is special and it doesn’t really matter what camera was used, they are just tools.  At the end of the day the photography speaks for itself.

    Photography lets me appreciate the beautiful/important things in life in a way that I don’t think video and other art forms can match.

  • Jeff Johnston

    Yeah, I hate all of these.  Seriously.

  • Melo

    I liked this article a lot.  However, it doesn’t suddenly make a bad photo good (like the Lady Gaga shot) nor some one’s disdain for photo snobs less valid.

    I too LOVE photography AND photographs, but the love of something doesn’t render any photograph meaningful or good.

    I am one of the people who loathe Terry and his style as much as I loathe Juergen Teller’s style.  Moreso I loathe that they are revered, not for their skill or work, but for their mystique and celebrity.  The fact that you consider the Gaga shot good simply because she’s famous is ridiculous.  It’s a crap shot no matter how you slice it.

    To each their own.

    Good piece.

  • Verso3344

    A good read, Allen. I love the riot shot, too but as someone who lives in Vancouver I can tell you nothing about that riot was “protest”. It was a bunch of alcohol and testosterone fuelled morons who trashed our city because their team lost. There’s not a whit of protest in that, just out-and-out thuggery. 

    You don’t have to look far to see examples of real protest (some of it violent, too). What unfolded during the Arab Spring is a fine example.

  • Donna2266

    I love your Outlook, your article and I Love Photography!

  • Donna Trussell

    “I don’t believe in art. I believe in artists.” – Marcel Duchamp

  • James Bong

    Thank you Allen. I think we all get caught up in the negativity sometimes. This was inspiring. I love Photography!

  • Matrixbjj

    AWESOME article.  Just great.  Made my day to read that.

  • Rooboo

    then stop writing about crap and go take pictures. how lame.

  • Mythmaker1972

    And you can quit trolling messageboards with your lame crap negativity and ALSO go take pictures.

    I for one found the post a refreshing change from the usual mega-pixel this, ISO that tech talk and articles on how to turn a toilet brush into a Nikon D7000 replica.

  • baljinder

     This article is so wrong in a way,I get your passion but you take the unimportant stuff way too seriously.It’s like hating on haters,no use.Also there are far more important debates in photography then use of iPhone in photography etc.

  • PhotoShelter

     i feel ya. i’m not positive that this couple was part of the drunken masses, or just observing the shit show.

  • PhotoShelter

     i think it’s an honest photo. i agree technically it’s not great, or even good. but it’s a gaga shot that you wouldn’t get unless you had access, and he had access, and no one else did. that’s all.

  • PhotoShelter

     i hear you. there’s stuff like copyright, etc. it’s all very important. but my point is that even when you peel away that shit, we are left with these captures — some of them mean a lot to lots of people, and some of them only mean something to a single person. whether that pictures is taken with a shit camera or a H4D becomes irrelevant in the end. we can all celebrate photography in different ways without falling back into “camps.” not all terry’s stuff sucks. not all iphone photos suck. not all issues are around copyright.

  • Christoph

    So what if he had access?

    You fail to mention that Terry R back in the day was doing this “style” of photography as a comment on the overly conceptualizing work before him with massive sets and high-end cameras, well at least that was the excuse that supposedly propelled him in to photography elite. Oh and a famous photographer father who opened doors for him which is never mentioned.

    Ironically his “anti-style” is now the style for almost two decades and yet he NEVER moved on from it to some new comment about photography, which was supposedly his original intent.

    One trick pony and no matter how big his d*ck is or how many times he puts it in a photo, or an underage model’s hands, it doesn’t make him a good photographer, just because he has “access” or can shoot anyone he wants. Style or being famous does not equal creativity, thought or art.

  • AdrianaG

    I so enjoyed reading this post. Thank you!

  • R. Mutt

    cell phone pic of a urinal

  • Kim CI

    i love my point and shoot. since i’ve had it i stop and smell the roses alot. i like to see how close up i can get to subjects and love really studying the color, texture, shadows, shapes and folds later blown up even bigger on the computer. i’m sure my photos are  not great or even good photos but to me it’s more about looking and seeing.

  • PhotoShelter

    i guess i don’t understand why you feel like he had to be anything but a one trick pony. that style is his style. he’s made a career out of it. why does it have to be anything else than it is. (btw, i’m not disputing that he’s gross as a person)

  • PhotoShelter

    the photos love you.

  • Michael

    Great Post minus the comments : )

  • vicky slater

    Take pictures of what you love, the things that you feel passionate about, the things you want to remember and share.
    For me as soon as it becomes about celebrity and fame and being better/bigger than the next person then competition has taken over and it’s lost it’s way.
    The hug wins out.

  • Ameenapiit

    Words would’nt do justice to this write-up but nevertheless great article.

  • Waleed Alzuhair

    But you have to agree that it trains the eyes of instagrammers to look for that special moment & compose it in 1:1… Not to mention, it creates smiles :)

  • J

    lovely article, really liked the range of photos you talked about. 

  • Easyskywalker

    Hey mattie! Let go out sometime, take pics! : )

  • Suseeharkins

    A response to Williams: I personally find the ‘process’ of creating the image; ‘where’ I go to find it, ‘what & how’ is used, my personnal involvement in crafting the image, this is photography, the technical stuff is processing (as it has always been) and the final outcome: A Photograph! can’t have one without the other…

    nice perspective Allen, we gotta all live in peace…

  • baljinder

    I didn’t mean copyright,etc that is unimportant too.I was more inclined towards the debate concerning the ones perception of truth and the compassion towards the world which reflect in the work of a photographer.For example the view Philip Griffith Jones on Martin Parr photography or the photography process of Jeff wall such debates are far more important then any technical and legal issues of photography.

  • kilroy

    i hate you…….for no particular reason….. 

  • Impetuousflights

    My problem here is that people have a tendency to take photos and pass it off as “art”. Sure photography is fun and all, and you can love it, and you can do it with an iphone, i don’t mind! But the moment you take a photo with instagram and call it art, then i think we have a problem there, because you begin to perpetuate the notion that something lack effort or originality can be considered art, and that detracts from culture as a whole.

  • me

    here you go, couple minutes of post can do wonders

  • Sue

    Thank you- all photos are interesting, and th epeople who claim some images suck are pretty immature, unless they have found someone who sytematically exploits peoples worst fears. Your article was really interesting and it made me feel happy!
    An amateur who gives photos away

  • PhotoShelter

    “such debates are far more important then any technical and legal issues”

    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.”

  • MM

    There’s one in every crowd.

  • FYO

    I love good photography… can’t say I like nose in the air bloggers much though. 

  • Dash Rendar

    Couldn’t agree more. :D

  • Monica Rose

    .. And now you’ve just successfully taken all the warmth and energy out of the original shot by making it like any other “technically sound” photo. Bravo. He could have done the exact same thing, but chose not to. Why? Sometimes it’s about the little mishaps that really make the photograph come alive or give off that in-the-moment feel, show more atmosphere, etc. 

    Now turn the father’s face around, because who knows if that’s really him, right? And get that other guy to look at the camera and “say cheese.” Let’s just focus on the technicalities and not what really matters..

  • Jim

    Excellent article. I agree.

  • Jeremiah Washington

    I kinda agree with your article, but in a sense the opposition is also right. But thats what art is right?

    Above all Photography is an art form. A form of expression. Human Expression.

    To say you love it is just a way to express yourself.
    Same with if you, as you ironically stated, “hate” it.

    I myself do not love or hate or anything photography.
    I do photography because it is my way of showing people my view of the world.
    I have learned from my photographic experience that some days you just cant get that shot, and some days your memory cards ( or film) is full of wonderful things.

    Its really up to your artistic ability.

    All this talk about “hating” things has nothing to do with art. which is what Photography is.

    I can gripe about little girls using Instagram to take god-awful facebook pictures and they think they are artists some how. yet if you ask them to present an artistic statement of why they took that overexposed picture of yourself in your bathroom with a dirty mirror…well they just wouldnt bother answering.

    My point is, Love it Hate it, who cares? Its art, dont tell people they are doing it wrong just cause they dont “love” it. At times i really hate being a photographer, but thats just being human, and thats what arts about. 

    You learn the rules so you know how to break them. Thats what i learned.

    Wow I totally didnt want to type that much…

  • Jeremiah Washington

    wow, so obviously you dont like people voicing their opinions…you know, like how a debate is supposed to work…

  • Jeremiah Washington

    yeaa… how about you write something worth reading next time

  • Jeremiah Washington

    I think he is referring to the fact that he has such a notable shooting style, that he has access to other more “famous” artists. They are artists too, and they have unique personalities, and are idols to millions. I’d love to take pictures of them.  

  • Michael

     Actually I really enjoyed this post so I just screened the comment and left my comment, but I see your point.