On Attitudes, Arrogance, and Choice in Photography

Whenever PetaPixel has published an article about chemical photography in recent months, it has been met with a plethora of malicious, if not even downright hateful, comments. They’re left by photographers who claim that only they may decide on how other photographers, their colleagues, or even hobbyists who simply enjoy photography for what it is may pursue photography as their passion or job.

It might be difficult to conclude that the photographic community is divided based on empirical data, but many perceive it that way and it gets obvious if you read comments that express the wish for chemical photography to vanish completely. Or comments that get personal by wishing me “to run out of film soon, so I can get into photography.”

Whenever I read such comments, I think about the arrogance and attitude behind them. What right does a photographer have to tell another photographer how to do his or her job? None. That’s for sure, except when one is employed by the other, of course.

But that doesn’t answer the question of why many still think they may tell others what to do and what not to do with their work, with their creativity, with their lives, and with their time. Why is chemical photography perceived to be a threat to some? Another question I can’t answer: if it isn’t perceived to be a threat, why would anyone even bother to try to discourage people from doing it?

Digital photography is superior to film in some areas, while film is superior in others. This article, however, is not about the old discussion why one method of capturing an image is better than another. This article is about the way we value photography and the process that goes with it and thus the personal level of creating an image. A process called creativity.

Have some of us lost their creativity by strictly counting megapixels, measuring dynamic range, and complaining about a missing card slot? Maybe not all, or not even many, but likely some. That’s not a real issue, one might think, but if these people who no longer seem to be capable of accepting another’s opinions or creative process begin to discourage others, then it is an issue, at least for me.

“Move on, don’t whine about people being mean on the Internet”, some of you might – legitimately – think, but that´s only half of the story. Trying to actively discourage fellow photographers from pursuing their photography because they photograph on film, with a pinhole camera, or do whatever they do is pathetic.

So far, these negative photographers are a nuisance but not more, right? Unfortunately, no. Occasionally somebody might fall for their trap and let himself or herself be discouraged, and they ultimately might even give up photography because all these toxic naysayers and hateful ignorants have successfully poisoned the discourse.

Photography is an expression of creativity and thus is open to of a myriad of ways of achieving a final result. We as photographers should stop manifesting a “we vs. them” mode of thinking because division and hate lead only towards isolation and grief.

Instead of focusing on divisive arguments like Film vs. Digital, Canon vs. Nikon, Mirrorless vs. Mirror, Bayer vs. X-trans and so on, we should give a chance to the uniting aspects of photography. Because as with every other form of art or creative expression, photography can create and sustain joy. The joy of having created something beautiful worth sharing with the world, or at least giving the world a little insight into oneself, through photography.

Whatever works best for you is okay for you, as long as you can express yourself through it, even if it’s something as simple as a portrait of a grumpy looking cat.

About the author: Ludwig Hagelstein is a photographer and college student based in Bamberg, Germany. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Hagelstein’s work on his website and Instagram.