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Author Topic: ""Wordsmith" is to words what ? is to photographs  (Read 2874 times)
Stuarte
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« on: January 28, 2008, 08:47:43 AM »
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What is the photographic equivalent of a wordsmith?  

Actually, this is just a starter for a bigger set of questions about words and images.  It was prompted by a comment elsewhere on the forum that 90% of what's online is "crap".

First, a little background.  When people ask me what I do for a living, I currently take the easy way out and say I'm a writer, although that's only part of the truth.  I'm actually a wordsmith, among other things.  Expressing ideas and information through words is a craft/art that I've worked at over many years; it's shaped by linguistics, journalism and psychology as well as active reading and listening.

As a wordsmith, I'm pretty sensitive to the way words are used, but I have to detune that sensitivity a lot of the time.  We're increasingly deluged in words by the traditional media and on the Internet, which is a very wordy medium.  Most of the people who talk/write aren't particularly skilled at it, and the percentage of "crap" about is probably a lot higher than 90%.  Yet for me the net effect is not that I despair at the low quality stuff; rather, when I read/hear words and ideas that are truly well crafted, I get very excited.  

Bearing in mind that many people on LL are professional photographers, I'm wondering what the world now looks like to real image-smiths.   As with words+ideas, so with images; the equipment to produce both is easily available, and anybody can "broadcast" their stuff to the world.  How do professional image-smiths feel about images being churned out in the millions every second?  Are the gazillions of images raising awareness of quality, or are they driving standards down?
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James Godman
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« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2008, 10:40:33 AM »
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Are the gazillions of images raising awareness of quality, or are they driving standards down?
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The ubiquitous nature of photography today is very healthy, in that many different types of people have fun doing it.  As I see it, that is the point for most people.  And the gobs of images on the web are much easier to ignore than say, when a friend of a friend breaks out the photo album from their recent trip to Timbuktu.
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Robert Roaldi
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« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2008, 10:56:42 AM »
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Are the gazillions of images raising awareness of quality, or are they driving standards down?

Interesting question. It's tempting to want to assume that because of the increase in quantity, there would be also be an increase in the number of quality photos  that are available to be seen (where here quality means an amalgam of things that "make you want to look at the photos"). If there are more pictures being displayed generally, then there is some chance that there will be more good pictures being displayed. If 2 out of every photographers produces good work, or if 2 out of every 100 photographs that a photographer makes are good, then the more that they display, the more good photos will be displayed. It may not be any easier finding the good ones though, since there is more wading to do.

The ease of display may work against that "goodness" percentage, however. If it's too easy to display, then it's easier to put up lesser work, especially since the photographers themselves choose what to display. They may not always be objective.

But the presence of countless great works of literature in libraries, bookstores, bookcases in our homes, hasn't necessarily done much to increase literacy or love of literature, or so it seems to me. I'd prefer to be wrong. That is, just because the good photos are there on countless obscure web sites that hardly anyone visits, does not mean they will have an impact.

But re-reading your last paragraph, I see that you are directing your question  more to professional photographers; I am not one. I can see where the increasing web presence of their work would have a great impact, because potential customers can easily and quickly view the works of many pros. I can imagine that this greatly facilitates shopping for a wedding photography, for example. It's a good question whether this will have the effect of increasing quality or driving down standards. In the commercial realm, the internet has in some ways reduced choice among consumers. A small number of large internet vendors seem to have rapidly become dominant in some market sectors, more or less what previously also happened in suburban malls where vendor competition was reduced. Usually, reduced competition is not good.

It's an odd mix, dominant vertical development and widespread grassroots collectives. I cannot guess where it leads. But I tend to question whether this situation is long-lived. There are millions of film SLR's collecting dust in dresser drawers all over the world. Most people who bought them used them for a while then gradually lost interest. We're seeing an explosion in digital imaging, but we shouldn't assume that it will go on forever. Once people get over the gee-whiz factor of putting some pics up on a web site, will they eventually get bored? How many will take the image-making seriously enough to keep doing it, or will the digicams end up in the dresser drawers too?
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blansky
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« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2008, 10:59:13 AM »
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As with the other thread comparing snapshooters to "serious photographers", I think what we have when comparing "wordsmiths" to "general writing" is much the same.

Most people use words whether spoken or written to communicate on a pretty basic level much as snapshooters do to "capture a moment". Trained writers much like trained photographers strive a lot harder to communicate on a higher and more thought out level.

That being said there are probably bad, good and great wordsmiths just as their are bad good and great photographers. Also just because one has the tools, education and ideas too make them great wordsmiths or photographers, doesn't necessarily make their end product original, compelling or interesting.


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Rob C
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« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2008, 03:51:29 PM »
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Interesting question: how do pros view today´s world of pictures?

I think it is difficult to do other than supply a personal, subjective response to that sort of question. As a pro - possibly one who retired too early - I think that there are two questions to address: the artistic one and the financial one.

Starting with the artistic, I think that the advent of the web has allowed pros to see much more work from other pros in their own field as well as in many different fields that they might not have otherwise noticed. This has been both good and bad: the good thing is that the more one sees the more one has available by which to measure ones own output, but, on the other hand, personal style can take a beating. In the case of fashion, the genre which, along with calendars interests me most, there is now a clear tendency to kill skin completely and make women seem fashioned from shiny plastic. This may or may not be a digital capture factor, but it is now ubiquitous and I do not like it. To me, just another illustration of the computer operator taking more away from the photographer and making things less photographic.

Photographic style is now governed very much by the availability of money: simple photographic shoots consisting of photographer and lone model seem to be but memories; teamwork is de rigueur and with teamwork comes ever more complex lighting (you have to justify the extra muscle somehow!), more people messing with the message and so it goes. As Helmut Newton said: everything is such a big deal nowadays!  Clients see the new way, think it is what it´s all about and so it perpetuates itself.

Financially, I suppose that for some, the web has been a disaster waiting to happen, whilst for others a letter from God. So much choice sometimes renders work less valuable. I don´t for a moment believe that, in general, choice allows better work to command higher reward; as with the supermarket model, choice is often not choice at all when those offering that choice seem able, magically, to price within a cent of one another. Photography doesn´t allow for much loss-leading either!

Anyone having experience of stock, pre-Getty and Corbis, will know too well how painfully the web and mega agencies have impacted upon viability; there is no need for me to amplify. Suffice to say, investment in shooting people stock was always dodgy - today, suicidal!

So yes, I was a much happier professional bunny pre-web!

Ciao - Rob C
« Last Edit: January 28, 2008, 03:54:21 PM by Rob C » Logged

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