Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1999/11/27

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Subject: [Leica] Pleasing flower pictures?!?
From: Mike Johnston <>
Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 10:29:41 +0000

>>>But true, this discourse does serve to clarify our thinking. My
thinking is
that there is no limit on the number of pleasing flower, cat, or small
children pictures, not that millions of these ought be displayed in
or art galleries<<<

You are not a real aesthete until you know what you love and what you
hate, irrespective of the prevailing mass taste or critical consensus.
This may entail coming to grips with liking things that some savants
detest and also perhaps hating things that are widely admired. IMHO the
three major failings of photographers in this area are:

1. They conflate technical beauty with aesthetic interest or effect.
2. They suffer from a sort of vague acceptance of the amorphous general
idea that some subjects "make good pictures," if only because "other
people" seem to like and accept some subject matter or treatment...and
then they rather over-anxiously pander to this perception. For this
reason I see many amateur photographers obsequiously attempting to mimic
STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY, making clean, pretty, and utterly superficial
photographs that conform to a sort of bland professional standard of
goodness. Bah, bah, and more bah humbug to this. As an academic
exercise, I used to make my students take a stock photography catalog
and try to find three good pictures in it. It's completely surprising to
them how difficult a task this is!
3. They get stuck: that is, they don't take into account the fact that
aesthetic taste CHANGES as one's experience of art moves along. It's
okay to not eternally love something you used to love; and it's
imperative to struggle to accept and understand new things. What you
hate with the most vigor is often the most important work to you at any
given point in your development, because it tends to show what you are
just beginning to come to grips with. A Christian evangelist I once met
told me that he welcomes hecklers, because "it is from the ranks of
hecklers that all the converts come. The people I can't reach are the
people who don't care enough to heckle." Yet many photographers are
alarmed by hating something (or perhaps by the idea that they might
learn to like it!), and simply reject what they avidly hate. This is the
worst mistake in art. It means you are stuck at where you once were, and
have stopped growing.

Even having bad taste is better than having someone else's taste and not
even knowing it. <s>

- --Mike