I’m Bored with Pure Image Realism

If you’re going to use tech, put some of your creative soul into it.

“There are many different types of photographies”

soft-focused black and white photo of the Holga and Diana camera by Paul Ottaviano

Soft-focused film print to make a point… well, not really, I just screwed it up in the darkroom. Nonetheless, it fits the context of this post.

I recently had a conversation with a woman who coined the title of this post. We were discussing in the darkroom, to our dismay, why some feel the need to denigrate one form of photography to exalt another one. For example, putting down digital to justify film and vice versa.

“There are many different types of photographies,” she said.

Indeed. There are many different ways to use light to make a picture.

Case in point, the recent closure of the Holga toy film camera factory. I love the Holga. It’s a fun camera to use, for fun. I say, “for fun” because it’s unlikely to earn a new client. But does that mean it’s worthless and pointless to use? In my opinion, no. Emphatic no.

I think it makes delightful and surprising images on 120 film. Each time I’ve brought it to a party or get-together, it put everyone at ease and the results are splendid, capturing the spirit of the event. Every time I’ve traveled with it, Holga makes people smile and arouses curiosity. Nothing against digital, but does a DSLR do this?

Is it a “proper” medium-format film camera? No, of course not. Then again, what does “proper” even mean in photography? It’s truly thick-headed to compare a Holga to a Mamiya.

Good photography has many forms… it can be sharp, soft-focused, out-of-focus, grainy, noisy, abstract, predictable, insulting, crowd pleasing, an Instagram star, an Instagram nobody, digital, film, toy camera, contextual… there is no right or wrong. It’s a photo. Some will like it, some won’t. It doesn’t matter what the photo is of, the subjective creativity to it, or the budget.

We can all tell when a photographer is clearly skilled or better than average. But going on from there, “good” is often a contextual and subjective thing.

There were a few “pro photographers” on Petapixel taking delight in the Holga closure. Why? Because it’s, “cheap plastic junk” and “hipster”. The hipster criticism is a tired one now, so I won’t even go into that noise. I’m far from being a hipster, by the way. (Side note, the “hipster” criticism was coming from a guy who wears a fedora. So… )

Speaking of fedora guy who hates the Holga, he is a photojournalist. So I partially sympathize. Photojournalism has been utterly devastated. But if he’s bent about that, and understandable if he is, then he’s projecting in all the wrong places if he thinks the likes of Holga is to blame.

That said, is photography in such a wonderful position generally and so full of riches for all that we can afford to delight when a photography business closes? I think not. Also, who gives a crap what type of camera people enjoy using? I can’t think of a more trivial thing to get hot and bothered over.

“Enjoy” is the keyword in this. In my opinion, if people cannot enjoy photography in any form and be open-minded to any camera, then how do they expect to bring good energy to any shoot? If it’s always driven by fear and pettiness, that is what gets brought to a shoot and is what the client or subject experiences. There is enough of that going around in the world, and I think it’s part of what has screwed much of the industry.

There are many different types of photographies. Enjoy them.