Mastering the Art of Mastery

Because the photographer discussed in this entry seems to have disappeared from the webscape, I have removed his name and web address from this entry.

I may look like a master fine arts photographer, but really I'm just a guy with a camera. Only history and the adjudication of my peers can make me a master.
I may look like a master fine arts photographer, but really I’m just a guy with a camera. Only history and the adjudication of my peers can make me a master.

I am not normally critical of other photographers. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, I am fairly sensitive to criticism of my own work, and find that it upsets me when I think something of mine is of valuable artistic merit and is openly slammed, particularly if I didn’t ask for it. Secondly, I am neither a professional art critic nor a professional photography critic, so I lack the credentials to give critiques.

But sometimes some work needs to be criticized. I was thinking about this today because a fellow photographer is in the process of hiring additional photographers for the expanding business of event photography, and he is getting all kinds of applicants, many of whom are laughably unqualified; their images are mediocre and they seem to have little knowledge of the tools and demands of real professional photography.

So with that in mind, I remembered the web site of a photographer who I think is not only not particularly talented, but is also among the most arrogant and pretentious I have seen.

Let me be clear: I do not refer to myself as “master” anything, since I believe a claim of being a master is fraught with peril, particularly the peril of being a master of not being a master.

My example: (Name of Photographer). The home page of his web site claims, “(Name of Photographer) one of the leading master fine arts photographers of our time. (Name of Photographer) is known for his compelling works of the American West…” That’s quite a claim. I suppose if he is making a living through such claims, maybe he has earned the right to say he is a master. However, his work is, to me, uninspired, derivative, and redundant, and his editing in Photoshop is amateurish and immature. If you feel differently, by all means comment.

I don’t know. Maybe (Name of Photographer)’s claims are really just a form of marketing. “Wow, I bought a picture in Santa Fe from a Master Photographer!”

In looking over the shoulder of my photographer friend who is hiring, and talking with him about it, I guess what we decided we really want is less hubris and self-promotion, and more, “Here is my work. Let it speak for itself.”

I don't take pictures like this so I can call myself a fine arts photographer; I take them because I love doing it and I love sharing it.
I don’t take pictures like this so I can call myself a fine arts photographer; I take them because I love doing it and I love sharing it.
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3 Comments

  1. Richard, if (Name of Photographer) is a “master”, then you my friend are a superuber Top Master God Boss GenAdmiral.

    I’m suspicious of anyone who calls himself a master or expert at anything (except in the legal case of “expert witness” I guess).

    Personally, I doubt anyone would call me a ‘master’ at anything. And if they did, I’d be very nervous about the subsequent raised expectations.

    I have always striven to be as proficient as possible in each thing I attempt, and would rather be proficient in many fields rather than a master of any of them.

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  2. Another thing that bothers me is the way I learned about (Name of Photographer): he penned an article on Luminous Landscape.com, and in it he talks about using the Kodak DCS760m, the monochrome version of the 760. What I don’t get is 1) why do these guys think (Name of Photographer) has anything to offer, and 2) how does a hack like (Name of Photographer) get Kodak to loan him one of the rarest cameras ever made (only 80 were manufactured)? I know that Luminous Landscape.com isn’t a place for greatness, but still, why (Name of Photographer)? He’s got nothing but rusty Jeeps and Photoshop!

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/kodak-760m.shtml

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  3. I was just browsing your blog when I came across this article and, curious, checked out this guy’s web site. Wow. You are right, the guy’s work is mediocre. I say that as an amateur, but for anybody to call this guy a “master” is to seriously undervalue the term “master” (highfalutin and self-congratulatory as it may be). The images are somewhat murky and limited in detail, and everything seems shot with the same lens, from the same vantage and physical position, as if he simply walked up on his subject and shot it without looking at it from any other angle.

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