PHOTOGRAPHY: The Black Camera Ambassador 

I’m going to keep this short because, well, I know my audience is basically a bunch of beer drinking white guys. I’m fine with that. Underneath my black skin and aside from sobriety, I’m basically a beer chugging white dude myself. I find something troubling however: 

There is an alarming paucity of black/African-American camera brand ambassadors…. 

I know bruh, it’s not your fault, but hear me out. 

I don’t know why the fuck this is. A number of black shooters are accomplished professionals right? It’s not like black photographers don’t spend a small fortune on camera gear like any other subculture does, but I have an impossibly hard time finding a black brand ambassador for ANY camera brand I can think of. 

Canon? Nah. Fuji? Nope. Leica? Lol! Really?

Late 80’s shooting Ricky Ray style….
I’m sure folks can point me in the direction of a few black guys who get to try out new cameras before they are released and shit like that. I’d appreciate info about them. I suspect they are coons and ass-kissers but I can surely be wrong. I’m keeping an open mind….

Maybe black folks are seen as criminals. Fuji probably thinks I’ll run off with an unreleased camera and disappear or some fuckery like that. Funny how I see so many white and Asian brand ambassadors on YouTube though…. and hardly any women either, regardless of race.

 

This is perhaps a micro-struggle, but it speaks to a larger problem in society. I don’t want to infuriate my loyal readers but I guess I’ll have to wait for you to preview new gear on the web before I buy it because it will never be me. I was born on the wrong side of the color palate. 

Exit. 

Does Image Quality Really Matter?

What matters more: photo content or picture quality? What photo has more intrinsic appeal: a grainy photo of a person getting shot in the head at point blank range or a crisp medium format photo of an apple sitting on a kitchen counter?

People seem to prefer interesting content over visually appealing picture quality. Actually, having both at the same time can be a detriment….

Before I begin I must admit: I’m far more shallow and superficial than I might have hoped….

Let’s take the internet for example, which consists of 3 things: photos, video, and text. That’s it. That’s the internet.

With laptops and PC’s declining in sales and tablet sales becoming stagnant, the main way folks consume the internet these days is by using their phones. Phones have made people highly tolerant of inferior photo quality, especially if the photo features a juicy ass, a nice set of boobs, or a cat, in no particular order. This is because people use their phones to record video and snap photos of the above things, often times in bad lighting or with less than professional level cameras mounted on their phones. Actually, there arguably has never been a professional level camera mounted on a phone…

Come to think of it, amateur porn is the reason this is a debate at all. Every time a chick sends you a photo of her rack and you whack off to it you are taking a side in this debate….

Meanwhile, the internet gives us high quality porn and photographers offer their services for top dollar. Premium porn sites sell content that later gets bootlegged and iPhone photo geeks scoff at paying 5000 USD for a wedding shoot. What the marketplace, both the internet consumer and iPhone shooters are saying is that image quality essentially doesn’t matter.

….and we wonder why our basic friends are simply not impressed by our nice, sharp, well composed DSLR photos, and instead like grainy, drunkly composed iPhone St. Patrick’s Day pictures….

Actually taken with the Fujifilm X100F and ruined in post….

This is why Instagram models are so successful. For every person surfing the web on their phones looking for art there are 2600 men searching the hashtag #tittytuesday. Art is secondary to porn, and in turn, image quality is secondary to content. In fact, many men are suspicious of well lit, professional photos on an Instagram models feed. They suspect a sell is coming, and nobody likes “the sell”. We, ahem, they are more amenable to poorly lit bathroom and bedroom photos where the model is wearing her often worn night clothes…

A nice painting is probably not as desirable as a nice blowjob I suppose, even though the painting normally costs more….

We photographers spend thousands on our cameras and even more on an array of sharp lenses and we only have 900 followers on Instagram and 300 on twitter while some chick in her moms basement using a Galaxy Note has 200k followers on IG and a respectable 24k on twitter, even though she never does more than post photos….

Everything here works besides the Black 4k, which is crap…

Why the fuck are we buying all this gear? Are the camera companies mind fucking us? If you shoot weddings or funerals or school photos I get it, but most of us don’t shoot shit besides street photos and our reluctant family members who we are afraid to tell how much we paid for our gear….

This is a micro-struggle. The debate over image quality vs. image content will not determine whether or not your city legalizes prostitution. This is small shit in the scheme of things. Still, think about how much grainy amateur porn you whack off too compared to over-produced West Hollywood porn…..

Exit.

…ABOUT FORM VS. FUNCTION

I used to want every pro lens Canon makes, a thousand dollar Gitzo tripod, and two of the latest and greatest Canon camera bodies. Now I want to sell my Canon gear. Now I believe:

“The less gear you own the better. “ ~ RIC RAY

Do not get shit twisted with me. I love gear. I also love women with big boobs and fat asses. A man shouldn’t have too many of those types of gals in his life either, if he is so fortunate to have one at all. In fact one gal is more than enough….

Similarly, one camera and one lens will suffice for most general photographic purposes, unless you are doing professional work. If you own a compact camera like my Fujifilm X100F that’s all the better. 

God save the poor fuck staying up late nights dreaming of gear….

At the end of months of gear research, the prospective gear buyer arrives at the sterling conclusion that he MUST buy camera X. He has studied many online gear forums and has read and watched dozens of reviews. He has developed a budget so he can reasonably afford the camera. In fact, he has applied reason so thoroughly that reason has given way to a passionate, almost scientific defense of his camera choice. When challenged about his choice, he speaks as if he already owns the camera. 

There is nothing wrong with this, but in truth nobody should buy a camera or lens because of rationality alone. How the piece of kit looks, feels, and how it makes you feel is as important as burst rate, 4K video, and image quality. Indeed any camera will take a fine photo theses days much like any gun can kill a person, but since that is the case I think it is better to buy something that inspires you as opposed to the “best tool for the job” if these two criterion don’t intersect. This is partly why I detest Sony as a camera maker, because however great their cameras may be, they seem to hoist function over form. 

I understand that a pro sports shooter needs something that focuses swiftly and shoots a lot of photos equally as fast. I get it that wedding shooters need low light champion cameras that can focus in near darkness reliably. These shooters may choose function over form. Still, there are plenty of shooters tackling weddings with elegant yet hard to use digital rangefinder Leica’s and film cameras….

I can honestly say I don’t want another piece of camera gear right now. I’m good. Maybe if Leica drops the price on the Q or if a new similar camera comes out from them or a full frame Fuji compact then I’d start planning my budgets again. I still have my Canon 5d3 with the 70-200 2.8 IS II to shoot sports with. Between my two bodies I could probably cover a large number of paid events but fuck all that. I’ve been on that train of thought. It is too easy to surrender to gear lusting. It is way too tempting to put off shooting photos now and surrender to watching gear porn on YouTube while mentally assembling a kit you will hopefully complete a year in the future. 

I know I often defend GAS. This is a bit of a departure from that. I’m not being passionate or speaking from a lectern here today. These are more random thoughts than anything. In fact, let me get the fuck out of here like this: 

“It is man’s natural sickness to believe that he possesses the truth.”  ~ Blaise Pascal

Exit. 

When You Have No Control…

Let me just state for the record that control is an illusion. We never have control over much of anything in our lives. We have responsibility and we have authority, but we seldom, if ever, have control. This applies to street photography as much as it applies to day-to-day life.

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I’m not a handsome dude. It’s a shame because my mother and my youngest sister (my mom’s daughter, I have 2 other sisters besides) are drop dead gorgeous. As for me however, I’m unattractive, and this is made painfully clear by the number of failed dates with women I have had in my life. I’m just not impressive I suppose. I used to be a skinny guy and I thought that women didn’t like me because I was skinny, so I started hitting the gym 5 days a week and still do to this day. Now I’m pretty buff but I get the same results: I get passed over like the glasses-wearing fat chick at a sophomore ring dance. Currently I’m thinking I need to be rich and famous and maybe then women will flock to me. Hmmmm…..Familiar logic. I sense that life has laid out a an obviuos pattern for me….

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As for being rich and famous as a photographer and internet personality I still wouldn’t have any control. In that circumstance I’d be an easy target for ridicule over my looks or my lack of formal education (I never finished at Morehouse college). I’d be roasted on twitter every time I misspoke or posted a poorly composed photograph. This was once a scary prospect until I realized that the control I fear I’d lack then is the same control I lack NOW. The only difference is at this point I have no support. No fans. No one is in my corner and everyone thinks I’m just some uneducated nigger with a big mouth and an expensive camera. Perhaps they are right. I’m beginning to realize that what people think about me, and what I think about myself largely does not matter. Only my actions matter.

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There will come a day that I will have authority. I will be the best at what I do, perhaps the finest ever. I will have the power to help others and the discretion to obliterate any enemies that may emerge. Until then I’ll keep grinding, day by day, and try my best to keep things under control….

Exit.

 

Where is the Money?

Money is vanishing.

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In photography, the money is drying up. It is happening in every photographic genre.

Street photography never paid shit so lets just clear that up firstly. I’m not delusional here. I know that shooting candid photos of people having brunch at a hipster cafe in Denver isn’t the roadmap to making 200k per year….

Wedding photography is changing however, and that genre is one of the holy trinity of cash cows in photography (the other two being photojournalism and portraiture).

Firstly, I blame Canon and Nikon. They have been engaged in a nuclear war for quite some time, and the fallout has been nothing less than the annihilation of the wedding photography market. Both camera and lens makers have been churning out high quality entry-level (consumer) DSLR’s for over a decade and a half, and have placed them at a price point that tempts a casual shopper into trying his or her hand at photography. This in turn leads to casual shooters who realize early on that they can make money from these high resolution images they are taking. Unfortunately, the nubile shooters don’t have much skill, but most of them are not foolish enough to ignore this fact. To compensate they may charge bargain basement prices to shoot a wedding, as low as $250 or even lower, as opposed to the $5000 a reputable and seasoned wedding photographer charges on average. Thats a huge fucking disparity.

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It would seem logical that the seasoned photographer’s photos would be qualitatively better than the nubile photographer’s collection and this is indeed the case. The problem is the photos aren’t $4500 better normally, at least not to the casual observer. This is blatantly obvious to price-conscious brides when viewing competing wedding portfolios, and will influence her decision. Thus the bride, not wanting to have a tacky amateur photographer but also not wanting to be financially raped, will settle on a happy medium: a photographer who charges between $1000-$2500 dollars. No problem right? Wrong.

People have mortgages, car payments, gambling habits and all sorts of fuckery to support with their photography. There are only a precious few brides getting married per year in a given community so the competition is horribly fierce EVERYWHERE. This will drag that $1000 down to $750 when an “early booking discount” is factored in or whatever. What follows is a buyers market, where brides have shooters tripping over themselves to book a wedding, as opposed to a sellers market where brides pay no less than premium for the services of very competent artists.

Photojournalism is dying because the print media is dead. Not really much to say about that. Sports Illustrated fired their ENTIRE staff of photographers a few years back, and then fired the department that fired the photographers a year later. Nuff fucking said….

The portrait market suffers from nearly the same woes as the wedding photography market. There are a lot of amateurs with capable gear who undercut the shit out of the masters of light…..

Of course cell phones getting better and better doesn’t help pro photographers earn more money….

Where is the money then? I shoot sports but basically the clients are parents who want to buy photos of little Davon or Tyler playing football and soccer in high school. I see more and more Canon 6D’s with 70-200 2.8 lenses on the sidelines these days, as moms have decided that its cheaper in the long run to invest in gear than to spend hours combing through photos only to buy one or two per season. Also, taking photos is fun so there’s that……

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Stock photography doesn’t pay a lot unless you go all-in. If anybody makes a shit ton of cash from that then comment below please.

Selling fine art prints is…… some bullshit unless you can maintain the “mysterious artist” persona constantly. I am indeed a mysterious fucking artist but I’m too lazy to try to sell prints of my shit. That could change though…..

If you’re making good money let me know what you do……

Exit.

 

The Fabric of Place and Time in Street Photography

I recently ended a longtime friendship when I discovered this particular friend had no idea what Cartesian coordinates were. I’m not being petty here.

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He probably does indeed know what Cartesian coordinates are, though not by that name, as I believe every student is taught how to plot points on a simple X/Y axis-graph at some point in high school. The reality is he doesn’t care what Cartesian coordinates are, as many do not care about the vast majority of things they learned about in high school or even in college. Conversely, I do care about Cartesian coordinates :), particularly when it comes to my style of photography. As much as attitude and skill and an understanding of light plays a role in photography, luck has a huge role to play in whether a shot is good or not. By luck I mean being in the right place at the right time.

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Opportunities emerge around us all on a regular basis. In general, the only thing preventing us from seizing some or any of these opportunities is that we are not physically around to take advantage of them. To be fair, there is something to be said for ones level of readiness if he or she is present at an opportunistic event, and thats why, particularly in photography, it is commonly understood that one must be ever-ready to shoot. Being ready wont make a bit of difference if one is absent, however. This isn’t a thing that can always be controlled. In event and action photography the moments happen where and when they happen. There is no environmental or temporal control available to the shooter. This is totally unlike studio photgraphy, where a shooter is working via appointments and gets to play God with every aspect of the photographic process. If you are say…shooting soccer and are on one side of the field, you may miss a key sequence that happens on the other side of the field, despite having a fast and long telephoto lens at your disposal. This is the nature of the profession. You can’t shoot every angle of a dance recital or catch every dancer in mid-air when he or she leaps, and you cant cover every meaningful moment of a wedding ceremony, even with four cameras, ten lenses to choose from, and two shooters. Something will always be missed, though hopefully not key moments you were prepared for.

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That’s why I call it luck. Every now and then even the laziest shooter, who happens to have his or her camera at the ready, will shoot a sequence of events and do so extraordinarily. Ninety-nine percent of the time that shooter may snap uninspiring photos at an event. After nearly falling asleep while waiting, holding his or her camera at an otherwise boring student protest for instance, that shooter may be right there, front and center, when the counter-protesters reveal themselves and somebody gets punched in the face. All he or she has to do at that moment is shoot. It is the fabric of time and space. It is the luck of the draw. There is no reliable way to position yourself to more often than not get that magical shot. You can try to read into body language and use your innate photographic wisdom to make guesses as to what will happen next, but you can easily guess wrongly and be out of position while the next guy, who has been fumbling through his camera menus and chimping all day, might luck up and get the shot of a lifetime.

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Bottom line is: You cant control what you cant control, so say a little serenity prayer and keep it moving. I wish I could divine some way to always be at the right coordinates to get those magical shots that will make me rich. I wont hold my breath until it happens, however. I will continue to hold my camera as steadily as I can, select my position on the X/Y/Z axis of the universe, and shoot what I see. There are many obstacles and distractions which emerge before me but through it all, I stay low and I keep shooting! 

Street Photography is Paperless

Ain’t no money in this thing here bruh.

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Street photography isn’t a genre where you’re going to work your way up to being rich. Nope. You wont make ANY money shooting street photography. None. You wont sell a single print. You wont book a single magazine gig. Nothing. The best you’ll do is host seminars and become famous for those seminars. You can blog about it, like I’m doing, and maybe eventually it will segue into other genres of photography that actually pay. Otherwise, this is art in the purest sense. You shoot the streets because you love shooting the streets. If you are in it for any other reason then you are lost.

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With that being said, street photography is a fine beginners genre. You will learn a lot of useful skills. Mainly, you will learn to shoot moving subjects. This is valuable if you end up shooting sports or weddings or other types of live events. You also will learn your camera and how to adjust it to suit the scene in front of you. The street is not the studio, and the light is generated by God and not an Einstein strobe. As the natural light changes or vanishes, your settings must change also, so you’ll become a master at that. In addition to learning your camera, you’ll also develop a steady hand as you combat camera shake with your non-stabilized 24mm to 50mm prime lens, and you’ll learn a lot about photo editing, which is no less than half of the photographic process.

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You can dream as big as you want, and there are no hard-and-fast rules as to what can and cannot happen in your career, but if you’re looking to get rich off street photography, look elsewhere. Street photography is a labor of love, and the best you can expect is a ton of Instagram followers and perhaps some proceeds from awards you may win when you enter contests. Other than that you know the drill: Stay low and keep shooting!

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