Beyond Social Media: The Old Ways…

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Like any good Samurai, I long to do things the old way…

 

Do I like microwaves? Nah. I heat my food up in the oven. TV dinners too.

 

Do I like TV? Of course I like TV. Um….at least I used to. I guess TV has lost its appeal to me as the centerpiece of human entertainment…

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What has replaced TV?

Facebook.

Instagram.

Snapchat.

YouTube (which I like)

Netflix.

Every video game ever made in last 17 years…

…the distracting temptation of each mindless app on your phone.

 

At some point you look at all these cable stations and social media platforms and you feel as though you are spending your waking hours in a place that isn’t real.

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I mean, lets say you are at work, (which is most likely a real place) but when you get bored or frustrated or happy or whatever at work you go to this virtual place on your phone to share random thoughts or to gain some sort of misplaced perspective by driving yourself to irrational jealousy as you follow other peoples lives…

 

I don’t want to be too harsh here. Even a Samurai must adapt to change. When the Shogun dies we become Ronin. When the Katana is outlawed we buy guns. When guns are outlawed we buy wine.

 

Still… I think back to my youth, when we had 3 TV’s (which each had 5 available channels to watch) and a chorded phone and a radio. Nowadays I have all that in my iPhone. All of it. I long for the days when the world was smaller and I couldn’t interact with so many people virtually.

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For instance, I have several Facebook “friends” in Indonesia. I will never see them in person within this lifetime most likely, and even if they really aren’t so special that I’d go to the other side of the planet to holla at them, part of me wishes I could see them. Why? Because I see them on my phone and maybe we traded some adult photos back when Facebook was newer and people did that shit. That makes me want to see them. That makes me subconsciously compare American woman I meet to these world-apart Indonesian gals. Life was a lot simpler when Indonesian girls were a “theory” or a curiosity and nothing more. In short: the internet has made the world smaller but it has also made me feel smaller too, while making my expectation of the world bigger.

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I deleted my Instagram account today. Why? First because I was shadowbanned and secondly because it was useless to me. I have never made a single meaningful contact through IG. R X R Photo has never booked a photoshoot or made a dime from it. I have felt bad when a photo didn’t get as many “likes” as I felt it deserved though…

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Will I delete Facebook next? That’s possible, but I’ll give that another year or two. I have a feeling I’ll just end up using Facebook messenger only…which I really don’t understand how it’s superior to regular old texting, but whatever. I would like to be like the old photographers who booked clients through word of mouth and their own websites and not through becoming a bitch for social media. I’m starting to hate what I see everyday. Nothing is separate any longer. There are no sub-genres. Every little interest you may have on social media moves along the rivers and dumps into the big social media oceans of presidential politics, social causes, and blindly fighting with strangers. It sucks. I suppose this social media thing as isn’t social anymore…

 

Exit.

 

The Slow Death of Instagram and Facebook….

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“IG just ain’t right no more…”

The hunger to be liked is perhaps the most addictive non-chemical phenomenon I’m aware of. Nearly every effort we partake in is in some manner to make someone start to or continue to like us. Who is that someone? For devout Christians or Muslims it’s God who must like us. (There is hell to pay if he doesn’t like us.) While dating, especially when we are young, it is imperative that our lovers…like us. At least it should be. At work we want our bosses or clients to like us. It certainly seems counterproductive when they don’t like us.

Is seeking to be liked wrong? Nah. It’s fine. Being liked is all about congruency. Fitting together with others is fundamental. I mean, truly fundamental. Atoms bond with nearby atoms and form molecules based on how easy it is for them to share resources. They “like” one another, so they bond.

So why am I shorting my stock in Facebook and Instagram? To put it simply, it’s because both platforms have rigged the system to control how many likes a user gets on a particular post. Initially, it was a combination of a meritocracy and a chronological reward system. Post timely, good content and get showered in likes and promotion for you self, your brand, etc…

Now Facebook and Instagram have put an invisible vending machine interface between you and those followers and their precious likes. This after years of letting people exchange likes for free, unfettered.

For me, my instagram posts generated twice and many likes when I had half as many followers…

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Now, after a very recent algorithm tweak (or I might be shadowbanned 🤔) my likes trickle in at a snails pace. Slower even. I have deleted and reinstalled the IG app a few times as I debate abandoning the platform altogether. As for Facebook I still use it but only for messenger and to scroll memes and news. My posts get substantially less likes than they used to on there of course….

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I have a serious glamour photography business developing here, and chasing IG likes seems like something I should let my gorgeous models worry about. Not me. Even they don’t get the engagement I think a typical flawless twenty something should get. I mean, a pretty gal has always been able to trade on her beauty as a commodity. If you try to force pretty girls to pay to execute that commodity trade, then they will eventually evaluate the commissions you charge (for advertising etc) and maybe go elsewhere. Instagram is losing its fundamentals. Facebook has good fundamentals but is starting to feel dated and repetitive. Perhaps some new way of exchanging real time data is around the corner. I say bring it on….

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Exit.

WHAT IVE BEEN DOING ON SUNDAYS II

I haven’t been watching football on Sundays this year.

Why?

Who knows?

I have been shooting aspiring models and friends though.

 

…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. 

ARE YOU A GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER? (WHY IT DOES NOT MATTER)

As I have said before, talent is no longer a requirement for success in almost any venture, and it applies especially to photography, music and the arts.

Cutting straight to the heart of the matter, I offer a quote from a famous luminary:

“The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.” ~ Niccilo Machiavelli

To put it in laymens terms: “It is far better to spend all of your energy making folks BELIEVE you are good than it is prudent to spend time trying to actually become good”

This is a sinister yet clearly though out realization once it is deeply embraced, though the implications are not as straightforward as they may seem…

It is not wise to forego all of your practice with studio photography, for instance, including buying equipment that will help you achieve the look you desire. It is better to not believe that becoming some “master of light” will make your career any more substantial than a person who spends far more time video blogging and gaining followers on Twitter than he or she does shooting practice photos. Actually, the shameless self promoter will probably be able to charge more per gig than the hermit-like light master, simply because clients are more impressed with fame than they are impressed skill, all else being equal. In fact, many clients resent the term “skill”….

Skill (and people who profess being skillful) can come off as being elitist or as saying:

This shit is too deep for your simple ass mind to understand

That can be very counterproductive, as one might imagine, and part of what makes some photographers famous and others obscure is simplicity and accessibility. The genius of pop culture success lies in ones ability to do fairly complex things with such magical simplicity that it draws in the uninitiated, as opposed to alienating them.
Rap music especially has suffered from this. Many old school (90’s era) rap aficionados abhor modern rap as being unskillful bullshit. These old school rap fans prefer the wittier and more poetic (debatably) rap of old. They feel like cultivating ones lyrical skill is better than hiring ghost writers and becoming internet famous. This is untrue. Balance is the key in everything, and when the goal is selling to the public the balance should shift healthily towards marketing. What good is it if you are a rap God if you, after a year, only have 7 subscribers on your YouTube channel while the mumbling rapper you hate has 700k subscribers and is averaging 7 new subscribers per hour….

Skill comes naturally with repetition in most things (besides perhaps a golf swing, where repeating poor mechanics can damage your game beyond repair). If you shoot enough photos and look at enough good photos taken by others you will achieve any level of skill you desire. Mix in a bit of innate talent and you could become a legend. Be less concerned with getting better at using your flash and buying a bunch of crap you don’t need, and more concerned with sharing your photos with other humans and letting folks know what you do, as well as being interested in what they are doing. When you think about it, it’s so easy to sit in our studios drinking wine with contempt in our hearts and no business rolling in. It is much harder to get out of our studios, put down the wine bottles and pick up our lives before our lives go the way of the 90’s lyrical Emcee….

Exit

Fake Celebrities in Street Photography

At some point in the past 20 years talent ceased to be a prerequisite for a person becoming a celebrity.

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I blame MTV. That network, to my knowledge, was the first to present reality TV as we know and love/hate it today when they premiered a show called “The Real World”. Since then there have been dozens upon dozens of reality TV shows and at a later time YouTube channels, which present no-talent but handsome men and self absorbed yet beautiful women, transforming them from models and socialites into international superstars.

This trend has also extended into sports, where instead of pro and amateur athletes being the main draw of a network now there are folks talking and giving opinions about athletes who have been elevated into superstardom. Mind you, the sports related discussion methods that have made many of these folks famous are borrowed directly from black barbershops across America. These new barber shop inspired sports pundits don’t really have any oratory talent per se, besides perhaps being able to craft memorable one-liners occasionally. The funny thing is many of the folks on ESPN and other sports networks were once sports writers who displayed a bit of talent in their day, but when offered they decided to forsake their talents for the promise of mindless fame and fortune. Instead of writing columns they now just emote on TV about issues that have no calculable significance to the public at large, and in fact these pundits have caused the demise of many athletes by over-hyping issues that decades ago were ignored by the public.

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As for we photographers our fake celebrities are on YouTube. How many photographers do you see posting camera and lens reviews on YouTube despite the fact that they don’t themselves take good photos with ANY camera? Is there talent in being able to operate a video camera, edit movie files and add music? Similar to sports, is there talent in deciding to be provocative and dissing cameras and lenses just to get views? Are some of the folks posting videos themed “how to do street photography” even able to take more than one good street photo per year? I dunno….all I do know is I see a lot of fake ass celebrities on TV and the internet and trend doesn’t seem like it will end anytime soon. If ever.

I mean…..our president was himself a reality TV star, plucked right from the belly of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and reared on “The Apprentice”. Of course I’m just a fucking hater…..

Exit.

Street Photography Should Not Be Televised

YouTube is ubiquitous, and you can learn damn near anything by watching a video there. Want to know how to replace the starter on a 2004 Honda Accord: YouTube. With that being said, some deeds are best left unseen. Some processes are so personally customized, yet at the same time so stunningly basic, that it is objectionable to watch the deconstruction of these processes onscreen. Some curtains should never be pulled back. Such is the case with street photography.

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There are a lot of photography gear reviews on Youtube. Many of them are useful and informative, and even the ones that aren’t particularly useful still have value from a “gear porn” perspective. I watch reviews frequently, even of gear I’d never use, on various channels I follow such as this one, and in general I don’t find fault with what the reviewer is saying, especially if the presenter is pretty, funny or knowledgable (or all three  like Cherry Wong). It would be hard for me to find fault with the bulk content of many reviews, even if I wanted to, because I’ve never shot test charts. I don’t do high ISO comparisons between camera brands or calibrate lenses. I hardly pay attention to vignetting or pin cushion distortion unless it is horribly pronounced in a photograph. I don’t use entire menu categories on my camera. They are just somethingannoying  I have to skip over while I navigate to the menu options I use frequently. Unless I’m gear prospecting or Leica lusting, I watch these review videos just to see whats new and popping out there, and to gauge how people feel about whats new and popping out there, even if I don’t care much about what they are discussing. In summary I suppose I’m saying it’s generally all good when I watch reviews on youtube.

One thing makes me cringe however. Sometimes it happens during the image quality portion of the review, but I want to slap reviewers when they say the following, more or less:

Now lets go and test out this (insert gear) shooting some street photography!

You just told us you was a wedding shooter. Why don’t you make a video testing the gear at a wedding? Is it because you look DOWN on street photography and feel like there is no penalty for you posting horrible street photographs on the internet? These same reviewers will say as an aside: “I shot with this camera at a wedding recently and found that the dynamic range was just not as good as my Sony” or whatever. Well where is the footage of that shit, of you shooting the camera in your genre of expertise? Why do you instead have footage of you walking around your hometown shooting gargoyle statues and elderly people and calling it street photography? Get the fuck out of here with that. I need to start pulling up on shooters and checking them, gangland style, but I digress….

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First of all the game is to be sold and not told, but thats another topic altogether. Secondly, there is that moment where we see video of the photographer taking a “street photo” and then hear the obligatory artificial shutter sound. Next they show the actual processed photo and it’s usually horrible or at the very best it’s average. Street photography cannot be forced for the purpose of some full frame DSLR or 35mm lens review. Street photography should not be what this is called. What you are doing, reviewers, is taking shots of people and things on the street. Call it test shots. Please don’t call that weak shit street photography. I’ve seen your work, many of you, and a good bit of you actually can shoot. A better approach, instead of the video-fake-shutter-crappy-photo approach, is when savvy photographers pause the review video and show a short montage of street photos they actually worked to get. They do not show random, forced, crappy shots used just because it syncs up well with the video footage, editing wise. The photo montage, no matter how good it is,  should not be segmented by those annoying fake shutter sounds though.

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These are my first-world microstruggles brothers and sisters. While the political left is popping Xanax at the idea of Trump for 4 years, I’m skipping past entire segments of a YouTube photo gear review because the reviewer said he was about to shoot some “street photography”. You don’t go out and “shoot some street photography” asshole. Street photography is a mindset. You’re either street or you’re not. Bresson was a goddamn war correspondent, for fucks sake. Bruce Gilden was a gangster. This isn’t a genre for pussies. Street photography is rooted in hostility and danger. It is looked down upon and thought to be simple by many photographers, most of them wedding and portrait shooters, but street photography is in fact the hardest genre to master. I’d tell you more, but then I’d have to charge you. Stay low and keep shooting.