To: That Grumpy Old Photographer

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Dear Sir

We have never met in person, but I feel compelled to write after seeing your posts on the internet. I’m an enthusiastic young photographer who’s trying to learn how to create meaningful art with my camera. I think you may be able to help me.

You, in contrast to me, have been there and done it. I only started in the digital age. Your many years of experience in photography, using real film and an actual darkroom, led you to teach others about photography and write (formally or informally) with some authority on the subject. You already have my respect and I’d love to be inspired by and learn from the wisdom and knowledge you have gained.

Yet, for some reason, virtually all I see from you nowadays is complaint and criticism. Complaints about the poor state of photography today. Complaints about the millions of instant photos, shared via Instagram and Facebook. Complaints about the lack of printed photos. Complaints about the steady stream of cheap or free images available to companies to use in their publications. Complaints about the formulaic approach to today’s photography and the prevalence of meaningless pictures. Complaints about how photos lack reality now with the advent of Photoshop. Complaints about the lack of art in photography these days. Complaints about how camera clubs just perpetuate the problems. Complaints about the lack of Real Photographers in the world. Complaints about how the Real Photographers can’t earn any money now because the others have taken their market.

Finally, you complain that my photos, along with millions of others, suck. You say this increases the problem.

Your complaints are likely all valid. I take no issue with your complaints, as they stand. You have wisdom built upon years of experience, and you have earned the right to judge the world of photography today. Youngsters such as me need to listen carefully to your observations on these matters, including your complaints.


 


 

But what is lacking from your words is : What can I do about it? I already knew my photography sucked, before you started pointing it out over and over. What can you suggest I do, so I become part of the solution instead of remaining part of the problems? What can you inspire me to achieve with my photography, that others aren’t often achieving? What should I do?

I’d really love some practical pointers. You have, to your credit, pointed to some photographers who you believe are Real Photographers, creating Real Art. I look at their work, but what do you suggest I look for? What am I meant to be seeing? What am I practically meant to do, when I next take my camera out, with the fact I just saw a Real Photographer’s work?

Your usual condescending comment “if you have to ask then you don’t understand” doesn’t help. I ask because I want to understand. Maybe you think art can only be created by very few, special ones. If that’s the case, please let me know and advise me to give up.

But if you don’t believe I should give up, then please answer my questions and try to help me be part of the solution to photography’s current woes. I’d love to be part of the solution instead of just continuing to blindly remain part of the problems you keep complaining about. If I’m asking the wrong questions, then please advise me which questions I should be asking, and then answer them!

I trust you don’t think I’m being hypocritical here. It is true we have complained about each other; you via social media and me in this letter. I am not complaining about your complaints! I am complaining about your lack of constructive input to young photographers like me. I am trying to give you constructive input in the hope you give some back.

I hope you can stop simply complaining, and start to provide some positive pointers instead. I firmly believe that your actionable advice will help infinitely more than all your criticisms.

Please take the time to reply in kind via your future social media postings. This is for the betterment of not only me, but probably for the future of photography itself.

 

Yours sincerely,

A young photographer

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