Commentary # 53 - April 2012
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Battery Drain, Batterings, and What is Bad for Photography

April 2012

- by Craig Wassel

I know: My titles are often a little odd, but I always hope that they get at least a person or two curious enough to read through to the end, and that whoever does will find the read worthwhile and though provoking. This commentary really isn't at all about bad photography, but rather something that can get in the way of good photography and the fulfilling feeling it gives us.

The past 6 months – overall as well as a photographer – have been some of the busiest I have ever had. My 2011 general ledger and taxes show that, and the year ended with a very good run of business. Being busy is a good thing, especially when it comes as bookings; it is probably the biggest reason why my monthly commentaries here went quiet for a few months.

The other reason, though, is because I did not have anything drawing me to write. There were a good number of small things on my mind, but those things did not seem related or anything that could be put in a cohesive, full column. Then I realized those small things had something very, very important in common after all. So, I am going to describe three of them I have read or experienced during the past few months, then say what they have in common.

First up: As well as 2011 ended for me, 2012 started on a sour note with a legal matter concerning a trademark infringement complaint alleged by another photographer in my area. From a legal standpoint, the complaint was not the strongest of claims and could have gone either way had I decided to contest rather than mediate. The matter cost both me and the other photographer a small chunk in legal fees, and more. We only ever communicated through our attorneys, but that photographer might have been very pleasantly surprised at my response if he/she had just picked up the phone to discuss it with me. Although the complaint was not strong legally, I honestly could see his/her point. Here is my point: Too often, we photographers do not treat each other very well. We see each other as evil adversaries, instead of people who are on similar journeys driven by a common passion.

Second: Whitney Houston passed away. See what I mean about seemingly un-related events? To explain, one of my favorite photography bloggers wrote on his forum about her passing, and in such a way that he sparked a huge number of responses and a wide variety of reaction. After I read his blog, my litmus test was, “how would I feel if that were my daughter he wrote about?” That told me all I needed about right versus wrong. I did not post my own response on his forum because I just wanted to go take a shower to wash it all off of me, move past what he wrote, and get it out of my mind if I could as quickly as possible.

Third: Two new cameras were released in March: the Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D800. There have not been any really big steps forward in 35mm DSLR sensors over the past few years, but initial testing of these two cameras suggests they actually produce considerably better image quality than any digital cameras before them. A few photographers have even suggested that these two bodies have the potential compete with medium format digital backs. Time will tell us better about that speculation, but in wake of these two new cameras is endless debate and arguing on many forums about whether Canon’s or Nikon’s offer is superior. This kind of back-and-forth is nothing new, but it seems parallel to politics; it just gets uglier and uglier and uglier with passing years. One thread I saw grew to more than 400 posts in two days, with much of the dialogue feeling more like duels to the death between photographers trying vainly to win a war of words.

I could describe more events, but I’ll follow the rule of threes and hope these are enough to make my point: The way the people involved in these events reacted caused distraction. The way we act and react can distract us and other photographers, and distractions drain our batteries. They can drain our energy, and have the potential to make us lesser photographers, or at the least ones that are not growing.

I am not saying that we should not engage in debate or dialogue. We should as long as it is intelligent and respectful. I am not saying we should not have opinions about our world and what happens in it. We should, as long as our opinions are not cruel and hurtful to others, or disrespectful to someone's life. I am not saying we should not defend our businesses and our work. We should, but first by trying a little faith and searching for civility in others.

The overwhelming majority of us are photographers because we have passion for making photographs – no matter what kind. Distractions like those above can get in the way of learning, of practice, of creativity, and of vision and inspiration. They drain our batteries, as well as waste another precious thing needed for photography (or any endeavor) that every last one of us is given an absolutely equal amount of to spend. We spend this thing every single day, and once spent it is gone forever and impossible to replenish: Time.

Spent time is like spent charge on non-rechargeable batteries. When it’s gone it’s gone. Am I allowing any negative photographers to drain my batteries? More importantly, am I draining anyone else’s? If I am, it’s time to change. Photography does not need any more battery drainers, and all of us need fewer things battering our lives.

". . . This benefit of seeing can come only if you pause a while, extricate yourself from the maddening mob of quick impressions ceaselessly battering our lives, and look thoughtfully at a quiet image...the viewer must be willing to pause, to look again, to meditate. . . ."

~ Dorothea Lange ~

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" . . . The way the people involved in these events reacted caused distraction. The way we act and react can distracting us and other photographers, and distractions drain our batteries. They can drain our energy, and have the potential to make us lesser photographers, or at the least ones that are not growing. . . . "

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