A pet hate: “I want to be a better photographer”

I briefly want to make an observation about a kind of ‘pet hate’ of mine (or at least, it’s rapidly developing into one!). When photographers say things such as, ‘I want to be a better photographer’, or, ‘I want to make better photos’ (actually, it’s usually ‘take’ and not ‘make’…) – this is a nonsense. I don’t think it’s possible to choose to be a better photographer, one becomes better by learning more – and that is something that so often seems to get lost.
There, that’s that out of my system! 🙂
Also: I’m working on a blog posting on the privatisation of modernity in photography… nice light stuff! 😉


4 thoughts on “A pet hate: “I want to be a better photographer”

  1. Lucy Telford

    I know where you’re coming from Michael! First off, what is “better” anyway? I imagine that word has a unique meaning for each individual. For some it might mean more technically proficient, for others it might mean more meaningful. I guess it’s good that people realise, in some way or other, that it’s all about progression and exploring rather than being satisfied which, as you know, I have deemed the enemy of creativity 😉

    I agree with the distinction between ‘taking’ and ‘making’, it’s been a long while since I took a photo…

    However, I have to disagree with you that “one becomes better by learning more” – I don’t think this is true. Although you haven’t been specific about what “more” it is that one should learn of course…! You can become more technically able and more aware of possibilities and how to realise them but to really become “better” requires self-analysis, self-examination, thinking and laying yourself open to mistakes, vulnerability and all of that jazz. For an image to be meaningful to others, it MUST be meaningful to you – there has to be integrity and honesty. A good dollop of ambiguity is good, too, as there should be room for the viewer’s mind to roam around.

    Look forward to your next blog – sounds intriguing!

    1. Michael Marten Post author

      Exactly – ‘better’ in what way? My sense is that the comment is usually made in some banal way that points to nothing much more than technical proficiency, and I only think of that as being important if it helps to say something.
      There’ll probably be more on the ‘taking’ and ‘making’ next time (did you see this, by Bruce Percy? http://www.brucepercy.co.uk/blog/2013/02/19/is-it-right-to-take-or-to-make-photographs/)
      I shouldn’t lie in bed and write a short little rant like this in the middle of the night on my mobile, or I’d never have written ‘learning more’ without specifying what I meant! I’d tell my students off for doing that, and I feel duly chastised… When I say ‘learning more’ here I mean precisely what you mean here: learning more about myself, more about my motivation, and thinking about what the meaning is that I am seeking to communicate – self-knowledge, in summary. I’m really only interested in technical skills if they will help me to communicate something more meaningful.
      And yes, ambiguity. And that is a whole other blog topic – or book! 🙂

      1. Lucy Telford

        No, I hadn’t read that blog post and I agree about the making versus taking. The whole issue of photography-related semantics is interesting as he touches on – ‘taking’, ‘capturing’, ‘shooting’… instead of ‘making’, ‘thinking’ and ‘creating’…

        I realised that you wouldn’t normally be so unspecific so I’ll let you off on this occasion! I also thought that what you meant was probably what I meant too 🙂

        Blog/book/… oh gee, yes – I have a whole heap of those stored up but most not for public consumption I think!

        1. Michael Marten Post author

          The hyper-masculinity and aggression of so much photographic talk really gets to me sometimes. Mostly, I suspect, from the unthinking, or those with small… er… let’s stop that line of discussion!
          I look forward to one day reading “The Collected Works: Reflections on a Photographic Life in 6 volumes” by Lucy Telford.

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