To begin with a quote from John Francis during a Ted Talk:
“And so, on my 27th birthday I decided, because I argued so much and I talk so much, that I was going to stop speaking for just one day — one day — to give it a rest. And so I did. I got up in the morning and I didn’t say a word. And I have to tell you, it was a very moving experience, because for the first time, I began listening — in a long time. And what I heard, it kind of disturbed me. Because what I used to do, when I thought I was listening, was I would listen just enough to hear what people had to say and think that I could — I knew what they were going to say, and so I stopped listening. And in my mind, I just kind of raced ahead and thought of what I was going to say back, while they were still finishing up. And then I would launch in. Well, that just ended communication”
The Ted talk can viewed here
In my experience, most photographers fail to communicate anything to audiences. I write this having recently discovered exceptmagzine which describes itself as “a free online publication dedicated to photography and the moving image”. Maybe I only appreciate what I pay for but most of the photography disappointed me. The photo essays lacked discipline; simple ideas poorly executed in a short space of time. This is in contrast to other equally pointless efforts in the photographic sphere which involve laborious techniques perhaps in a quest to prove that the photographer is serious about their photography when in reality they are only serious about their craft. Other photographers seem more obsessed with pixel peeping than photography and seek to prove their credentials by endlessly researching cameras and forever buying new ones. An example of this is a recent blog by Craig Mod in the New Yorker magazine, Goodbye Cameras, which is about him being “done with cameras ” but it’s clear from the blog that Mod’s interest in photography was confined to cameras.
So I am not really interested in any photography that doesn’t involve hard thinking. I want to see photo essays that have come about because photographers have worked very hard. Such photography is rare but unmistakable when you see it. Jan Banning‘s photo essay, Comfort Women, is one such example.
I am a firm believer that all the low lying fruit has gone from the tree of photography. Most photographers either don’t realise this or can’t be bothered to. However, if photography is to have any future, it must communicate hitherto unknown but important worlds.