October 19, 2012

Photography & Buzz Words

Photo by Scott Bourne – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons

I hear the words “authenticity” and “integrity” and “legitimacy” thrown around by the cool kids in photography on almost a daily basis. Unfortunately, they use these words without much context or experience. They are often nothing more than marketing jargon or “cool speak.”

How do these words actually apply and do photographers think about that when they use them? I can’t answer this for anyone else. I can tell you that I think it’s often context that makes these words matter. And the Internet (where most of these discussions take place in 140 characters or less) isn’t big on context.

This post is short but hopefully will get you thinking. Do you really know what words like “authenticity” and “integrity” and “legitimacy” mean when applied to photography?

For me, it boils down to being you and forgetting about being “new.” That’s a mantra you’ve heard here many times. But I fear that in the rush to match the buzzwords, young photographers try to twist or mold themselves into something which is exactly the opposite of these words. They feel some pressure to fit into these descriptions as will generations after them when the new buzzwords for that time become popular.

You can make a lot of money writing books about “authenticity” and “integrity” and “legitimacy” and have no clue what those words mean. They are link bait.

Check yourself and ask yourself if the actions you take are an attempt to APPEAR “authentic” etc or if you really ARE “authentic.” I am not even sure how the latest buzzword – “legitimacy” got into the photography stream. How can one claim art is legitimate or not? It’s a completely and utterly subjective thing.

If you find yourself saying things like “Yeah man I shot that on film because I wanted it to be more authentic,” I have news for you. It’s not a lick more authentic than anything else. And so that you pedants out there don’t fixate on the word film substitute anything else like HDR or post-processing into the discussion so you can see the broader point.

Just do you. Everyone else is taken. Forget all the cool buzzwords and shoot from your heart. Then you have everything covered that you need to cover.

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