Behind the Blossoms
Photo: Flickr / Joseph Gruber

I’ve been reading a lot lately about all of the conflicts taking place around the world at the iconic photo spots. Arches National Park, the Taj Mahal, and the Bean in Chicago come to mind. There are even a few YouTube videos out there showing photographers jockeying for position, screaming obscenities at each other, and at times getting into physical confrontations. Why is this happening?

Why is it so important to photograph the same landscape or icon that has literally been photographed millions of times already? This is nothing more than photographic trophy hunting. It’s one thing to grab a quick snapshot as a memory that you did indeed visit some place special. That’s not what’s going on though.

Photographer’s are getting into fistfights trying to get into the perfect position at the perfect time in order to capture an image that has literally been captured every day for the past 50 or so years. I can only assume the thinking in making an image identical to that of some famed photographer is that it somehow makes them an accomplished photographer too.

It’s delusional thinking at best. In reality, being able to exactly copy the works of a master only means they are good technicians. They have learned enough to recreate an image, but they have not mastered their craft.

It happens in the art world too. There are a lot of really good artists in the world capable of copying a masterpiece. That doesn’t make them a master though. Some might say they are nothing more than forgers.

I know we all have been told that it’s good to copy the masters in order to grow within our craft. I don’t believe that was ever meant to be taken literally though.

Yes, study the photos and paintings of the masters. How are they placing the subject? How are they using the light? How are they using composition? Once you have a rough idea, by all means, go out and try it. But you do not have to recreate the scene exactly. You don’t even have to use the same subject in order to copy the masters.

Stop all of this madness. Do you want to impress the world with your photography? Then come up with some original concepts. Do you want to be world renowned photographer? Then develop a body of work that stands on its own. Do you want to stand out from your peers? Then don’t stand among them.

The next time you are Yellowstone National Park, wave to the idiotic photographers screaming at each other while trying to get the two-millionth version of the iconic Old Faithful shot. Hike an extra mile or two or ten. Find something that hasn’t been photographed a million times already and explore it with your camera.

I personally go out of my way to avoid cliche photos. If I see a group of photographers, I will almost always turn and go the other way. I don’t see any need to photograph the same images easily available online or in any travel guide. Nor do I see any need in fighting over a place to set up my tripod.

The world is a wondrous place full of incredible photos yet to be made. The iconic locations that you are fighting over makes up a very small percentage of what’s out there. Quit wasting your time reinventing the wheel. Step outside the box and show us something new.

Here are other good articles along the same line:

Somebody Else’s Shots – Ian Plant

On Authenticity – David duChemin

 

Do you agree or disagree? Leave a comment below and share your opinions.

 

Photo: Flickr / Joseph Gruber

2 thoughts on “Seeking The Photographic Road Less Traveled

  1. I agree 100%. I started photography as a serious hobby just over a year ago and it has always seemed strange to me when I see hundreds of people gathering at the same spot to take photos. It’s usually at sunset but they are never around at sunrise and the early morning light which suits me fine. I focus on landscapes but don’t have the luxury of being able to travel to magnificent scenic destinations. I do marvel at some of the wonderful creations I see on 500px but they only drive me on to scour my local landscape for interesting shots. The knowledge that I have made many images that no one else has pleases me no end.

    Reply
    • James, thank you so much for your comment. What do you mean, “you don’t have the luxury of being able to travel to magnificent scenic destinations?” It looks like you live in Phuket, which is a gorgeous and very scenic destination. I got to visit Phuket back in the early 90s when I was in the Navy. It is my number one favorite dive location in the world.

      Reply

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