For the longest time, when it comes to photo art criticism and scholarship, a lot of people are under the impression that there has to be some sort of iron wall between a photographer’s attitude, background and sensibility, and the quality of the photo. Now, please understand that this has nothing to do with the messages the photo has to send.
As you can well imagine, the message or subtext that the photo is not only actively sending out, but is also capable of sending out, must be products of the photographer’s values. That’s why you prefer one photographer over another. They have different values. They come from different backgrounds. They have different experiences. They have different sensibilities. These cannot be minimized or explained away or swept under the rug. They demand notice.
All these differences add up. These things are actually what set photographers apart. That’s what you’re looking for. I’m talking about the quality of the photo. One shallow way of understanding this is that the quality applies to the technical merits of the photo. Is it composed right? Is it developed right? Is it crisp enough? Should the colors be more saturated?
A lot of people think that quality is really a technical issue. That’s why they insist on some sort of hard and fast divide between technical proficiency and creativity. Everybody is on board when it comes to creativity because there is no such thing as a wrong answer. If you become a renowned photographer at some level or another, whether you agree or not, you are a creative person.
That’s not the issue, though. The issue is whether the technical side of your photo is worth writing home about or not. We have to ask if whether our attitude has anything to do with photo quality. Generally speaking, a lot of scholars are saying that the party line, as far as photographic academic research and schools of disciplines are concerned, is that there should be no connection.
I take a different approach. I think that anything that you do is a reflection of your values, perspective, assumptions, expectations and mindset. Nobody can take that away from you. Even your haircut, the shirt that you chose to wear, the accessories that you have bought, anything that people can see, is a reflection of your values.
From a purely personal level, it may not mean all that big of a deal, but when you put all these little details together, people can see that you are who you are because of your values. In other words, your external world, the things that people can perceive, is a reflection of your inner world.
We’re always making decisions inside. Unfortunately, only a tiny fraction of that ever makes it to the external world. Still, when it does, we have to sit up and pay attention. This is why I can say with full confidence that a photographer’s attitude does make a huge impact as far as photo quality and technical fitness are concerned.