It astounds me how much many photographers obsess about technology: the devices they use, the medium, the sensors, noise, lenses, resolution, color depth, even the tripod! I get into this stuff whenever I’m in the market for a new camera or lens – but once I’ve made a decision and purchase, I couldn’t care less.
And yet, people continuously add hashtags to their photos shared online that identify their camera brand, lens, filter, and so on. I admit that I briefly did that myself at some point – but quickly found that I don’t want to belong to a certain clique, based on the camera that I use (“#nikonshooters” for example). For the same reason, I’m using a third party camera strap (I find the Nikon yellow-on-black simply horrible). I don’t want to be identified as a “<brand> shooter”. Not online, and not in real life. It’s just not important.
I can see that exposure data can be interesting. I can learn something from looking at a photo and seeing what aperture was used, and what exposure time – but knowing that a photo was made with a Nikon camera? It doesn’t teach me anything.
It appears to me that this is a search for validation among peers (but what for?), and perhaps also showing off a certain status (“look, I can afford the latest and greatest”), or maybe chasing the pipe dream of garnering the attention of a brand representative, hoping to get a sponsorship. Considering the sheer number of people who are doing this now it’s probably more likely to be struck by lightning – but until it happens, “lets give their marketing department a hand!”
This also begs the question: why stop there? Why not continue and also add hashtags for the brand of computer, the display, the hard drive, the card reader? Somebody already went there of course, albeit not a photographer: on every Tom Harrison map, you’ll find “Created on Macintosh” somewhere at the edge of the map. How does that make the map any better?
I’ve been told that food bloggers actually have a similar habit: they mention the brand of pots and pans and knifes and kitchen utensils they’re using. How does that matter to the outcome of a recipe? “This onion was proudly chopped with a <brand> ceramic knife on a <brand> bamboo cutting board” …and it’s still just a chopped onion. And does lasagna taste better when it’s baked in a conventional or in a convection oven? Transferred to the world of photography, there would undoubtedly be a camp that would hashtag their lasagna recipes: #BelieveInConventional – which is not meant to be a judgment of course, it’s solely so that conventional oven lovers can find and follow each other, I know, I know…
Painters will probably tell you which paint and medium they used (“acrylic on canvas”), but do they mention the brand and type of brush they used? Perhaps some have already reached that low, and for the same reason that photographers and food bloggers do it but thankfully, I have yet to see it.
Art and composition are subjective and can hardly be measured or defined. These uncertainties of art itself lead to insecurity, and artists are insecure creatures – so I wonder: do cameras and sensors, film and lenses, and their measurable properties and qualities provide some sort of validation? Lines per inch, pixel density, frame rate, dynamic range, color depth, maximum aperture?
By contrast, you can’t measure creative expression rationally, you can’t quantify composition, you can’t put a direct value on aesthetics. These are, and will probably forever remain, the great unknowns of art.
If we’re talking about photography as a means to personal expression, and the joy of preserving and/or interpreting one’s own experience of the world, then all you need to do is be yourself, express yourself. Be an artist, not a technician. You don’t need anyone else to truly validate the art you create – only you can do that…